Give Customers More Than Service

Friday, November 1, 2019 | November 2019

Give Customers More Than Service | November 2019

My feet dangled inches above the fuzzy floor mat. The hot green vinyl indented the back of my legs with an imitation stitch pattern, and the seat belt was mere novelty.

It was Saturday morning and I was co-pilot on the bench seat of my dad’s green Ford station wagon. He had jet black hair, a clean shave and a limp from a story he never shared from serving in World War II. Our Saturday morning trip to the donut shop was the best. But first, we had to fill the gas tank at a small Texaco station.

Ding-ding! A bell would ring as the station wagon’s front tires rolled over a black hose laid across petroleum-stained cement. Two service men jogged out from bay 1, both dressed in standard issued green uniforms with the red Texaco Star on the left shirt pocket.

They greeted my dad by name. He smiled and said, “Fill it up with Fire Chief, and check that left rear tire, please.” They popped the hood, checked the oil with a dipstick, and inserted the gas nozzle into the tank. My dad always asked Tully about his wife and family and never forgot to ask, “How’s business?” Yes, I remember the owner’s name (maybe because Tully always offered a lollipop to the co-pilot).

I am now approaching 50 years old and have experienced much in life—I’ve traveled, studied, and am raising a family of my own. Yet, I always refer to this memory of simply filling up with gasoline as a cornerstone of great customer experience. 

Unfortunately, customer experience is now defined by offering kiosk and coffee service while bribing for CSI scores. Many owners are thrilled to receive a great CSI score but don’t know the name of the customer who offered a great review in the first place.

I know that’s not what we as business owners want to do, and that’s not why our customers come to us. A great customer experience is just that—an experience, and that’s why our customers rely on us despite so many more options available to them. This is a great time to be in the independent repair market because people desire a great customer experience. As millennials begin to age, they want trusted relationships because—watch out!—they’re no longer the hot-button generation. The Gen Zs have entered the scene.

Generation Z seeks relationships reflecting loyalty and purpose in everything they do. In fact, they will look at the person behind the wrench with more scrutiny than perhaps any other generation. 

The time is perfect to set the standard for customer experience in your community. One bay, two bays, or 20 bays, this is your opportunity to become an icon for great service.

After fueling up, I would often say, “I like Tully—he remembers cherry lollipops are my favorite.” 

Looking straight ahead my father would grin and reply, “Tully knows that someday you will drive, and someday you will need gas. Tully is a good businessman—a darn good businessman.” 

David Eschbach is the president of The Clutch Performance Group, a full-service business consulting firm. He has been in the industry for more than 25 years and also owns a shop in St. Louis, Mo.