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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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Market Service by Spending Money at Your Competitors

Much of what I do is creating content that helps retain customers. As you know already, customer defection rates within three years of purchasing a vehicle are in the vicinity of 70 percent – more or less, depending on who you ask. The question begs to be asked, “Where are customers going when they service somewhere other than the dealership?”

For many, the answer is the quick lube shop down the street. Especially when there’s no lineup, it can be as little as 15 minutes from the first VIN number scan to the credit card payment. You can hardly compete with that speed, especially when they advertise ‘warranty approved’ oil changes at a lower price too.

But you could be well served to try them out yourself. You may be surprised at the result, much like I was. And it’s an opportunity to keep your customers too.

The Local Quick Lube Experience

I was long overdue for an oil change on my run-of-the-mill Chevy Silverado and decided to try out the local quick lube. With an open bay, I pulled straight in. The advisor – also the oil change tech, by the way – wrote my truck up for a basic oil change after a very unenthusiastic try for a full synthetic oil change. The basic oil change is just $44.99.

While sitting in my driver’s seat, not a comfy lounge, I scrolled through Facebook mindlessly for about 10 minutes while the oil drained and the filter was changed. The tech then popped up at my window again to show fluid conditions, a few of which were dirty. Being an older truck, the power steering fluid and coolant were low too. Here’s where it gets interesting.

He priced out the front and rear differential fluid changes at $160 each, approximately twice the going rate at a local dealer. The transmission drain and refill was $189. I see where they make their money.

Even worse, I asked if they top up the low fluids. He said he could. It was just $1.99 for power steering, $2.99 for coolant, and when I specifically asked, it was $1.99 to top up my washer fluid. I declined.

The final note on this oil change was on the invoice and never mentioned. The extra liter of oil, as only 5 liters are included, cost me an extra $5.99.

Compare with Your Dealership’s Pricing

Around these parts, a standard oil change at the dealership will run about $49.95. A full synthetic oil change is often advertised at $69.95. It’s a bit more than the advertised price at the quick lube shop, and that can be a detractor.

But what customers often don’t consider is what they’re getting for the price. Dealers don’t charge for fluid top-ups (not even washer fluid) and I’ve never been hit with an extra liter of oil either, although the ad mentions “up to 5L”. And if a service advisor at the dealership added $5.99 without directly mentioning it, World War III would ensue. That’s not to mention the head-and-shoulders difference in customer service between the dealer and the lube shop.

How to Use This to Your Advantage

True comparison shopping for local independent competitors is money well spent. If your competition operates like mine, you could easily show real-life comparisons on a bulletin board in your customer lounge. When a customer sees the same service will cost them more at an independent, the only real difference is the length of time their vehicle is in service. And you already have the answer for that with Express Service bays, shuttle vehicles, courtesy cars, and well-stocked customer lounges with snacks, beverages, and free Wi-Fi.

You can also use this information anecdotally as an email campaign. Send it to both active and inactive service customers with an image of the aftermarket’s invoice and your own. When presented the full slate of facts, there’s hardly a logical reason that customers should choose an aftermarket service provider over the dealership.

Try it at three, four, or five local businesses. I’ll bet both you and your customers are surprised what you come up with.

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