Changing Oil in the Energy Corridor
The fourth largest city in the United States, Houston, Texas, owes much of its size and success to the massive energy industry hub it has become. Huge multi-national corporations populate the city’s towering office buildings, and no fewer than 25 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here. Most of these companies are, in one way or another, connected to the oil industry. With so much of the city’s livelihood centered on what is by far the world’s largest and most profitable industry, it’s no surprise Houston plays host to many wealthy captains of industry, oil magnates and even foreign royalty. Kwik Kar’s customers prowl the concrete jungle in a wide variety of automotive exotica from Ferraris and Lamborghinis to Bentleys and Aston Martins. But there is one thing these rolling status symbols have in common — they all need oil changes.
In January 2008, one Kwik Kar Lube and Tune opened its doors in the energy corridor with the intent to serve energy industry employees. The shop is located in the heart of Houston’s energy corridor, the area of the city where many of the largest oil and gas companies are located. There are also many smaller, related businesses scattered in close proximity. This means the vast majority of Kwik Kar’s customers work in the oil and gas industry.
This unique customer base comes with its own set of challenges. While most oil and lube shops rarely, if ever, get the chance to work on exotics with six-figure MSRPs, these automotive works of art roll into Kwik Kar on a weekly basis. As you’d expect, the owners of these pricey vehicles are more than a little particular about how they’re taken care of. Being able to provide exceptional service to the most discerning of guests is what has kept Kwik Kar in business for nearly 10 years.
One way Kwik Kar goes above and beyond to meet the expectations of their customers is a free pickup and drop-off service within five miles of the shop. This allows customers to remain in their offices while their vehicle is being serviced, instead of having to spend time on the weekend to get it done. In addition, while every quality oil and lube shop takes great care not to inadvertently scratch the paint, or otherwise damage a customer’s car, the pressure goes up a notch when the car in question is worth more than your average middle class home. To that end, Kwik Kar employees go to great lengths to keep themselves clean to ensure customers’ cars remain spotless. Safety covers are also used at all times to prevent scratching the paint. The commitment to cleanliness also extends to the facility itself. Employees sweep the shop floor on an hourly basis, and the lobby gets a thorough cleaning at opening and closing every day.
When working on Bentleys, Ferraris, Porsches and the like, sourcing the right parts and tools can be a struggle. Often part suppliers try to keep their business in-house, which, in the beginning, made it difficult for Kwik Kar to meet customers’ needs. Over the years, though, they’ve acquired an impressive array of specialized tools and sourced a number of vendors to supply parts, allowing them to provide the services their customers require.
Building relationships with each customer is a cornerstone of Kwik Kar’s business. Luis Pineda, Kwik Kar’s general manager, said, “With each customer, we walk them through every facet of their vehicle and educate them on what needs to be done on the vehicle to keep it running well. We then let the customer decide whether they want to do the services or not. We never hard sell anyone.”
But when the opportunity arises, the technicians at Kwik Kar are ready to go above and beyond the call of duty.
One such opportunity came when a desperate customer came in the door 15 minutes before closing — Kwik Kar is located right off of I-10, which links Houston to Austin and San Antonio. This particular customer was on their way to their daughter’s graduation ceremony at the University of Texas at Austin when their vehicle suffered a catastrophic cooling system failure. The radiator, water pump and several hoses all needed to be changed. Kwik Kar mechanics stayed until 10 pm to get the job done, allowing the customer to make the graduation in time. That was back in 2011, but they have remained loyal customers ever since, even though they live quite a distance away.
“We are very blessed to have extremely loyal customers who have been coming to us for all their automotive needs,” Pineda said.
The oil industry is an international business, and Houston is an international city. That means quite a few foreign nationals make their way through Kwik Kar’s doors. This often presents yet another opportunity to offer the very best in customer service. As an official state inspection station, Kwik Kar is often in a position to help foreign nationals navigate the complicated and confusing process of registering their vehicles in Texas.
“It’s very confusing, especially when the new local brings their exotic vehicles from overseas,” Pineda said. “Doing the initial state inspection, walking them through the process of legalizing their vehicles has always been a rewarding and a memorable experience for the customer. It’s usually at this initial point that most new customer relationships develop.”
Some international transplants come from countries where mass transit is the preferred form of transportation, and some may have never owned or maintained a car before moving to Houston. The transition for vehicle ownership can come with a steep learning curve, and Kwik Kar employees are more than happy to help these automotive novices with their education.
Kwik Kar serves around 1,000 customers a month from companies like BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and more. And each week some of the world’s most exclusive rides come rolling in for work. It’s a niche that works well for Kwik Kar, and meets the auto care needs of the energy corridor’s unique demographic.