Customer experience 101: A brand stumbles and makes good.

The tale of how my car isn’t all that needed oil

I’ve been a customer of Oil Can Henry’s for more than 10 years and have found that as far as quick oil change shops go, they’re one of the best. Have had really bad experiences with the big national brand shop many of you might know and will never return. They were flat out deceptive.

So when I recently stopped by on my way home from work to have my oil change I was mildly annoyed that the wait was going to be an hour with just a couple of cars there. But no matter, I’d try again the following evening. So I did, only to discover the wait again was at least an hour. So much for the ’10 minute oil change’ I thought. When I asked why, the guy said there were only two of them working because another was on vacation. And that it’d be that way all week. Ouch. Now clearly irritated, and having watched a couple cars also drive away each night, I thought I’d go out of my way to try another store. About 8 miles away.  It was time to test the brand / customer experience. As a marketer, I was on a mission.

Same story. Only two working and just one car ahead of me. Time to fire up Twitter. What I discovered was that their last Tweet was more than a week a prior and was a coupon offer. As were the few Tweets I checked before that. So I Tweeted the following:

During this time, another car drove up and turned back. I was curious to see if and how quickly they’d respond. In the meantime, I read reviews of other brands, none of which were confidence inspiring. Oh, I also told several different people about my less than stellar experience.

After three days of no response, I finally went to yet a third store near the office. This time, all three bays were going with two to three cars in line. Fully staffed, I REALLY NEEDED an oil change so I waited about 25 minutes. Not bad – and tolerable because it was clear they were working hard. I found out this was a corporate store versus a franchise shop (like the others). Like usual, they did a fine job with a smile.

Two weeks later I get an email from the marketing director apologizing. I thanked him for reaching out and suggested they monitor their Twitter account more closely as two weeks is simply far too long in social media. He acknowledged that but missed an opportunity to engage with a loyal customer.

However, about a week later a letter of apology showed up with a $39 gift card for a future oil change from a customer service rep. The letter was nice but very formal – done in typical corporate speak. They really should have responded via Twitter so that others seeing my Tweet would know they took action. It would have more impact if he’d engaged himself and / or followed up with me. As it stands, you wouldn’t know what they did if I didn’t write about it here.

I grew up in retail and recognize that it can be tough to forecast demand, but as a brand that trades on fast service, it’s imperative that you staff to deliver that. Or change your promise. Because there aren’t many good drop-in oil change options, I was willing to give Oil Can Henry’s another try because they’ve consistently delivered good service. I recognize too that there are times when things don’t always go as planned when you’re dealing with retail customer service. While their engagement with an unhappy customer may not have been ideal, they did make the effort to make it right. I respect them for that and will continue to support them.

Contrast this experience with Les Schwab Tires, where in the last three months we’ve bought two sets of tires and a set of shocks and struts. No matter what store I’ve gone to since I started buying brakes and tires – and anyone I’ve talked to – they have delivered. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. They’re always staffed. Always busy. And always hustling. In fact, few retail experiences exude the energy you’ll find at Les Schwab. I think that’s the opportunity that Oil Can Henry’s has. Few business experiences anywhere are as consistently good as Les Schwab Tires.

It doesn’t matter how mundane you’re offering, there’s always the opportunity to create the wow and delight. I’m not sure any of us enjoys spending money on oil changes, tires and brakes. They’re a necessary evil. But why not turn it into an experience that could put a reassuring smile on your face? Sometimes the simplest things are the most important. And can really make someone’s day.

The lesson for anyone is to recognize that Social Media is not another marketing channel for one-way communication. To really make it work, it’s something you need to bake into every aspect of your company. And never forget the power of good ‘ol fashioned communication, which is exactly where social shines of course.


  1. Dino Dogan says:

    Dude…whats going on with your car? Needs oils…needs tires…whats next? Gas? :-p

    Seriously tho, brilliant observation. If you’re gonna market yourself as fast you better be fast. I know its apples and oranges (oil-change and twitter) but the oil-place is fighting for the feeling of quickness in your mind. And that feeling of quickness can be serviced by mechanics or marketing directors. The feeling cant tell the difference. It just knows that brand is quick, or not.

  2. Patrick says:

    Thanks Dino – it really does come down to the customers expectations based on what the business promises. In this case it’s fast oil changes. The execution matters – and it’s an opportunity to build the loyalty of repeat business as we all need our oil changed regularly. They do a great job once your in, but who likes to wait an hour when you’re promised a few minutes?

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