Great customer service, or badly thought out marketing?

shellI pulled into the local Shell petrol station yesterday to fill up the car and was approached by a slightly shivering chap who was sporting a natty Shell/Ferrari uniform underneath a wooly hat, gloves and body warmer. He then proceeded to ask if he could help me. I must admit I was a little bit taken aback and I asked him what he meant.

So apparently Shell are trying to bring back a feeling of nostalgia in their forecourts and have introduced a pilot scheme for free of charge attended service in some of their service stations for fuel filling, tyre checking, etc. On the face of it that sounds like a really good idea – nice warm feeling for the customer harking back to the halcyon days of Morris Minors and Ford Zephyrs, and kudos for Shell for being brave enough to stand the cost of this free service and employ extra staff resulting in ultimately more people pulling in to Shell stations and using their product. But hang on a minute what’s really in it for us customers?

Back in the ‘halcyon days’ the petrol pump jockey would fill up your car, then you handed over the money to him; and If your tyres needed pumping up he would do it there and then for you before waving you on your way with a smile and a salute. Brilliant service based on putting the customers needs first.

But its not quite the same now. In the latest scheme, you get your car filled up but you have to go to the shop to pay; You get your tyres checked but you have to drive over to the machine and insert your quid to use the air; and while I was standing there chatting to this bloke I was left thinking that actually as a customer, other than the physical act of removing the pump from the holster and pulling the trigger, is there really any benefit for me? The cost is the same and the amount of time spent is the same, so if it isnt a win/win situation for both of us then what’s the point of it all?

As I drove out I became more convinced that this was just a scheme to get me to spend longer in the shop so that I could spend more money on the ancillery goods inside. and whilst Shell have every right to try different ways to get their customers to spend more money with them; blatantly dressing it up as something else is bound to fail in the long run.

What do you think?

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