A Matter of Facts

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The open road is calling, and soon your customers won’t be wasting any time answering. As road trip season approaches and outside temperatures rise, you’ll probably notice more customers wanting oil changes, tire rotations and freon checks. But are these services all their vehicles need? Do you hesitate suggesting recommended services for fear of your customers thinking you’re selling them something they don’t need?

Services like oil changes and tire checks are easier to sell because people have a frame of reference as to why they’re necessary. They’ve heard about the importance of an oil change since drivers’ ed, so they don’t think twice about pulling into your shop every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. If their tires aren’t checked, they could end up with a flat — and that’s a pain — so they don’t mind when you inspect those, either. It’s a fact, educated consumers make more confident purchasing decisions. Not surprisingly, educated salespeople are more confident, too. Making sure you, your employees and your customers have all the facts is important.

“[Oil changes, tire rotations, etc.] are part of the consumer thought process already,” said Kennon Artis, manager of Afton Chemical’s newest initiative, All the Facts on Automatic Transmission Fluid, — otherwise known as ATF on ATF. “[Your customers] know these systems and how important fluids are to them. Over the last number of decades, the industry has been educating itself, as well as consumers, about — what seems like — everything but transmission fluids. The transmission is very complex. Conversely, there has been very little education about proper transmission care.”

It’s been Artis’ job to establish the vision of the ATF on ATF program. Together with a team of highly qualified individuals, he’s successfully developed a website (www.atfonatf.com) dedicated to educating the market — especially installers — on the proper selection of automatic transmission fluids.

“The ATF on ATF campaign was born from research we’ve done over the last few years. The research told us the automatic transmission fluid market is extremely complex and [all] installers don’t fully understand how critical it is to use the right transmission fluid. Consequently, in many cases, they will put in the wrong fluid This complex service market was fertile ground for us to develop this program,” Artis said. “The [main] idea behind it is, when OEMs develop and build transmissions they do so with their own specifications in mind. They don’t design a transmission and say, ‘Pour anything you want in here.’ The fluid itself is part of the transmission system. When cars pull into a quick lube, there are quite a number of different specifications your quick lube has to meet. For example, if a Ford comes in [your shop,] it’s going to have a different appetite [for automatic transmission fluid] than a General Motors, Volkswagen, Volvo or other manufacturer’s vehicle. ATF on ATF is designed to help people understand the importance of the needs of various transmissions.”

Unfortunately, claiming ignorance only works when you’re under the age of five. Don’t find yourself in a sticky situation because you didn’t know or were deceived by a label.

“Legislation is starting to change and authorities are placing heavy penalties on those who intentionally do the wrong thing. Installing fluids not formulated for a particular vehicle is something we want operators to be able to steer clear of. Making sure they’re equipped with the right information will allow them to confidently interact with the drivers who pull up to their service bays,” Artis said.

Regrettably, some vehicles never receive an automatic transmission fluid change. Because they are required less frequently than oil changes, it’s easy for customers to forget about them. They assume you’re trying to upsell a service when they pull in for an oil change and your technician says, “Your transmission fluid needs changing.” You don’t want your employees to have to convince your customers to buy the automatic transmission fluid change they need, and you don’t want your customers to feel like you’re trying to pull one over on them. This is why it’s important for everyone in the industry to be more educated on automatic transmission fluids.

“The reason we constantly [relate] things back to motor oil is because it’s what attracts customers. Your customers have a better education or market knowledge with motor oil,” said Tu Lai Turner, technical service group member for Afton Chemical.

There’s no getting around it, automatic transmission fluid changes are expensive. Having an educated staff and an educated customer will make your life a whole lot easier and your business more successful.

“There are a lot of moving parts to the transmission. I believe rebuilding a transmission is one of the most expensive components of a vehicle,” Turner said. “It’s a more expensive service for a good reason, and it’s important to understand the complexities [of the fluids] inside the bottle.”

It goes without saying, having all the facts are crucial to most situations you come across in your business. It’s a very important component to understanding the importance of automatic transmission fluid services. The goal of ATF on ATF is to help you drive loyalty and ensure your customers do the right thing for their vehicles. Whether you and your staff want to learn more or you want an easy educational resource to share with your customers, ATF on ATF is a good place to begin.

Artis said he has a robust annual plan to update the ATF on ATF website every six to eight weeks. They are still working on ways to enrich and improve their content even further and plan on adding videos to provide in-depth information on why the right fluids are the right choice.

“Our approach is holistic. We want the website to be a resource and education tool for the entire value chain,” Artis said.

Making sure you’re prepared is the key to many things in life. Your customers will soon roll in, relying on your shop to make sure their vehicles are ready for their next adventure. Do your part by educating yourself, your employees and your customers. You’ll find you won’t be afraid to suggest a more expensive service when your customers are well educated and feel like everyone at your shop is, too. Usually the difference between customers who feel like you’re selling them something they don’t need versus taking care of their every need is just a matter of facts.

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