Isn't it frustrating to rush to a store, only to find yourself staring at a locked door a few minutes after closing time? What's worse is watching employees still working inside. Short of staying open 24 hours, what can a service provider do to ease a frustrated customer's disappointment?

The Lube Stop, a Beachwood, Ohio, chain of 33 quick-oil-change shops, has a late-arrival policy sensitive to the needs of customers who want service and employees anxious to get home. Customers who pull into the lot after closing are greeted by an employee on the spot, thanked for stopping, and given a menu of Lube Stop services on which the employee has written a $3 discount for the next visit. Customers are surprised by the added touch, become much friendlier, and no longer argue about the clock being fast. They get a discount to compensate for the inconvenience of coming back, and Lube Stop doesn't lose sales to competitors.

"The late arrival policy doesn't cost much--fewer than 50 of our 37,000 monthly oil changes involve a late-arrival discount," says CeCe Hanacek, vice-president of operations, "but we generate goodwill and look better than the competition."

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing