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Hyper-Convenience, High-Tech and the Next Generation of Customer Service: How Mobile Oil Changes Are Making a Comeback

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What if one day in the future, we look back and laugh at how we used to drive to our local mechanic, quick lube, auto dealership, or even, attempted to change our own oil in the driveway? Well, it’s possible, especially since convenience is now a primary motivator of today’s consumers.

People are busier than ever before. This leads to stress. And your customers may have a special kind of dread when they glance at their windshield service sticker and then down at their odometer and know it’s time for an oil change. Maybe that’s the primary reason that at least a third of Americans have “skipped or delayed service or repairs that were recommended,” as reported by AAA in 2015.

According to Nielsen, a global measurement and analytics company that provides data on consumer needs and markets worldwide, technology is a major driver of this quest for ease and convenience, especially among the younger set. This need will only continue expanding. Nielsen’s data demonstrates that if you want people’s business these days, you better be investing in formats and tools that enhance convenience and ease-of-use. If you make getting vehicles serviced difficult, they’ll just take them somewhere that understands the importance of making it easy.

Zippity: Combining Convenience and Transparency

Zippity is a New England-based company that services consumers and provides auto care from mobile trailers in and around Boston and points north of the city. Founded by former U.S. Air Force Missileer, Edward Warren, Zippity strives to provide a technology-enabled car care service that is very different than the traditional model for maintenance and repair services.

According to Kate Hitchner, head of marketing at Zippity, the company provides comprehensive car care services from a fully equipped “garage on wheels.” While Hitchner acknowledged there are a number of mobile services popping up, she said that Zippity isn’t simply “some guy with a pick-up.”

Zippity’s model is targeted toward larger employers: usually with 500 or more employees. According to Hitchner, they are often clustered together in a business park.

“In an urban center like Boston or the surrounding communities where employers are located, more than 90 percent of workers are driving a vehicle to work,” Hitchner said. “Being able to get their cars serviced during work time allows them one less thing to think about and focus on after work. It’s a win-win proposition.”

She said Zippity is particularly well suited for employers who value their people and are building a value-added work experience. What Zippity does is make that transaction easy for the employer.

“We have a kiosk set-up in their lobby or other onsite location where employees scheduling service can drop off their keys. They schedule the service online on our app, which we make available via a link that HR sends out prior to our arrival,” Hitchner said. “We make it really easy, and as a result, we have repeat customers.”

Henry Ebosh brings considerable dealership service management experience to his current role as Zippity’s head of Operations. He knows the traditional side of servicing cars very well. He’s also bullish about the future of companies like Zippity, who recognizes the need for vehicle owners to have other options besides bringing their cars to a bricks-and-mortar site for service. Zippity makes things easier for drivers: no waiting in line for an oil change or dropping the car off for more extensive repairs and then dealing with the hassle of finding a way to and from work.

In detailing Zippity’s process, Ebosh helped dispel some myths and misinformation.

“There’s lots of negativity around service,” Ebosh said. “We recognize that part of what we’re doing is countering that stigma. Then, there’s this stereotype of mobile: of the guy showing up with a van, doing service in your driveway. Everything we do is built around transparency and providing quality and value.”

It all begins with the configuration of each mobile team. Ebosh told said there is always a team leader paired with a journeyman technician. All team leaders are high B-level and A-level technicians. The journeyman may be a C-level tech.

Ebosh said training and mentoring are essential elements of Zippity’s culture, one that ensures that every customer gets top-notch service and the ultimate consumer experience.

“Transparency is a big thing for us. People want to be educated, not sold,” he said. “It’s kind of like an Apple store experience. It feels good. People know what the process is going in.”

Zippity’s fully equipped garages, mounted on flatbed trailers also include lifts.

Because they are targeting some of the region’s largest employers, especially in the Boston area, they’ve got their logistics and process down. Zippity doesn’t leave anything to chance. In addition to Boston, Zippity just began operating two mobile units in the Dallas metro area.

Every vehicle serviced by Zippity gets a “health check,” and Zippity photo-documents the service.

“We are successful because we do a great deal of training on how to document every service, while also choreographing the process with the two technicians,” Ebosh said. “Working in a mobile environment requires that we ‘iron-out’ all the pitfalls of a particular repair beforehand.”

Pep Boys Mobile: Taking Its National Brand On the Road

Icahn Automotive Group launched its own version of an auto shop on wheels with the Pep Boys Mobile Crew. These traveling trailers and service bays provide on-location preventive maintenance and repair services nationally. Each fully equipped rig has a mobile lift, the most up-to-date diagnostic equipment and is staffed by two ASE-certified automotive technicians.

Brian Kaner, Icahn’s president of Service, recognized that consumers are more conscious than ever about accessing convenience in their lives.

“Hyper-convenience is a growing piece of the customer experience,” Kaner said. “Pep Boys Mobile Crew is a natural extension of our ongoing investment in customer convenience and value.”

Kaner also mentioned that Pep Boys Mobile Crew is “the first comprehensive mobile automotive maintenance provider to be affiliated with a national service network.”

Given that Pep Boys has over 800 stores nationwide, it can site its mobile units in close proximity to a bricks-and-mortar store. This offers flexibility, support and additional capacity whenever necessary.

“There’s been tremendous receptivity among employers and their employees,” Kaner said. “Convenience is certainly part of it. We also are able to provide more than simply an oil change. We’re doing major repairs and tires — basically total car care from a mobile operation that’s set-up at their work site or other location.”

When Hurricane Michael touched down in Florida, devastating the Panhandle region of the state, Kaner said Pep Boys deployed its two mobile units to some of the hardest hit cities in that area, days after the storm hit. Kaner said it was a way to give back to their Pep Boys communities. Because of its close relationships with area stores, Pep Boys was able to support its bricks-and-mortar sites following the storm and help them get back online, while also assisting residents devastated by the storm.

“We still have one of our two trailers in the Panama City-area,” Kaner said.

Much like Zippity, Kaner described how the mobile model partners with HR managers at larger employers.

“When they understand what we offer, they’ve been very receptive,” he said.

For Kaner, he’s finding some of the biggest challenges to mobile service are coming from municipalities, battling older regulations that are holdovers from a different, less mobile era.

“We’re not bringing this into residential neighborhoods. We’ve made all the necessary retrofits, and we’ve designed the most environmentally-friendly trailers possible, so we should be able to set-up and provide this service in the appropriate places, like business parks and other commercially-zoned areas,” Kaner said. “It takes some effort to get local officials to see the value, but once they do, things have gone pretty well.”

Convenience is a key element for consumers, especially in terms of servicing their vehicles. As both Zippity and Pep Boys Mobile demonstrate, if you make it convenient, have a sustainable model that makes getting employer buy-in possible, then there’s a tremendous demand for mobile maintenance and repair services, especially in population-dense parts of the country. If you insist on clinging to the status quo, you’ll soon find your customers going elsewhere — or having elsewhere come to them.

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