AKRON (Jan. 31, 2005) — Tire dealers who offer quick, maintenance-type services must recognize both the limitations and obligations inherent in this kind of work.
Failing to do so will create unhappy customers and aggravated employees.
A perfect example, as well as my favorite example, of this is the “quickie” oil change. Marketed under a myriad of clever or catchy names, this supposedly simple service isn't always as simple as dealers and other automotive service providers hope it is. Understand that I started out changing oil when I was a teenager. For a long time I thought that supposedly experienced managers and bosses already knew what I had learned firsthand performing the task.
But as quick-service mania has grown over the last 10-15 years, I've realized that many decision-makers at automotive service facilities wouldn't know an oil filter or drain plug if one fell on them. Predictably, their problems reflect that ignorance.
The customer's expectations of this service, the physical limitations of it and a dealer's obligations when performing it are all interconnected. Let's begin with the motorist, who's likely to be an extremely busy person from a busy household with two wage earners and possibly a screaming child or two. With everything that's going on in their lives, many vehicle owners are as excited about a visit to “the garage” as they are about a trip to the dentist.
In my opinion, many vehicle owners secretly loathe maintenance visits such as oil changes because the service doesn't provide any tangible improvement in performance or fuel economy. Although that's an extremely short-sighted view, it's also reality.
Consequently, some people who begrudgingly respond to your maintenance-reminder mailing actually show up with a little bit of an attitude. No matter how quickly you do the job, they'd still much rather be doing something more important to them. On top of that, their expectations don't include oil leakage or drip-off of any kind. Suppose the motorist's driveway, car port or garage floor was immaculate before your dealership or service shop changed the oil in their vehicle. (By the way, one of the reasons this area is kept so clean is that young kids play with games, toys and ride bicycles there.)
If the vehicle drips oil onto this once-clean surface after you service the vehicle, then the motorist has a legitimate beef. And no, all vehicles do NOT drip oil! It never ceases to amaze me how many supposedly experienced managers try that line of baloney on an unhappy customer. Some service personnel are very content to drive a vehicle that leaks oil like a sieve. Just because it doesn't bother you doesn't mean it's OK for someone on the other side of your service desk.
This brings me to an important limitation of this task that bosses need to understand. One thing hasn't changed since I began changing oil in 1967: Some jobs can be done very neatly, others simply cannot. Then and now, it's obvious that oil filter accessibility was the last thing engineers considered when they designed the vehicle. So it's either difficult or impossible to remove the filter without spilling oil. Even if the drain plug and the new filter don't leak, it still takes a certain amount of time for the spilled oil to finally drip away.
I urge bosses to recognize this fact of life in the quick-lube lane. If you want to prevent a comeback and a very angry customer, accept that some of your allegedly 15-minute oil changes actually take 25-30 minutes. That's so because it may take the worker an extra 10-15 minutes to wipe off the spilled oil resulting from a poorly positioned oil filter.
Don't risk angering either the customer or the worker with a needless comeback. Instruct workers to wipe up any of these problems now instead of later. This extra time costs you money, but an angry comeback actually costs you more.
Whatever you do, don't blame the worker for the way the vehicle was designed. Matter of fact, if you really think clean 15-minute oil changes are realistic for every vehicle, get in the pit and show the tech, right?
Your obligation is to meet or exceed expectations in automotive service. Guess what? Sometimes, “meeting or exceeding” just means it takes a few minutes longer to do the job right. Accept that, practice that.