customer delight

Will you go out of your way for better service?

By February 25, 2009 4 Comments

Don’t you hate paying $.75 to put air in your tires? Me too. Especially when I don’t have any change on me. So, boy was I happy when I realized the air was free at a Chevron on my way to work yesterday.

Free air and water

I was elated and immediately started asking the question, “why doesn’t every gas station offer free air and water?”

Then it got me thinking of the days when the idea of paying for air or water was unthinkable.

In the seventies, it was a different experience altogether.

Mom would pull up the gas pump in our Ford Galaxie 500 and an attendant would pump the gas, then pop the hood, check the oil and fluid in the radiator, check the tires and then wash their windows—all at no extra charge.

In my neighborhood, we’d go to Murphy’s Chevron. Murphy was a gruff-looking old WWII vet who walked with a limp and had a heart of gold. To this day, I don’t know if Murphy was his first name or last. He was always simply “Murphy,” no “Mister,” needed.

Eventually full service at no extra charge gave way to full service costing a lot more per gallon. Now, most stations only offer self-service only, and the person working in the mini-mart wouldn’t know what an oil funnel was if you asked them for one. I’m not kidding. This actually happened to me a month ago. The station sold the oil, but had no funnels.

What a shame.

At the stations I frequent, I’m seldom greeted or thanked, and the attendant is watching television, talking on the phone or chatting with a friend. Too bad they aren’t actively serving customers.

Amid this, just how cool would it be if a chain of service stations decided to make customer service their mission and seek out a truly unique position in the category? Why not? There’s always a station known for cheap gas. Why not one known for incredible, world-beating service?

It’s not a stretch, really.

It’s already being done in the vehicle oil change/maintenance space. Oil Can Henry’s is a fast-growing franchise taking on Jiffy Lube head-on in some markets by offering “old-fashioned service,” a unique brand and real service innovations.

So, would you go out of your way for a service station that had tangibly better service?

Why or why not?

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Ed says:

    I only do business based on the quality of the experience; and yes price is a factor. Merchants, vendors and suppliers of all sizes and shapes need to understand that there are a thousand ways to agitate a customer. I,we, people in general are busy, emotional, driven, constrained by time and competing agendas.
    The companies that do all they can to make it easy to do business with them will thrive.The companies that put up road blocks, barriers and have a lack of emotional intelligence will suffer.

  • Jeff says:

    Amen. I will drive out of my way for free air, not to save money (clearly not, given the price of gas today) but as a matter of principle. Isn’t it sad that when we receive passably good service in any business setting, we find it worthy of comment? That a person cheerfully doing his or her job is noteworthy, that no “extra mile” is required to seem exceptional?

  • Funny you should say “extra mile.”. The name of the mini-mart with free air is called, you guessed it, “Extra Mile.”

    Thanks for your comments.

  • Wesa says:

    I normally commute by bicycle, so paying $0.75 to fill my tiny little bike tires (in comparison to car tires) is a joke. Luckily, I found an old style full service station near my apartment on Capitol Hill (Seattle), and they provide free air, even to bikers. I thought this was so wonderful I ended up taking my car there for an oil change even though it cost $10-$15 more than the cheapest place I could find, just to support their company. Kind of backwards: save money on air for my tires only to spend more in the long run on other items, but they are an amazing little place.

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