You are seriously outnumbered. Automotive marketing specialist Hedges and Company reports that in 2023, 243.4 million licensed drivers are projected to be on U.S. roadways.
Among that ocean of drivers, there will naturally be accidents, and not just the ones that happen out on the streets. So as a quick lube shop owner, be ready and brush up on your reputation management skills.
“We’ve had instances where, due to an employee’s actions, an oil filter came back leaking, or more serious,” admits Sam Basey, owner of South Coast Xpress Lube and Tire Pros in Bandon, Oregon. In one rare event, an employee’s actions caused transmission damage, he says.
“The first thing you want to do is make sure the customer knows you take responsibility for it,” Basey states.
“Be apologetic, ‘I’m sorry this happened and here’s what we’re going to do,’” he says. “Never deny; never make excuses.”
Basey’s business has an impressive 4.8 rating on Google, so he’s clearly doing something right—something other shop owners can either learn from or relate to.
So NOLN sat down and asked him a few questions.
When operators acquire an existing business, they often acquire the reputation, too. What’s the first assessment you make with the business?
“Then you have to start with fixing the issues, and it takes time,” Basey says.
After addressing the problems that were causing the bad reputation in the first place, and once you’ve gotten the right people in place, Basey says a shop is set to move forward.
“Then it’s time to live and die by doing a good job,” as he puts it. “And when something happens, take care of it immediately, and be responsible for your employees’ actions.”
How does a shop owner know when they have the right employees in place?
“People are super hard to find these days,” he concedes. So be sure you hold onto the good ones you already have and the others you’ll be fortunate enough to get.
“Everything begins and ends with employees. So once you get them, make sure they’re feeling appreciated,” Basey reminds.
Then, to keep your good people at their best, he says to consider the term “the shadow of management.”
“You have a shadow of leadership whereby people are reflective of what you do,” he stresses. “Lead by example.”
What are some ways a shop owner might handle it if there’s a dispute over a service issue?
There are people in the world who’ll try to take advantage of you. “Try to separate them out and listen to what happened,” Basey suggests through personal experience at his shop.
“We have cameras everywhere—even in the pit—so in instances where someone says you’ve scratched their car or didn’t put in oil, for instance, I can reference my cameras,” Basey says. “And 9 times out of 10 I can see if something did or didn’t happen.”
It then takes good customer service skills to explain to the customer what you have found. “Be empathetic, though, don’t get stubborn,” he stresses.
How can a shop owner handle online reviews, where customers’ remarks can be all over the place and sometimes quite nasty?
Frankly, Basey says he has a policy that may be different from other shop owners.
“My policy is I don’t respond to any of it—good, bad, or indifferent,” he states.
“Many people who’ll leave a bad review will come in expecting some kind of reaction,” he says. “If you respond it’s just opening a can of worms. So I don’t respond. But if I do see a good review and then I see them in person, I’ll thank them.”
How can a shop owner keep the right mindset about customer service and avoid being thrown off-balance?
Basey thinks for a moment then says, “Just be flexible and adaptable, and have an open mind.”
Because whatever the issue is, always keep in mind, “it may be your fault,” Basey reminds.
He adds that Bandon, Oregon, where his shop sits, is a touristy area. “Many of the people who pass through aren’t long-term, so they might say we’re not going fast enough for them. But that’s about it in the area of ‘bad reviews,’” if you can even call them that.
There’s also a flip side to having those customers who are just passing through, he notes. “We help a lot of travelers too throughout the summer, so they’re not stranded due to tire or automotive issues—and those people leave a ton of good reviews.”
It’s important to remember, too, that there are people who will habitually leave bad reviews of businesses, of course. And shop owners should expect them—they’re a certain brand of customer, Basey finds, and he also believes that Google doesn’t do a very good job of policing them.
Basey simply laughs. “I learn a lot from experience—and every now and then those lessons are hard and expensive.”
Remember, he says, a shop’s success “begins and ends with its employees.”
And then, some of his best words about reputation management are worth repeating again too: “Live and die by doing a good job.”