Like many of the best operators out there, Jeffrey Crafton got his start changing oil in the pits. These days, he’s the director of quick lube operations for Sayle Oil Company, a distributor based in Oxford, Mississippi, that also runs a network of 14 quick lube shops.
One thing Crafton loves about his job with the family-owned quick lube network is that he’s able to retain his shop ties and customer relations. When the company replies to an online review, for example, they’re often seeing Crafton’s comments.
“You're getting it straight from me,” he says. “I may be sitting in the office doing paperwork one day, but I'm in the pit the next day changing oil.”
Sayle’s network of shops includes names like Dipstix, Shell Rapid Lube, and Service Pro. And under Crafton’s leadership, the quick lube segment is doing great. The network had a record year in 2020, and car counts just kept growing the following year.
“Last year, out of 14 locations, right at about 142,00 oil changes,” Crafton says. “That was up right about 20,000 compared to 2020. So we’re extremely happy with that number there.”
Through a combination of savvy sales and marketing strategies, Crafton leads a strong local network that is poised to grow and support its communities. Crafton has worked to improve each piece of the operation to make the entire business grow.
“I just want people to know what we put emphasis on our customers and being a family-owned business,” he says. “And we put our emphasis on our employees. At the end of the day, they’re why we’re at where we’re at.”
Marketing Customer Consultants
A big part of Crafton’s customer service approach has to do with the consultant strategy of service. He trains his technicians to take an educational stance with drivers, letting them know what needs to be done and why.
Customers want to know what’s going on with their vehicles, like a health checkup. Even the items that might not warrant an explanation should be communicated to customers.
“Even if you didn't do anything other than topping off their fluids, let them know,” Crafton says. “Even if you give them a receipt with a checklist on there, you want to make sure you go over it with them, and that’s building trust in what you do.”
Great customer service will take you places, but it also helps to get more customers in the door to experience it. Since taking over the operational reins in 2017, Crafton put a focus on marketing and hired a support specialist for that role.
“I've got a marketing manager who does a phenomenal job,” he says. “We work closely together to come up with things like customer appreciation days, other promotions to get our customers excited and get employees excited as well.”
The constant attention to events, social media presence, and other promotions keeps the brand name visible in the communities they serve. They solicit reviews from every customer using an online tool. They share shop successes and show customers public appreciation for staff members. It all promotes the idea that a Sayle shop is a supportive environment, which can help with recruiting, too.
Car counts were suffering when Crafton took over years ago. That number has since improved, but that’s not the only area.
Tickets are also seeing bumps in the Sayle network. Crafton says that the shops went from a $62 ticket average in 2020 to $68 in 2021, and this year has been looking to improve upon that figure. That’s great for a shop that runs a relatively small service menu of quick maintenance items.
Much of that ticket success is due to an emphasis on premium oil sales. Some of that, admittedly, comes naturally as newer cars require synthetic oil. But it’s also a strategy for growth for all customers who want to take care of their vehicles—no matter how old.
“There are cars, more and more, that require [synthetic oil] from the factory, but not all of them,” Crafton says. “I've always put emphasis that it’s the sale that just keeps on selling. And you’re doing the customer a favor.”
Each year under Crafton’s leadership, tickets have improved, he says.
Another metric that’s important to note: team salaries are up, too.
“We try to do what we can as a family-owned business to make it a great atmosphere for people to work in, keep them happy,” Crafton says.
Thanks to the successes in marketing and KPIs, Crafton says that the Sayle company is putting more of an emphasis on the automotive service segment. Sayle is planning its first expanded-service express location, which will include office space, a quick lube, and tire and maintenance operations.
“This is going to be a whole new beast, having a full mechanic on one side and doing oil changes on the other side,” Crafton says. “I’ll be learning on the fly—it seems kind of scary.”
Scary, but Crafton says he’s ready for the challenge. He says that his team, both in managerial positions and at each shop location, has what it takes to add to the network’s success. Crafton says he takes pride in how they’ve achieved that success, helping customers and providing products and services that improve their transportation needs. That’s something Crafton and his team are equipped to do in a changing industry.
“With all of us, I think that we’re going to be OK,” he says. “It’s a whole new ball game. I’m excited for it and can’t wait to get that going.”