A $13.95 oil change, and a smile

Owner Steve Recchi of Quality Auto Service on Olympic Drive.  - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Owner Steve Recchi of Quality Auto Service on Olympic Drive.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Steve Recchi wants to keep cars and their owners happy.

Quality Auto Service opened in 2005, but owner Steve Recchi wants the service to feel like 1955.

“Customer service is really what I’m all about,” Recchi said. “(A former boss) taught me customer service. He taught me the true value of customer service – honesty, integrity...if you make a mistake, how you recover from it really matters.”

Five years ago, Recchi moved to Bainbridge Island and commuted to his shop in Seattle until he decided to take over the defunct garage by the ferry terminal on Olympic Drive. Last month, he opened Quality Auto Service, offering a full line of automotive services and repair.

Recchi take the long view with the business. He teaches his employees not to get caught up in the minutiae of a particular transaction, but to see the big picture: keeping customers satisfied. Then they will keep coming back and tell their friends about the shop, and help build the customer base, he believes.

“If you do a good business with enough volume, you have plenty of work,” he said.

At age 15, Recchi cut his “automotive” teeth on his sister’s car, which their brother had totaled. She said if he could make it run, it was his.

It was a 1965 Pontiac GTO, which Recchi calls “the original muscle car.”

The car’s front end was damaged; the engine didn’t run and it burned oil so badly that only rain or darkness could hide the blue exhaust. The GTO became the class project in Recchi’s high school auto body class, and he started working at garages after school.

But it was working for mechanic Dan Amnsen in Seattle that brought him “to the next level of professional customer service,” Recchi said.

Auto garages, he believes, have to overcome a stigma caused by a few operators who rip off customers or milk every transaction for maximum profit. He counters this by making sure that if a customer is unhappy with a job, it is settled pleasantly and to everyone’s satisfaction.

“It has to be a remedy that resolves it for a customer,” Recchi said. “When that customer leaves your office, are they comfortable enough to come back? We create value in ‘Are we OK? Is there anything we can do to make it OK?’”

One time, a returning ferry commuter came to get his car, but it wasn’t done as scheduled. Recchi gave the customer a ride home in time for dinner and later delivered the car to the house.

Taking care of customers includes “going to bat” for them, Recchi said. If he sees a recurring problem with a particular model, he’ll call up the dealer to see how they are handling it and maybe find out the dealer has been quietly fixing the issue for free.

The centerpiece of his approach is his low-cost oil change – $13.95, the same price it was when he opened his first garage in Seattle 16 years ago.

“This is what I built my business on,” he said. “Yes, it’s a value, but if we don’t offer good service, you won’t come back.”

Most importantly, with each oil change comes an evaluation of the car: what is good and a checklist of what needs fixing, how much each item will cost and how urgent it is.

“If this were my car, what would I do?” Recchi said of his approach. “Your job is to decide what, if any of it, to do. I prioritize to help people budget for their car.”

And, if the customer has enjoyed the oil change experience, he or she may return to fix the various items little by little, providing the shop with a steady stream of work over a long period.

“It gives me permission to tell you what’s wrong with your car without feeling like I’m putting the sales pitch on you,” Recchi said. “In the era of self-service, who checks your oil? Who checks your brake fluid? It’s my way of being able to give you the inspection that you used to get with full service.”

* * * * *

Service is his business

Quality Auto Service is located at 220 Olympic Drive. Its hours are Tuesday through Friday 8:30 a.m. until “done,” and will expand in the future based on customer needs. Call 780-8088 for more information.

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