To properly answer the above question, the first thing to do is to consider what outside factors you need to take into consideration.
If you were to run your business with the philosophy that “I’m going to offer my customers every service or item I can. Why let the business go to my competitor?” You might just be setting yourself up for ultimate disappointment and failure. Just because you have a business that is able to offer a particular service to your customer, that does not mean you have to offer it.
Prepare a Business Model
For your lube shop, and indeed any business, to be successful you must first develop a specific and well-thought-out business model. It should be thought of as your model of success. Some of the points to consider in the development of your business model are:
Which services are you able to offer to your customers?
Do you have all the proper tools and are your employees skilled at performing those services.
Which parts or items should you offer your customers? Do you have the necessary room in your location to effectively display any point-of-sale merchandise? Do you have the room to properly store enough inventories so you will not run out of stock frequently? Can the inventory be safely stored and kept from being damaged due to water/moisture, careless stocking and “shelf rot?”
What services do your competitors offer? Are you able to deliver that service at a competitive price and still be profitable?
Do the car counts at your location warrant offering your customers time-consuming services? Or would these services cause other customers to experience unacceptable wait times?
What are your hours of operation? Do they accommodate the traffic patterns in your area? Are you open early or late when there is no traffic to warrant it?
Do you specialize in any particular area? Is there a specific reason that your customers pick you over your competitors?
What to Offer
The answers to the above questions will help you decide what your lube shop should offer your customers. Which services should you offer? Obviously, you will need to offer full-service oil changes, as well as the items that are directly related to an oil change, such as air filters, cabin filters and wiper blades.
It is usually a good idea to offer the other fluid maintenance services, such as differential services. Does your location offer transmission fluid flushes? Do you have a transmission flush machine, or do you only offer a drain and fill? Or are you still doing a pan-drop and filter change service?
More importantly, what type of transmission services do your competitors offer? Are they known for doing them at a reasonable price, and is their typical service as thorough as it should be in your opinion?
These facts about transmission services, as well as most other services, will guide you in your decisions. If your competitor offers a full-service transmission service at an average price, you may be able to set your price point at a level that will garner you a large percentage of transmission business.
On the other hand, if your competitor offers this service for a bargain-basement price, and if they have all the proper tools and skilled employees to fulfill these services, you may not have much
success attempting to take away any of that business.
Will the fact that you offer these time-intensive services cause you to have customers that are forced to wait an unusually long time. Whatever extra you may gain with that service may cause you to lose ten times as much business in another area of your operation.
If your lube shop is doing big car counts, many time-intensive services may hurt your customer service. Of course, if you have a location that has smaller car counts, the inclusion of these types of time-intensive services may be just what the doctor ordered for your business.
Just because you have the ability to offer some parts or services does not mean you have to. Moreover, just because your competitor offers a particular service, that doesn’t mean you have to offer the same service.
For example, if one of your competitors offers fuel injection cleaning for a low price when a customer buys an oil change, do you need to offer a similar service so you will not lose the oil change business?
To answer that, you need to consider all the facts. How much in potential sales and profits do you realistically believe the inclusion of this service offers you? Will performing this service interfere with your ability to process other vehicles in a timely fashion? Do you have the equipment and skilled employees capable of performing this service?
If the answer to any of these questions reveals that the service could be a positive fit within your service envelope, then you should probably seriously consider including it.
However, if the truth is that offering the service may very well disrupt the smooth-running operation of your lube shop, then think twice about including it.
With a little concerted effort, these items can make a significant impact on your bottom line. For every item that you offer, you must be able to keep an adequate supply of inventory on hand to support the sales of that item. You must also be able to store this inventory in such a way that will keep it safe and dry, and in presentable condition. Inventory that has tattered, sun-faded packaging is unappealing and does not have the shelf appeal to keep your facility looking good.
Does your lube shop have a specialty? Is there any single specific reason for your customers to choose your lube shop over your competitors? Good customer service or oil changes done in 10 minutes are not enough. It is safe to say that most fast lubes strive to give the best customer service possible, and most will use some type of 10-minute claim in their offerings. Since all lube shops offer those things, they are not really special, so they cannot be a specialty.
Are your lubes the only ones in your area that vacuum the customer’s car with an oil change? How about free hot and fresh coffee or an ice-cold soft drink for every customer? Maybe a free car wash with every oil-change. You may be able to work out a deal with a nearby car wash owner, or better yet, you may have a wash of your own!
The point is that just about anything can be your specialty if you are the only ones doing it! The beauty of it is that they seldom add much, if anything, to your bottom line. All it takes is a little thought.
Consideration of all these facts will help you to custom-tailor the operation of your business. With careful planning and execution, your lube shop can easily be a perfect fit for your customer base, and a consistently growing and profitable adventure for you.
See ya next month, and always remember to make it happen!