After 41 years in this business, I must admit I was naïve about dealership service when I visited my local Ford dealership for an oil change. After all, the sign on the building said “Quick Lane.” I was gobsmacked when they told me it would be a four-hour wait for a simple oil change.
They spent a fortune building a manufacturer-approved, state-of-the-art quick lube, but there’s nothing “quick” about it. It is embarrassing to me that Valvoline Express can take a walk-in just about anywhere in the country and have them in and out in less than a half hour — and that’s if they’re busy.
I knew this topic would require more research, so I called around and tried to schedule a simple oil change with every Ford dealer on my side of town. Just to be fair, I called a couple Chevrolet dealers as well. The answers varied from “We’ll see you in two hours” to “How’s next Thursday?” The one constant was that I needed an appointment, and that is the mentality that is allowing everyone from the national chains to the car wash mechanics to kick your behind.
Even more embarrassing is the fact they clobber us on Google. Service is such big business, and most franchised dealers are stuck in the Stone Age. You put all the emphasis on sales and just assume you’re making money in service. You could be doing a lot better, and it starts with oil changes.
The funny thing about my calls was that, without exception, every dealership service writer used the same tactics. When I mentioned Valvoline Express, they went into attack mode. “Valvoline does a terrible inspection. They’ll leave your filter or drain plug loose or strip it. They use inferior materials. They perform shoddy work with unqualified techs.”
In truth, Valvoline Express does a great job, as do most of the independents. It is a huge mistake to try to run them down when talking to a customer. After hearing that sad negative tactic several times, I was sick to my stomach over the lack of professionalism and the outright lies told by those dealership employees. Remember, I am a dealer advocate, but this is shameful.
I finished my calls and drove over to my local Valvoline Express. It’s a full-service shop with four lifts, four pits, five certified technicians and six oil change techs, all working in teams. They had my car over the pit in less than 15 minutes. They checked the tires, wipers and turn signals and offered me a tire rotation and air filter, which they told me I didn’t need yet. They did upsell me on using premium, full synthetic oil.
I watched as the pit tech communicated with the tech up top, calling out each stage of the oil change as they performed it. The coolest part of the process is that, when they were finished, the tech recapped all they had performed and asked me if I had a smartphone. He asked me to go to Google Maps and put in their address, which I did. Then he asked me to write a Google Review about the service I had just received. How cool is that?
I talked to the manager and he told me all of their certified techs have franchised dealership experience. They are qualified and well-trained. They wear clean uniforms and maintain an ultra-clean and modern facility, giving their customers a great impression. Most importantly, every bay is full, and they have as much work as they can handle. The fact they’re using pits, rather than lifts, is another advantage.
Interestingly enough, all of their work begins with the service you receive with your oil change, which most franchised dealers view as a nuisance and a “loss leader.” Well, the only reason it’s a loss leader is because it results in a loss of customers. So why do you think we are operating at a fraction of what’s available? Let me know, but don’t bother with the Valvoline insults. At this point, they are miles ahead of you.
Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. Contact him at [email protected].