It’s 2 cents cheaper across the street.

Ever wonder why us old-timers call gas stations, “service stations”? Back in the day, a uniformed attendant would run out to your car as soon as you pulled into a gas station. You’d tell him to “fill ‘er up with regular” and he’d ask you to release the hood. After starting the gas flow, he’d check your oil, radiator and tire pressure. Then he’d clean your windshield. He’d finish about the time you’d hear the pump click off. It felt good to buy gas. It was cheap and the car felt better with a clean windshield and a little “fresh” air in the tires.

In those days, people had a preference for a particular brand of gasoline. We were a Shell only family. But it wasn’t the brand of gas that earned our loyalty, it was the service. We trusted the guys at Shell stations. We liked their uniforms. We believed they only sold us oil when the car actually was low on oil. Not like those “other” guys that would “always” tell a woman she needed a 1/2 quart of oil at a whopping $.40 per quart. You could get oil at the auto supply store for $.30 a quart! You just couldn’t trust the other guys.

I still remember my first time at a “Standard” station. I was going somewhere with the neighbors and they were “Standard” people. The Chevron station seemed alien to me. I knew what a Shell was but had no idea what a Chevron was. And why did they call it Standard? The whole experience was weird.

This may sound odd but there’s a very important point here. People didn’t shop for gas based on price until the service ceased. Once the guys in neat uniforms quit appearing, we’d go to any station in the vicinity to save a penny per gallon. Brand no longer mattered.

You still can’t pump your own gas in Oregon.  Oregon gas is cheaper than California gas so we always fill up when we go to Oregon to shop. We patronize the stations where we like the people regardless of a few cents price difference.

As we face recession, the most important thing you can do for your business is focus on delivering great service. Providing great service will allow your business to make a little more margin than your competitors.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
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