Lesson of the extraordinary oil change

March 17, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

GrahamGraham Kenny of Edmonton, Alberta, brought his car to the local Lexus dealer for an oil change. There is nothing exciting about getting an oil change. Your car needs it; you sit and wait in a plastic chair; you get it over with. But little did Graham know his mundane oil change would turn into a truly remarkable VIP experience. The waiting room at this Lexus dealer offered complimentary wine, a selection of Keurig coffee, sodas, bottled water, and snacks, and even one of those massage chair recliners with a built-in iPad. Graham was so impressed that he posted pictures and described his VIP oil change experience on Facebook.

The last thing Graham wanted to hear was, “Mr. Kenny, your car is ready.” He wanted his VIP experience to last. But wait a minute … we’re talking about an oil change here, not a fine dining experience! Lexus of Edmonton simply transformed the process of waiting for your car to be serviced into a VIP experience by giving attention to the otherwise boring waiting room. All it took was a little wine, a beverage selection, some snacks … and that wonderful massage chair with an iPad for surfing the web (conveniently set to lexus.com). Graham now looks forward to an oil change.

The lesson of Graham’s VIP oil change is that delivering an extraordinary experience requires a little ingenuity, attention to detail, caring and some effort.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to create extraordinary VIP experiences for your customers:

  • Ordinary is easy: Ordinary is also boring, indifferent and sadly, expected. Ordinary is just enough to earn a passing grade … and nothing more. Delivering extraordinary begins with the passion and desire to excel. In business, it begins with a leader capable of inspiring others to deliver their best by banishing mediocrity. Delivering extraordinary does not emerge from timid leadership or consequences. It is the result of creative thinking, instituted systems, hands-on coaching and shared accountability. Simply put, it takes work to break through status quo thinking, behavior and performance.
  • Rethink little things: In the case of Graham’s extraordinary oil change, it was simply channeling creative thinking at ordinary things and situations. Simple enhancements transformed a service department’s waiting room into a memorable experience. Southwest Airlines employees bring “first class” caring and friendliness to all passengers in a similar manner as Graham’s Lexus dealer. Imagine how simple it would be for doctors to transform their waiting rooms, greetings and customer service from “medicinal” to friendly, caring and nurturing? Just removing that sliding glass window and wall would eliminate a customer service barrier. Look around your business and you’ll see plenty of opportunities to transform ordinary into extraordinary.
  • Give it a name: We live in a world of marketing and advertising impressions. Graham’s extraordinary oil change was called the VIP Service Experience – and that’s what he described when sharing his story. Giving your “extraordinary” a name makes it more personal and identifiable. It gives life to an experience by making it real. A name accelerates the process of recognizing and remembering an experience that was designed to be extraordinary as just that – extraordinary.
  • A little over the top: My son Eric bought a Nest learning thermostat for his home. The Nest is a high priced, “over-the-top,” thermostat that is beyond building a better mousetrap. The packaging is memorable. The fact that it includes a special screwdriver is memorable. And when looking at where to connect the different colored wires causes some confused head scratching, the instructions tell you send a photo of the wires to an email address. It was Sunday and Eric’s first thought was, “This isn’t getting installed today.” An instant email reply with a case number instructed Eric to call a customer support number. He called, gave his case number … and the rep said, “OK, connect that one here and this one there and you’re in business.” That was over-the-top extraordinary. Perhaps that’s why Google paid $3.2 billion to acquire Nest last January.
  • Fun is memorable: When extraordinary is fun, like Graham’s VIP Service Experience, it becomes memorable – and memorable is the outcome you’re looking for. A smile, a willingness to sincerely serve others, an unexpected treat or amenity – these are simple and fun ways to create extraordinary experiences. I’ll never forget the spin bike and weights in my room at the Westin Hotel in Memphis. I’ll never forget the graffiti covered side of a bus in the hallway of the Alexis Hotel (a Kimpton Hotel) in Seattle. I’ll never forget the Southwest flight attendant dressed as a clown hiding in the overhead luggage compartment (that almost killed the elderly gentleman who opened it). I’d rather coach a client through difficult and stressful challenges by making them smile and giving them hope. Ordinary is one big yawn.

doris_tanPersonal Note: Remembering Doris Tan

Graham is the director of sales for International Beauty Services (IBS) in Edmonton, Alberta. Last week, the founder and president of IBS, Doris Tan, passed away. Doris was one of the most giving and caring individuals I have ever met. When it came to helping her salon customers, there was nothing that Doris wouldn’t do to ensure their success. Doris changed lives for the better. She challenged people to be their best.

Doris believed in her team at IBS. And even though she could be one royal pain in the butt (she often referred to herself as “Attila the Hun”), Doris had a heart of gold and helped many create a secure future.

I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Doris for many years. She was generous and relentless in bringing Strategies education to Edmonton … even though the tuitions rarely, if ever, covered costs. For Doris, it was never about the money. It was about doing what’s right.

Doris was tough, tenacious and had the courage to build an extraordinary company. She was an independent distributor in every sense of the word. And she did it the only way she knew how … Doris’s way.

I will miss you my friend.

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Categories: Customer Loyalty , Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up , No-Compromise Leadership

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  1. Hello Neal…..
    Greaham story is inspiring and i share his experience because i own a Lexus ……
    I am very honored to have known Doris for over 25 years and she was everything that you said and more i experienced personally i worked for her and her IBS team as an educator and it was because of her that i have been all over Alberta made many friends in the process got to see the province got to know her family and became great friends, on the business side of it she was by far the best distributor that i ever worked for in North America in my 29 years with Matrix as an educator, her inspiration and energy was shared as a true leader strait from the top, she had the greatest influence on my career from encouraging me to start entering photography and eventually entering the Contessa ( 4 times winner including Master and Hairdresser of the year and NAHA hairdresser of the year ) and help me in running a better business by introducing me and my wife to you, and becoming a Strategy graduate because of that i now have the strongest salon team ever in 36 years of being a salon owner.
    RIP Doris Tan with all my love i will miss you…………
    You friend
    Rocco Campanaro


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