I like an open-ended question. They’re short, simple, and you may get different responses, depending on who you ask. This is a tactic I use often during interviews for this magazine. It encourages the interview subject to give a thoughtful answer and describe why they feel that way. It can also open me up to different perspectives.
This month’s feature story is based on an open-ended question: What makes a modern quick lube shop? My hat is off to the three industry experts who are featured in the story for giving responses that are just as I had hoped: thoughtful, with demonstrated reasoning, and occasionally surprising.
The basic contours of the oil change business have remained steady for decades—drain, fill, and check your work. But think about all that has changed around that process. Bookkeeping, point-of-sale, and human resources have all become turbocharged through powerful computers and software. Engine technology has changed to necessitate a whole new variety of synthetic and specialty oils, as I’m sure any inventory-conscious operator knows.
Of course, there is also a human side to the evolution of the quick lube business. The rest of the business world has caught up to the quick lube customer service model of “now.” That means no appointments and quick service that doesn’t disrupt someone’s day. But it goes further. Shops need to be cleaner, with more prompt greetings and stellar online ratings (and photos!). First-time customers have seen your shop online many times before reaching the bay doors.
So, a modern quick lube shop must encapsulate all of this in some way. The story and its subjects touch on those areas, as well as others, and talk about their strategies to keep up with the pace.
I also want to shine a light on this month’s Shop Look. I had a great time speaking with Doug Edgman, owner of his eponymous business. Here is a small, independent quick lube that’s innovating in its own way, catering to local customers and finding space for expansion. They even do some work on small engines, like lawnmowers.
Whatever “modern” means to you, I can bet that it’s an improvement for the better. It means striving to tweak the business in small or large ways to help customers. Sky’s the limit with that mindset.