Just a few weeks ago, Michael Sansolo had a column here on MNB about the Goodyear-owned Roll store, which sells tires out of a unit that has a selection on display, but now service bays - once you pick out the tires you want, you can get the tires delivered and installed at your home or workplace.

This makes sense, Michael wrote, because “there’s probably no shopping experience worse than buying car tires. It’s expensive, always inconvenient, confusing and, to top it off, requires that you sit in a crappy waiting room for a far longer period than you have been promised.”

But if there is an experience that is equally bad, it is the one that takes place in many automobile dealership or independent service departments.

The New York Times writes that “the waiting rooms attached to auto service departments tend to be dismal places, with stale coffee, patched seats, cable news on a flickering TV and last week’s copy of Sports Illustrated, if you’re lucky.”

That seems to be changing, though.

The Times writes, “At some dealerships, that no longer passes muster. Today, you can get blackened chicken or grilled salmon on the lunch menu at Honda of Fort Worth, or a complimentary workout at the fitness center attached to the Lincoln-Mercury/Land Rover-Jaguar store in Merritt Island, Fla. — assuming you wouldn’t rather play pool or watch a movie.” Some have coffee bars, while others have manicurists or massage therapists - all designed to make the experience more pleasant and serve as a differential advantage for businesses that have lots of competition.

The reason for this shift actually is fairly simple. At a time when car pricing is highly transparent online, companies more and more depend on the quality and expertise of the service experience for their margins, and for creating customer loyalty that can be sustained.

KC's View: I can hardly say it better than Michael did:

As all businesses struggle to best delight and connect with shoppers in the new world of uber-convenient competition, it’s interesting to find examples of companies actively recreating some traditional experiences. Especially experiences that shoppers generally think suck.

Too many of these folks, in my experience, use their service departments as a way to rip off their customers - I had a Ford dealership’s service department tell me I needed new tires a week after I had new tires put on the Mustang at an outside vendor. Stopped going there immediately … they can’[t be trusted.

It is like taxis vs. Lyft … you can whine about the competition, or you can raise your game.