At what cost Air?

By Jeff Bowman

There are some levels of customer service that can’t be breached.  Sacred.  One of the last bastions of free extra value has gone the way of the Dodo.

I am fortunate enough that I grew up in an era where an oil check, windshield wash and hockey stickers were the norm with every gas fill up. “Can I check under the hood” was a familiar phrase that was heard as the smiling attendant approached the window.

If you are old enough to remember the Esso Power Player sticker series, then you are in my age bracket.  Picture yourself pulling into a gas station today where first of all the attendant is in a uniform and cap, then he checks your oil, cleans your windows, and gives you a free bonus when you pay.  It could have been a glass, a sticker book, gas cap tiger’s tail, whatever, it was free and it kept my parents going back to the same station over and over.

Times sure have changed in customer service.  Today you pump your own gas, walk into the cashier and pay, then walk out sometimes without even a simple thank you. You can check your own oil, or not, and you count your lucky stars first of all if there is clean water in the washer bucket and second if the washer itself has any foam left on the cleaning side.

Today was the ultimate value squeeze for me.  I have always gone to a certain gas station to fill up, partly because they still have free air for my tires.  Yes, free air!  Today I went to use the air and to my horror it wasn’t free.  It was $1.00.  I understand paying for suction to clean your car, but a service like providing air to fill up a low tire.  That is going too far.

Consumer’s have a right to value for the products and services they buy.  In a competitive market place, a company’s value proposition is often what creates and maintains brand loyalty.

Well it seems in a marketplace where price is essentially the same, service becomes an additional cost. And even without service, the oil companies prosper. We all have to fill up somewhere if we want to drive. It just doesn`t seem fair that this multi billion industry profits year after year, while services continue to be cut.

Imagine if that happened in banks – no tellers, high service charges and, wait that might be a bad example.  Imagine going to a grocery store where you had to scan your own items, bag your own groceries and, I guess that’s also a bad example.

When will the big wheel of service levels roll back to the consumer’s side? I predict it won’t be too long from now. Consumers need to take note of where they still get value, and let the owners know that it is still appreciated.

Isn’t it strange that when I was growing up the place where you went for gas was called a “Service Station”!

What reductions in service levels have you up in arms?

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Filed under Branding, Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Sales

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