Remember the good old days, when you didn't have to pump your own gas? Whatever happened to full-service service stations?
I was watching American Pickers on the History Channel with my parents over the holidays; I noticed that the pickers seemed to be enamored by old service station memorabilia. Finding that memorabilia took them down memory lane, where they recalled days of true service stations. I'm guessing some of my readers are even too young to remember them. For those who are, you'll appreciate this commercial!
Let me explain. In the "old days," you could pull into a gas station and not even have to get out of your car. A filling station attendant, aka "gas jockey," would be standing there, ready to: greet you, fill your gas tank, clean your windows, check your tires, and maybe even check under the hood. And these perks were free. They were part of the service experience at these stations. You paid for the gas but not for the service. Getting gas for your car was an experience, and it took a little more time than pumping your own gas does today. The attendants actually talked to their customers and got to know them.
If you google "service stations," you come up with next to nothing. Why? Because these full-service stations are pretty much non-existent in the US now, except for in two states, New Jersey and Oregon, where it's against the law to pump your own gas. (Apologies to my readers outside of the US; I realize these full-service stations do/may exist in your country.) If you live in either of those states, let me know if the level of service you get is comparable to what was offered back in the "old days."
Watching that American Pickers show got me thinking... what was so special about service stations? And how do we bring that level of service back? What can we learn from these full-service service stations?
Well, we certainly cannot underestimate the importance of...
- service with a smile
- a friendly greeting
- staff appearance
- enjoying what you do
- hiring people people (or is it "people persons?")
- "I'll take care of it for you" attitude
- knowing your customers (literally) and their needs
- a personalized experience, including greeting customers by name
- trust relationships (some station owners allowed customers to "charge" gas and settle their bills every month)
- going the extra mile
What happened between then and now? Why can't we get this kind of service today? Not just from a gas station but from any company with which we interact?
How do we instill this type of "at your service" attitude into frontline staff or into anyone that touches the customer? Is it a realistic expectation?
I'm of the opinion that it's all about the people you hire. That attitude can't be trained.
I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies. -Lawrence Bossidy, Former COO of GE