Beyond the Oil Change

August 1, 2016

Selling Additional Services in the Automotive Industry

Executive Summary

For oil change providers, upselling is a challenge. Customers come in for an oil change that may be highly discounted, but they are often surprised by the final cost. This may be attributable to such factors as additional quarts, oil type, etc. Expanding the sale to include additional services can be perceived as selling customers something they don’t need and/or can’t afford.

Catalyst sought to learn what these customers were thinking/feeling/doing during this process, with the goal of generating actionable insights that could improve customers’ experience and ultimately grow ticket. The objective was to shift the mentality of customers who viewed automotive maintenance as a commodity and an unpleasant process and to provide a more positive experience. As a result, they wouldn’t think of doing business anywhere else.

This report summarizes primary research conducted with customers seeking an oil change and other services at quick lube and full-service automotive shops that offered other maintenance services, including transmission, radiator, fuel system cleaning, etc.

Key Findings

  1. Though many unique themes emerged, trust was the umbrella theme. How quickly trust could be lost and the immediate negative implications were alarming.
  2. Based on our findings, it was clear that automotive services customers wanted their service provider to change more than their oil. They wanted them to:
    • Change the experience of waiting for service
    • Change how the technician perceived and spoke to them
    • Change the way pricing and recommendations were presented
  3. Upselling was the single greatest area of frustration for customers.
  4. When both time and price expectations were jeopardized by upsells, the customer immediately became skeptical and frustrated.
  5. Transforming the perception of the mechanic into a service adviser who was looking out for the customers’ interests and safety was an important distinction in developing a long-term customer relationship.
  6. For a parity product like an oil change, offering an excellent customer experience was a key competitive differentiator.
  7. Cost transparency was key. The ability to make a decision in advance of the upsell increased the likelihood of the service being purchased.
  8. For customers whose expectations were properly managed, the overall experience was more positive, and they were more likely to accept recommendations during that visit or a subsequent one.
  9. Customers were receptive to the concept of a fixed-price subscription package that would offer preferential treatment.

To receive the full research report, which includes additional findings, biggest pain points, a methodology for proactive service, and a readiness assessment, contact Mike Osborn:

(585) 453.8331 or email:

Download the PDF

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