I’m 17% less likely to go back, but I’ll be back.

I took the car for an oil change at a chain that’s been expanding their services. They’re trying to make up for these darn new fangled cars that don’t need an oil change every 3,000 miles; oil changes are probably nearly a loss leader.

The assistant manager, Bran, unconvincingly informed me that my spark plugs were at 17%. He added that I should really consider getting the plugs and wires changed for only another $129.95 (after a 10% on the spot discount). I don’t think he really expected to sell anyone spark plugs that day.

If your upsell is an oopsell … you’re doing it wrong

I’ve had five or six timing belts break on me — so I’m all about preventive maintenance. And $129.95 is not a bad price (after discount) for spark plugs and wires. Plus, it may by getting to be about that time.

But his 17% number felt like completely random B.S. — as if someone had taken a message on how to upsell, and then erased all the steps to convincing the customer. What we ended up with was an employee throwing a scary sounding number at a customer and hoping it was enough. Not even a potential customer, but an actual customer, sitting in the waiting room, crankcase draining in an adjacent bay.

I don’t know what his return on his kind of “oopselling” is, but it can’t be good.

But this entire encounter got me thinking about work I’m doing for a home services company. Anyone can say “We can increase your widget value by XYZ” or “We can prevent the decline of ABC by XYZing this with our super awesome stuff”. For the most part, nearly everyone says that. How is anyone going to choose between similar-sounding fluff to pick the best provider of XYZ for their needs?

How you really need to persuade me

This makes the next step of persuading the potential customer to go beyond “What we can do” and into the “How we can do it.” Spark plug guy could have led by asking:

  • “Do you feel your car’s running rough lately?”
  • “Do you think your MPG is dipping a bit more than it should for summer?”
  • “Have you had trouble starting it?”

If I’d answered yes to any of those, he could then tell me that it’s likely because my “spark plugs and wires were starting to look wonky.” (Not “are measured at 17%.”)

Then go in with why. Why changing my spark plugs now, rather than in 3,000 miles as part of the big miles maintenance package, will help me now and down the road (no pun intended).

Try some other operational upgrades on for size …

Retail encounters are brief. It may not be worth the return on investment for the oil change chain to train their staff to do that kind of probing and upselling. But the chain is trying — they’ve implemented some new operational upgrades.

Intake is now a self-service form that asks how your wipers are doing. Maybe they need to do some A/B testing with different questions, about the air conditioning (summer) or heat (winter). A spread of questions that cover their services, such as:

  • “By the way, do you feel as if your car isn’t running as well as usual?”
  • “Is your car’s idle rough?”
  • “Do your brakes feel soft?”

Just print up 4-5 different pads with one of those questions, rotate them (better yet, interleave options in the pad) and track the upsell results.

Where this 17%er’s oopselling helps my clients

All of this is just context for the market my home services clients are trying to conquer. Like any project, I’d been thinking about what to do for them, but this story, this experience, really sharpened my focus on what I need to do with them.

The home services industry, too, is a market rife with “17% Bullshit Artists.” And all of the BSers have websites as they fade in and out with new names and new logos, but the same old faces and B.S. lines. So my task is to help my clients really lay out their fabulous What and the How, and help them persuade with their really good Why. To encourage first time and repeat customers for decades to come.

Thinking like the client: Putting my “our” hat on

Beyond our how and why, we’ll put ourselves in the shoes of customers trying to find home services. We won’t post a big red blinking header with siren.gif that says “Don’t Get Ripped Off By The Other Guys”. We’ll explain the processes we use to do our job. We’ll help the customer understand our services, repairs, and suggestions. We’ll pre-conquer objections to let customers know why they’ll sometimes hear, “No, this isn’t worth doing this way, and we’ll tell you why, and how to solve your problem a different way”.

Once the site is up and humming, we’ll round out the customer experience with some operational upgrades that will support their awesome hows and whys …. but that’s a story for another day.

I’ll be seeing someone in 7,500 miles …

As for the 17% bullshit artist who changed my oil, like I said, I’ll be back. Because their local oil change competitors are actually worse (two different ones broke my car and lied about it).

If I really can’t stomach going back, though, I’ll just wait until something is really wrong, and let my mechanic handle it both the change and the fix. (Spoiler alert: she outsources it, too, because it’s not worth her time to do … but I trust the folks she outsources to). Her What, How, and Why sold me on her over two decades ago, and I’ve been a loyal customer ever since.

If you’d like to chat with me about shaping your what, how, and why stories, and about investing in operational changes that will strengthen your core operations for years to come, reach out to me here.