2016 Vendor Speak

Each year we ask vendors to chime in on important issues in the fast lube industry in this annual feature. Their responses vary, as do the products and services they offer fast lube operators. Read on to learn what they’re speaking about this year.

Amsoil Inc.

Ed Newman, advertising manager

www.amsoil.com

800.777.8491

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. The history of the automobile is a history of change. As new engine designs are adopted, new demands are placed on the fluids that lubricate and protect them. Staying current with all these changes is a critical piece of the success puzzle. Success isn’t just about marketing or having a positive mental attitude, but also includes keeping up to speed and making sure employees are well trained.

We’ve seen an increased demand for lubricant-related training from our customers. We have had direct requests for product and sales related training from both independent auto parts stores and fast lubes. In support of these requests, we’ve been enhancing our existing training materials and creating new materials in video and other formats to meet our customers’ unique needs.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. Amsoil offers fast lubes a free merchandising kit, which includes a counter mat, window decal and 500 custom oil change reminder decals, on their first order over $300. We also offer free shipping on every order of $300 or more and a listing on our public-facing retail locator at amsoil.com. The company also produces a wide variety of clothing items and materials to promote the brand, so lube shops and oil change specialists can let their customers know they carry Amsoil.

BayNets

Joe Menhart, division sales manager

www.baynets.com

800.596.1066

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. At BayNets, we have seen a growing change in quick lube employee expectations for safety. It no longer seems normal for a service pit to remain unprotected. Over the last couple of years, we have noticed an increased awareness of safety.

There have been more proactive requests for safety nets. In other words, in years past, almost all quick lubes were getting safety nets because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said so, or because there was an accident. As more mom-and-pop, single-site quick lubes are being purchased by larger chains, the new owners usually order a safety net before they open for business. Brand-new sites, recently constructed, are requesting nets prior to opening day.

We have also seen a growing need for ease-of-use and durability in all safety products. That changing expectation is realized by the dramatic increase in the number of requests we receive from customers who want to replace their web netting or steel grates. Our customers have expressed those stronger systems are more difficult to use and are more prone to inoperable damage. A sliding net system is economical, easy-to-use and long-lasting.

Our customers also expect us to provide a price immediately and to ship within a week or less. Although most netting systems are custom-made and custom-priced, the point-and-click mentality remains. So, we do our best to meet this need with one-minute verbal quotes and next-day shipping when required, with typical lead times under three days.

Years ago, we saw a growing expectation that if we shipped it, the product would get there and nothing would be missing. Many little parts can be hard to count, so we would add a few extra pieces. We later added additional quality checks for increased accuracy. Since heavy cables can sometimes rip through cardboard boxes, we started shipping our product in a highly durable plastic drum. Our shipping losses and damage dropped to zero. Yes, zero, and we didn’t increase our price.

Lastly, customers continue to expect more for less. Fortunately, with our ongoing Kaizens, continuous improvement initiatives and lean manufacturing, we have not increased our BayNets pricing for several years.

We believe all of these changing customer expectations will continue in 2017 — safer, faster, better, lower priced and higher quality.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. BayNets does offer incentives and discounted packages. Everyone can and does take advantage of these special offers. This is a direct response to the ever growing need to remain competitive and to continue to provide customers with more for less. When comparing apples to apples, our apples can always be offered at a lower price than our competitors, and at higher quality. It is worth noting that many other netting companies sell oranges, and by that, we mean their netting product is just not the same as ours. Fish nets can catch fish, but maybe not people. Sports nets can catch loose soccer balls, but maybe not people. Buyer beware — ask for manufacturer test results and test certifications.

Once we understand the customer’s essential requirement, discounts are available for a quick buy, a large quantity buy, a major account with multiple sites or a reseller who distributes BayNets. Also worth noting, you will pay more for a fall protection system if you would like to walk on it or drive on it. BayNets is an impact absorbing system that safely catches people in the event of an accidental fall. Do not confuse a safety net with solid flooring. For that reason, be sure you are not buying more than you really need. We are safety experts and not priceline.com. But tell us what you need, tell us the competitive price and system you may be considering and we can do better every time, every day.

Castrol

John Hickey, channel marketing manager

www.castrol.com

800.462.0835

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. We are currently seeing a dramatic shift in the market, which is causing some angst in our customers and employees. Declining car counts, extended drain intervals and the ever present $20 oil change are causing a market of uncertainty throughout the industry.  Training and retaining skilled technicians is becoming more and more challenging, and the ever changing legal and regulatory environment is adding more expense to a fast lube’s operational cost. 

For 2017, we expect these trends to continue, but we are also optimistic that as an industry we can find a way to strike a balance between operational cost and overall profitability of the fast lube market. 

Castrol is dedicated to helping customers learn how to effectively market premium products to maximize their profits.  Keys to success in the industry are programs designed to provide customers with the educational materials needed to explain which is the best lubricant for their vehicle and why, and retention programs to keep customers coming back for service.  Having an educated discussion with customers is the first step toward moving the market in the right direction.     

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. Castrol offers a unique points-based rewards program designed to provide premium rewards aligned with our premium products.  The more oil a customer purchases, the more points our customers are rewarded.  These points can be used to purchase marketing materials, merchandise, trips and event tickets.  Just launched in August of this year, it is available to customers who purchase from authorized Castrol wholesale distributors.  To date, our customers have accrued over 2.5 million points.  They have used their points for everything from first-class trips to Mexico to massage chairs for their waiting rooms to purchasing local marketing materials designed to retain and grow their customer base.  Best of all, this is just the first phase of the program; we have so much more to come in 2017.

Comgraphx

Cynthia Boyle, director of Sales and Marketing

www.comgraphx.com

918.258.6502

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. With the changes in the oil industry and the economy, we continue to see customer’s expectations of service increase. They want the right product at a competitive price. That being said, they are also looking for a vendor that will take care of them and make their life easy. At Comgraphx, our account executives work directly with our customers to ensure accurate communications, production of material and delivery in a timely manner. I expect we’ll continue to see these expectations from our customers in the future.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. We offer many solutions that provide efficiencies and, therefore, create great cost savings. We offer printer systems the can easily be incorporated into fast lube programs and are fully supported by a customer service team 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. We have numerous solutions for your labeling needs. We’re currently offering a discount if you trade in your old printers.

Integrated Services, Inc.

Steve Barram, CEO

www.ints.com

800.922.3099

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. In the ‘90s and early 2000s, it seemed our customers were more intently focused on our product and its features. Over time, they began to direct their lens toward a greater examination of our customer support capabilities and our ability to help them dig further into their data and business. In turn, that led to discussions often revolving around our customers’ needs for solutions from ISI. Providing ways for our customers to review their business in a timely and in-depth way has proved helpful in keeping them competitive in today’s marketplace.

Product features and growth are always imperative, but the growing awareness that ISI could play a part in store and company growth has grown well beyond features. In part, this has been reflected through our customers’ attentiveness to the changing views and values of their own employees.

For instance, beyond just reviewing data, the respect accorded to employees is a major topic these days. ISI is being engaged to be a part of solution discussions as it relates to this and similar areas of changing expectations by the employer and employees.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. Having been a market leader for much of our 28-year history, ISI has learned to successfully focus on listening intently to our customers. By doing so, we have been able to fashion solutions crafted for customer needs. We would say that has been a core strength of our growth and success. It truly is less of our own needs and more about providing dedicated resources from our team that reach a specific and needed set of solutions presented by our individual customers.

LubeCenter Sales, Inc.

Joe Thissen, senior vice president of Sales

www.lubecenter-sales.com

800.874.5793

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. Our clients’ expectations are high. We understand and respect the fact that selling your business is a challenging and critical time in your life. Our goal is to make the sale and transition as seamless as possible, allowing you to focus on the important day-to-day operations. The market for quick lube businesses is always fluctuating, but we look forward to helping you navigate the transition when ready.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. The best incentives and offers in the business, of course. It’s absolutely 100-percent free to give us a call and discuss your exit plan. We can review the best options for you, whether you’re looking to exit in the near future or years from now.

Lubegard by International Lubricants, Inc.

Mark Roach, national accounts manager

www.lubegard.com

800.333.5823

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. After years of price-driven buying strategies, the trend in the quick lube industry is shifting to high-quality/high-tech products that are reasonably priced and deliver more customer benefits. Customers are keeping their cars longer and demanding longer life from their vehicles’ systems. Quick lubes are buying proven, high-tech products to meet customers’ expectations. Lubegard fills this niche by offering high-quality products at reasonable prices to keep cars running better, longer.

Lubegard has historically been known as a transmission fluid and service solution to the industry. However, as more quick lubes venture into general repair, they are utilizing our non-transmission related products for cooling, engine and power steering systems in their service offering. Quick lubes count on us to deliver the same high-tech, multi-functional products in these non-transmission related services, keeping cars in top shape longer. We expect this general repair trend to continue to allow the quick lubes to optimize their profit potentials.

With these new service offerings, quick lubes are asking manufacturers for additional product training. Mistakes and comebacks are very costly, both financially and reputation-wise. Lubegard offers field training to quick lube chains for them to understand optimal product selection and the service capabilities of our products. We also offer extensive training to our distributors to, ultimately, help individual quick lubes be successful. These programs will continue in 2017 to meet the demand of the marketplace and keep technicians ahead of the curve.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. Lubegard takes partnering with quick lubes seriously and offers many promotional opportunities: spiff programs, gift card incentives and starter kits, all supported with in-store point-of-sale (POS) materials. We customize seasonal/quarterly promotions and create full-year promotional calendars for those partners who qualify. Our research shows once someone tries a Lubegard product, they come back for that product as well as additional products as their needs arise. Lubegard has among the highest rate of brand loyalty in the marketplace. With that mindset, we will continue to promote heavily and look forward to new opportunities with our distributors and quick lube customers.

Mahle Aftermarket Inc.

Ted Hughes, director of Marketing

www.mahle-aftermarket.com

248.305.8200

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. Change is the only constant in doing business today. Technology and advancements in manufacturing and service have raised the bar in terms of what we, as manufacturers, can provide the market, whether it be in terms of parts proliferation and staying on top of new coverage or the gains made in electronic catalogs to make sure the users have the data they need in real-time. Quality today is a pre-requisite to doing business, as is coverage and availability. Manufacturers must understand they need to deliver on these basics before anything else. This trend will only grow in 2017 and beyond.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. While we do not have any existing, or canned incentive or discount packages, growth in the fast lube industry is one of our core strategies at Mahle. Our team of experienced account managers and sales professionals are available to design a program specific to the needs of each individual facility or chain. We feel this is the best path forward. As customer needs vary, so should the offering from suppliers like us. By visiting our website, fast lube customers can get in touch with someone in sales to create a program that works for them.

M&M Services

Mark Epstein, owner

http://www.windshieldwasherconcentrate.com

607.729.9118

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. Our offering direct to installers is limited to windshield washer concentrate, so expectations over the years have not changed. It is a basic requirement common to most industries: quality product, competitive price and exemplary service. We are pleased to be providing our product to the quick oil change industry for over 20 years.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. We certainly do. Our product is inexpensive, so freight is always our largest issue. We pay freight to our customers, and it is our most troublesome expense. Thus, our incentives are designed in a way to better amortize the freight across a larger shipment of product and for us to obtain shipping discounts. Customers who buy four cases of Deep Blue, get one free. This is an easy hurdle for many customers, or customers with multiple stores that can accept the shipment at one location and disperse the individual cases or bottles themselves.

A number of years ago, we also developed a form of Deep Blue we call Super Concentrate. It does require two steps to properly mix, but our standard shipping unit is one pound instead of 36 pounds. We are able to offer this at a healthy discount over the regular concentrate because of the shipping advantage. 

Penray

Mark Kardon, director of Marketing

www.penray.com

800.373.6729

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. Customers continue to rely on us to hold more inventory as businesses focus on cashflow and inventory reductions. This will continue in 2017. As service intervals continue to lengthen, our customers are looking for additional opportunities to help them explain to the consumer why a preventative service is so important. We are focused on providing product education to help technicians better understand the preventative maintenance services available to them and how this helps consumers keep their cars on the road longer.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. We work very closely with our distributor partners to develop programs and promotions to support the fast lubes, based on their specific needs and what they are trying to accomplish.

PM Attendant

Ash Bullard, vice president of Sales and Marketing

www.pmattendant.com

866.576.8957

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. Owners continue to struggle finding good, loyal employees. What were once considered benefits are now seen as requirements — or may even be legal rights for employees. This drives up the cost and potential risk for the owner. I think we will see owners take advantage of more tools and systems to help them manage their businesses. Shop ownership will also continue to trend toward larger multi-shop owners that have the time, energy and resources to manage or a reduction of shop count down to a more individually manageable level.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. We are currently waiving all upfront fees. Our all-inclusive monthly fee is $169.

Roth Industries

Joseph Brown, PE, president and CEO

www.rothautomotive.net

419.867.7684

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. Just like everything today, business seems to move at a very fast pace with an expectation from the customer that product should be in stock and ready to ship almost immediately. Execution of business has never been closer to real-time than it is today. Our goal at Roth is to recognize the expectations of our business partners and model our business to align with, and hopefully meet, those expectations. 

Roth’s commitment to our distributors is a key focal point in how we operate. We keep a healthy inventory of product at our manufacturing facility in Watertown, New York, and we stock three remote warehouses, located strategically across the country, to make deliveries almost daily to hundreds of customers across North America. Our double-wall tanks are rapidly setting the standard for secondary containment in the fast lube market, and we are constantly striving to ensure we build our brand in a manner that meets our customers’ expectations. 

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. Roth offers a number of incentives, particularly for new accounts, and discounts for volume purchases. The market competition today demands that any supplier provide a comprehensive value proposition to their customers. There is simply too much competition to rely on any one component of your program. In addition to how we develop our pricing models, we also offer joint marketing services, custom designed sales programs, free technical and regulatory assistance with local code compliance and other non-product specific support measures. 

Roth highly values direct engagement with our customer base and is always seeking feedback to elevate the next experience any one customer has with us. We feel that by providing a friendly and supportive network to meet our customers’ needs, questions and concerns, we are building a relationship that is comfortable for our accounts and that nurtures a long-term relationship. 

Sage Microsystems Inc.

Bob Sampson, president

www.sagemicrosystems.com

800.724.7400

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. The quick lube industry appears to be pivoting away from just doing oil changes and air filters. While these services may still bring the vehicles in initially, it’s the scope of additional services that will help them spend more money. As such, our customers are expecting us to change with them. Sage has added many new features that expand the services offered, including Epicor’s integrated service estimator (ISE) product that gives our customers the ability to perform repair estimates, order parts and move the estimate to the Sage invoice automatically.

In the fast-paced quick lube industry, we’ve seen a change in our customers’ expectations of customer services and technical support. The previous standard for support, across the industry, was getting a call back from a service representative. At the request of our customers, we’ve changed our help-desk procedures so our customers and their employees talk to a technician immediately. This allows them to get their questions answered faster and return to servicing their customers.

As the industry becomes more and more saturated with quick lubes, customer retention is becoming a key metric. Our customers have asked us to continually improve the tools and reports that help them better address retention. From the time a customer first comes to the store, to the time they are in the store and then after they leave the store, point-of-sale software tools have to assist in the retention process.

Many of our customers use iPads and Windows tablets to greet customers at their car as they pull up. It is a high-tech look and an efficient way to check customers in and use manufacturer specifications to pre-sell overdue services. As vehicles get more computerized and complicated to service, it is increasingly imperative that, during the service, technicians have simple access to manufacturers’ service procedures. This allows them to professionally and confidently reset oil lights, install cabin and fuel filters, correctly route serpentine belts and accurately complete many other profitable service items. After the customers leave the center, the quality of the follow-up systems may have the biggest impact on their loyalty. Professional and timely thank you and reminder cards are the follow-up standard. However, today’s technology now allows email and text options that significantly enhance the communications and help solidify ongoing relationships.

Sage also offers several reports that list customers who were serviced, including phone numbers, that allow our customers to directly communicate on how well they performed. More importantly, other reports show customers who did not return over a period of time. Calling those customers has helped many of our customers specifically understand what improvements are needed to continue to grow their businesses.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. Sage offers a variety of incentives and discounts that help our customers continue to take advantage of the services and products that are available. As Sage releases new products, they are either included as part of the ongoing Guardian program fees, or, when additional licenses are required, they are typically incentivized. For example, Sage offers the Epicor ISE estimating and repair product integration at a significantly discounted rate.

Onsite installations and previous software providers’ customer and service history conversions are currently discounted. Multi-store operators’ ongoing Guardian fees are discounted, and Sage offers annual pre-pay discounts.

Solid Start

Amber Kossak, president and CEO

www.solidstart.biz

877.290.3950

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. Expectations have changed throughout the years with regard to the expansion of services our customers offer and the products they carry.  The industry is changing, and if you do not adapt, you may get left behind. With the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, original equipment manufacturers and new engine design, customers are now, more than ever, looking to their provider for education. Expectations for hands-on training, education and what’s new have increased. Our employees must learn what is coming and what is new. One expectation has never changed, and that is customer service. Whether you are the customer or employee, the expectations are to keep up with new technology and provide professional answers with education.

The industry continues to make many changes with the corporate average fuel economy standards. We are looking for gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines to increase, therefore, hands-on education and training are even more important, since preventive maintenance with fuel system cleaning, proper oil use and cleaning the oil are very important in maintaining these GDI engines. 

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. We do offer these types of programs, creating a win/win for our customers. We do our best to give back to our customers by providing something that works for them.  These are programs they develop or we design.

Throttle Muscle

Sean Porcher, founding partner

www.throttlemuscle.com

855.738.9687

Q. How have you seen your customers’ and/or their employees’ expectations change over the years, and what do you expect them to be in 2017?

A. The needs and expectations of our customers and their employees have continued to evolve over the past few years. Needs and expectations are becoming more and more specific to the needs of the end-consumer and the needs of the vehicle that consumer is driving.

Just a few short years ago, the end-consumer fell into one of just two or three buckets: conventional, synthetic-blend or full-synthetic. Installers carried two or three SKUs of each, and that was what they could offer the consumer. But as vehicles have changed and OEM requirements have changed, the SKUs needed to offer just these few product lines has increased, as well. Add to that the needs and wants of the end-consumer, and an installer can be looking at 20 to 30 different SKUs for motor oil alone. From blended high-mileage to full-synthetic, needs and expectations are changing. Installers need to change and adapt along with them, and so do manufacturers such as Throttle Muscle.

We are constantly improving and adapting our product line to meet the needs of our installers as driven by the end-consumer. Two years ago, we had two different fuel treatments, and now we have six! For those needing specific fuel treatments for GDI vehicles, high-mileage vehicles or high-performance vehicles, we have created products to cater to the specific needs of those guests. We have created three new oil converters to help installers cut back on the number of oil SKUs they need to carry and the amount of dollars they have tied up in inventory but still be able to meet the specific needs of each guest. These were driven by the wants and expectations of the end-consumer. Maybe they don’t want to pay for full-synthetic but want something better than a conventional high-mileage product; now, we can offer them a blend. Maybe they want the best full-synthetic motor oil you can buy but the installer doesn’t have it in high mileage; now, we can offer that. If you are looking for a vendor that can adapt to your needs and the needs of your end-consumer, look no further than Throttle Muscle.

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. Similar to the needs of the end-consumer, we have found that needs and wants vary from installer to installer. Our programs and offerings are adaptable to the needs of our individual installers. Some programs we ran with success in 2016 included a bounce-back offer for the end-consumer, a prize wheel with prizes for the installer and installer’s employees and discounted packages where a fuel treatment was offered along with an engine treatment or converter.

Our company was also founded on the premise of giving back to charity. We have a national charitable relationship with the Muscular Dystrophy Association but have also worked with other charities, such as the American Heart Association and the Red Cross. We will help support the charity of our installer’s choice. We also include on-site training, free product samples and good, old-fashioned customer service.

Unilube 

John Fanning, sales manager

www.unilube.com

800.326.1711

Q. Do you offer incentives or discounted packages that fast lubes can take advantage of?

A. The desire for efficiency and cost savings drive companies’ expectations. Fortunately, we have the expertise and experience to customize some of our products to meet those needs.