It's Life in the Fast Lane

Because vehicle owners must go to them for warranty work and the like, dealerships hold an advantage over shops offering only oil changes, brake jobs, muffler replacements and similar convenience-driven services. Those places can't do warranty work, but more and more dealerships can set up separate service operations to do the sort of light-maintenance work the quick-stop shops offer. As auto dealers

Because vehicle owners must go to them for warranty work and the like, dealerships hold an advantage over shops offering only oil changes, brake jobs, muffler replacements and similar convenience-driven services.

Those places can't do warranty work, but more and more dealerships can set up separate service operations to do the sort of light-maintenance work the quick-stop shops offer.

As auto dealers seek to capture more business of that nature, they should understand the considerations that can spell the difference between business success and mediocrity.

For a dealer considering the addition of a fast-lube operation at an existing dealership, some conflicting dynamics come into play. First, understand the distinction between consumer expectations of a “full-service” center versus what they expect when they patronize a “quick-service” facility.

At a full-service center, speed is not as much a consideration as is the specialized expertise that dealerships provide. But if a motorist pulls into a fast-lube location and the service isn't delivered quickly, efficiently and courteously, you probably won't get a second chance to impress them.

Here are points to ponder if you're considering adding a fast-lube facility:

  1. What is your objective? Are you simply adding revenue stream or hoping to drive additional car counts to your existing service operation?

    Because of the difference in philosophies between the two types of operations, make sure the respective staffs understand their separate roles — yet also understand that they are part of the same team. Otherwise, the fast-lube operation could draw customers from your traditional, high-margin service center.

  2. Do you have the right demographics and location to support such a business? A high-traffic, high-visibility, easily accessible location is vital to capturing the car counts necessary for a fast-lube setup to succeed.

    If you're planning to build on an existing business site, will the fast-lube operation be put where everyone can see it? Fast lubes — and other similar quick-service specialty shops — must make consumers feel “invited” into the environment. That means an easily noticed spot on a highly visible site.

  3. Hiring and training fast-lube personnel is different. The primary objective of such an operation is to perform a limited range of services efficiently and quickly. Because the skills and backgrounds for successful fast-lube personnel are different than the requirements for full-service mechanics and technicians, develop a different set of hiring criteria.

For one thing, fast-lube technicians must understand the philosophy of “quick, easy and convenient” and their training should emphasize interacting with customers. Most dealership technicians are required to achieve ongoing certification and factory training, but they don't do much customer interaction. Fast-lube technicians must be experts at that as well as at delivering a narrow but focused range of services.

There are a few more things to think about. Although it would be wise to treat the fast lube as a separate business, it is important to incorporate it into the overall mission of the dealership.

In other words, look for “cross-marketing” opportunities to assure that the business streams complement each other, and make sure that everyone who works for the dealership understands that they're all part of one team.

Ideally, a fast-lube operation can attract new customers to your dealership and turn them into long-term patrons.

It can work the other way, too, with dealership customers becoming “core” business for the fast-lube operation through incentives and promotions.

David Kunkel is responsible for developing CITGO Petroleum Corp's. Fast Lube centers in the U.S. He is at 800-331-5483, ext. 4106, and [email protected].

TAGS: Dealers Retail
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