In the Spotlight

Express Oil change uses the power of song to bring customers and the media to their centers.

By Devlin Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Somehow, Joe Watson, the president of Express Oil Change LLC,came up with the unlikely pairing of a barbershop quartet and anoil change. And so The Express Oil Singers was born.

The group visits Express Oil locations on designated Ladies'Days, serenading female customers getting their oil changed.Debuting this May at a Birmingham-area center, the singersperformed "I've Been Working in the Oil Change,"their rendition of "I've Been Working on theRailroad." Customers are asked to honk their car horn at thesong's end.

"We had a very warm reaction from 99 percent of thepeople," says John Ziegler, vice president of advertising, aswell as a singer and guitar player with the group. "There wasone lady that was a little embarrassed. She just sat there andgripped the steering wheel and stared straight ahead."

For Ziegler, the group displays the fun, close-knit attitude ofExpress Oil, which has centers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia,Mississippi and Tennessee. Watson recruited Ziegler and RonnieNelson, customer service supervisor and a church music director;Nelson in turn called on franchisees Vern Tuttle, a church choirmember, and Jeff Johnson to round out the quartet.

The gimmick seems to be working. The quartet has been featuredin local newspapers and TV-the added attention helps franchiseesattract customers. "Sometimes car accounts don't rise asfast as we want them to, so the singing oil-change guys go overthere and it gets them media coverage in their community,"explains Ziegler. "I'm sure we will continue to use thegroup as a form of franchise support."

In fact, the group is having trouble fulfilling all the requeststhey've received from franchisees. The company is consideringforming a second group to meet demand. "We're in fivestates, so it's difficult to get around to all thestores," Ziegler says. "We have a couple of guys inAtlanta interested in spinning off a group. I'm sure they willbe as appreciated as we are."

Until then, the original singers are happy to visit centers forLadies' Days and grand openings. For an upcoming opening of aBirmingham store located on Hollywood Blvd., the quartet will dressup and perform Beatles' songs.

While Ziegler is enjoying his time with the group, he's alittle nervous about what they'll do next. "I don'teven want to think about Christmas," he says. "We'llprobably be little elves. But I hope not."

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