Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Where’s My Pickle? A Customer Service Story

There once was a restaurant that had a good reputation but wanted to stand out from the crowd. So one day, the owner brought in a jar of homemade pickles. These pickles were amazing! The staff bragged about these new pickles and decided every customer would get a pickle with every order.

The customers loved the new pickles. They told other people about the pickles, and the restaurant had to start taking reservations to keep up with the demand. Everything was looking fantastic, and the restaurant owner was thrilled.

Until the day the kitchen staff forgot to make a new batch of pickles.

They were very busy and, to be honest, since the pickles were just a side item and the restaurant gave them for free, the staff decided the pickles weren’t that important—getting the entrées out was the most important thing.

“Where’s my pickle?” the customers asked.

The servers tried to explain that the kitchen was very busy and didn’t have time to make the pickles. “But I want my pickle!” the customers exclaimed, “That’s why I come here. I can get this same sandwich down the street for less, but I come here because I want my pickle—where’s my pickle?

Existing customers were disappointed; they expected the delicious pickle they had been getting every time they came in. Likewise, new customers were disappointed; they heard their friends brag about the pickle, but they didn’t get one. And so, while the restaurant still served good food and provided good service, people were dissatisfied. They wanted and expected the pickle.

Ideas to grow your businessNon-ATI Members: Looking for ways to provide consistent, exceptional customer service? Get tips for how to stand out from the competition and grow your business in ATI’s latest non-member webinar.

High Standards and Expectations

What does this story have to do with your auto repair shop? Plenty.

Once you implement new customer service-centered benefits in your automotive repair shop, you set new, higher expectations with your customers. Some examples are:

  • Doing a complimentary digital inspection with every service
  • Providing an exceptionally clean waiting room and restroom
  • Offering shuttle service and/or loaner vehicles
  • Honoring a customer loyalty/rewards program
  • Paper/plastic floor mats and steering wheel covers
  • Vacuuming/Washing/Sanitizing vehicle with every visit

What often happens when the shop gets busy? These benefits are no longer provided. We run out of floor mats. We don’t have someone free to shuttle customers and vacuum out the cars. Our technicians tell us they don’t have the time to do the complimentary inspections.

We leave customers disappointed and asking, “Where’s my pickle?”

Customers Want to Feel Special

Customers don’t come to you because you fix their car right. They come to you because they get more. They rave about the more. They tell friends and family about the more. And when they don’t get the more, they no longer feel like you are special—because you stopped making them feel special.

Providing those benefits consistently is what makes you stand out from the shop down the street. But, to provide those benefits consistently, you need to have the right staffing, the right pricing structure, and the right best practices.

At ATI, we teach shop owners how to create a consistent, successful, and profitable business with exceptional customer service. Want to learn more? Start by registering for a shop owner event at

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Charlene is an Executive Coach at ATI, a Certified Profit First Professional, a former shop owner, and has been coaching since 2014. Charlene helps clients find the right solutions to their challenges and encourages them to make the changes that result in having the life they dreamed about when they got into business ownership.