Running a business comes down to the numbers, but numbers don't refer to just one aspect of the business. From car counts to service prices to bay times, numbers are everywhere in the quick lube industry. Understanding how these numbers impact your daily operations is important for you, your team, and your customers.
For this Quick Lube Q&A, NOLN connected with Rob Meng, CEO of FasterLines. FasterLines is a data-based management solutions provider for quick lube shops as well as other industries. Keep reading to learn from Meng about how data relates to customer retention.
NOLN: Thank you for joining NOLN for this Q&A, Rob! I'd like to start by asking you to explain FasterLines to those in our audience who may not be familiar with it.
Rob Meng: We help auto service clients keep track of service both in their bays as well as the wait time outside of their bays. (There are) some folks that actually do timing today and help keep track of bay times, but we actually think the delay time outside of the bay is an even more important data set.
NOLN: Data is a powerful tool in any industry, but why is it important for quick lube shop owners especially to have a pulse on the data they can collect in their shops?
Rob Meng: So, it has two key impact points. The first one is customer service, and customers don't like to wait. The longer they wait, the more upset they get and the less likely they're going to come back frequently to your establishment. But even more important is identifying if you have the right staff in place to serve those customers. So often, what we're seeing with our oil change clients is that their managers are trying to guess when they're going to be busy and they're guessing wrong.
(There are) customers to be served, but there may only be enough staff to serve one of the oil change bays instead of the second or third bay. And so, people are waiting longer to be served in just a single bay instead of serving two or three customers at a time. So that's bad for customer service. It's also bad for the staff. It's also bad for the team because they know that those people are waiting. They're (going to) deal with a more upset customer instead of having the team there to execute and feel good about the product that they're actually executing on.
NOLN: Let's dial in on one element that I would venture to say all shop owners have an interest in—customer retention. Can data tracking play a role in improving or maintaining customer retention?
Rob Meng: So, we think especially in the oil change space, that speed of service and that delay is the most important thing to retain customers. If a customer pulls up into a location and there's a very long line to wait behind, they're probably going to leave. And if they feel like they need their oil changed immediately, they might go to another service station altogether. More importantly, if they do stay and have service and they have a long wait time, they're probably going to look for another establishment the next time. So that whole customer retention, customer satisfaction, and speed—they're all tied directly together.
NOLN: In your experience working with FasterLines, what have you learned about the behaviors of today's customers—across industries?
Rob Meng: We actually serve car washes, oil change, auto service and restaurants—drive thru restaurants. And what we see over and over again is that customers are willing to wait an expected time. They're happy to wait an expected time. It's what that expectation is. And the biggest impact to that expectation is communication. So, greeting the customer, acknowledging them, making sure that they feel seen and that they don't think they're being forgotten. Those are all really critical to (the) customer’s expectation and customers feeling satisfied about the speed of service.
NOLN: How do you think these behaviors translate to a quick lube setting?
Rob Meng: I think they directly tie into quick lube. We're finding that in quick lube, even if there's not the team there to execute against multiple bays—the concept of being able to go out, greet the customer, make sure that they know that you care about them, that you're glad that they're there, (and) that they feel seen and greeted. And then second of all ... you're giving them a realistic expectation of what the wait is, even if it means that they're going to have to come back later because it's not going to meet their schedule. It's better than telling them an unrealistic time, having them wait longer than that, and then (being) dissatisfied with the service at the end of it.
NOLN: In terms of business efficiencies, what are customers paying attention to?
Rob Meng: So, efficiencies they are looking for ... is there a team there to help me? Can I see the team? Are people visible? Again—eye contact. Am I being acknowledged? But they totally notice, especially in oil change, if (there are) multiple bays and only one line of cars going into a single bay, they’re not going to feel efficient. They’re going to feel like, “Why is this location only using part of their capacity to serve me? And why am I waiting in this line this long?”
I think those are all the visual efficiencies that they're looking for. From there, they want the process to be very clean and easy to do. So, whether that’s email billing, whether that’s checking in and out with a salesperson who has a tablet, not having to worry about a lot of paper or signatures—I think all of those are thing that if you have those incorrect, they increase the friction for the customer. And anything that increases friction is going to mean less frequency and less return rate.
NOLN: How can shop owners put data into action?
Rob Meng: The data is fantastic, but it is absolutely what you do to operationalize it. And the main thing that we do is a couple of different things. First of all, we can tie the data (the service times) directly to the client records so that they can see, “Oh, this customer ... averages 25 minutes and they don't come in as often and this customer averages 12 minutes and they come in much more often.” So, there’s some of that data that we can see.
But the best thing that we do is we take our data set, and we actually tie it back to client's video system and the client can go back and see, “Oh, this was a car that took a really long time.” Let's go in and look at the video and let's find out, did we follow our processes? Did we have a team in place that was what should have been there for the amount of work that was there? Are we miscalculating on our busy-ness and not staffing appropriately? All of those things are ways that they can actually operationalize the data and execute on the data, not just real time, but historically, and be able to true up some of those missed assumptions on how busy they are or how busy they could be.
NOLN: What are other data points of which you think shop owners should have a good understanding?
Rob Meng: The other thing that we’re seeing, especially with the locations that do emissions (testing), is that they don’t always have somebody on site who is certified for those emissions. And so, really keeping track of who's being scheduled and what the certifications are. Do we have enough people to do the services that we’re advertising? Those are things that are really critical.
And again, it’s a manager trying to guess how busy they’re going to be. They’re trying to guess what customers are coming in and being served for which one of their services and what certified staff they need for those services. And so, being able to keep track of not only your staffing data (and) your scheduling, but then also help that manager not guess wrong. Help them understand when you're busy (and) when there's the opportunity. That's critical, and any way that you can get that data so that you can see, “Oh, we have a wait in line, and we have people that are waiting to be served.” That's going to go back to being able to serve those customers better.