by Ed Newman
Marketing & Advertising Manager, AMSOIL INC.
I loved Albuquerque, host city for this year's AOCA Convention
and Trade Show. Historic Route 66, Old Town and La Posada all
conspired to make a good impression and create fond memories of
this mile high town in the Southwest.
The show, too, gave me things to take away. As usual, there were
many excellent speakers and workshops. I especially want to say
thank you to whoever it was at Chevron who brought us Jim Cathcart
to talk about the Grandma Factor, developing lifetime customer
loyalty through excellent service.
Two weeks before the show my wife, Susie, had the unfortunate
experience of needing an emergency surgery. What started as a
typical trip to the walk-in clinic (typical meaning long hours
of waiting) ended in the wee hours of the morning with an incision
in the lower abdomen and the removal of personal anatomy. The
hours seemed endless, and the hospital anything but hospitable.
In the end, Susie wanted me to see the movie Patch Adams, a Robin
Williams film she had recently seen about an unconventional doctor
who treated his patients like people rather than a caseload. I
heartily recommend it if you haven't seen it yet.
Unlike the dismissive rating newspaper movie critics gave it,
I give Patch Adams high marks as a movie. Not only is the story
instructive about medical care, it provides some good lessons
in customer service.
What are customers' biggest complaints about businesses today?
How about your business or mine? Patch Adams saw that doctors
frequently did not understand their "customers", and
often did not even listen to them. He was especially frustrated
by the professional distance that doctors put between themselves
and their patients, instead of making an effort to "connect"
as one human to another.
That he was unconventional is an understatement. That he was effective
was apparent to nearly all of his peers. He did not quite put
it in these terms, but his goal was excellent customer service.
TAURUS, NO BULL
When we arrived at Albuquerque we rented a car "to get out
of the airport." It turned out to be a Ford Taurus. I liked
the car. It was comfortable and it was stylish. And it is also
another great marketing story.
At some point in time, Ford market research showed that more passenger
car purchasing decisions were made by women than by men. In an
effort to make a car that was more suited to female interactivity,
the interior of the car was designed and tested by engineers wearing
one inch fingernails. Ford mandated that the car's operation must
be such that a woman will not break a nail.
By design, the Ford Taurus became the number one selling American
made passenger car in America from 1991 to 1995. What Ford had
done was to put its fingers on the pulse of consumers. Through
extensive market research they identified key variables and designed
a product suited to consumer demand. They took the results of
their market research seriously.
WHAT ABOUT TODAY?
One of the hot issues of recent years has been the debate surrounding
extended drain intervals. In her presentation on the Future of
Extended Drains, Valvoline's Dr. Fran Lockwood noted that like
it or not, yes, they are coming, though the transition will more
than likely be a gradual adaptation rather than a sudden revolution.
She also presented a graph based on Ford market research showing
that this was something a majority of consumers want. Ford found
that 71% of female respondents and 59% of male respondents were
very likely or somewhat likely to use a longer lasting engine
oil. Another Ford statistic indicated the primary benefit consumers
are seeking is convenience.
Ford's research study was developed for two reasons: first, to
determine current customer practices, and second, but equally
important, to identify customers' desires.
I mention all this because in recent months the biggest criticism
I have heard regarding extended drain intervals is that it is
being driven by marketing. Excuse me, but isn't marketing the
central pillar of a successful business? Marketing is not a dirty
One of the best definitions of marketing I've run across defines
marketing as "all functions of the business which are involved
with getting the correct product/service to the correct customer(s)
at the correct price and correct place/time employing the proper
methods of promotion." You'll readily note the usual alliteration:
Product, Price, Place, Promotion.
Having attended some of these seminars and having read extensively
on the subject for many years, I would propose a simpler definition
of marketing. Distilled to its essence, my definition is all of
three words: PROFITABLE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION.
We are in the business of learning what customers want and meeting
their needs in exchange for capital. If we do not make a profit,
we are out of business. If the customer is not satisfied with
the results of the transaction, we'll soon be losing his or her
I like Patch Adams as a model not because he is unconventional,
but because he was more concerned with results than style. He
was criticized as a med student for having "excessive fun."
But I liked his creative and original approach to connecting with
his customers, that is, patients.
Ford Motor Company spent a lot of money to identify what consumers
today are looking for. Instead of criticizing customers for wanting
the convenience of extended drains, let's find creative ways to
profitably satisfy this desire or perceived need.
This article originally appeared in National Oil
and Lube News, May 1999
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