Ever since I first heard stories and read articles about Les Schwab Tire Centers, I’ve been fascinated by the man and the company. Les Schwab set out to re-invent the tire service business in 1952, and his legacy goes well beyond 410 stores and $1.6 billion in annual revenues. He created a remarkable experience that would make Seth Godin proud.
While a very small number of customers have managed to sneak through the system with a less than stellar experience, I can say first hand that Les Schwab lives up to it’s name and reputation. A year or so ago, I stopped by their NW store, and they found an repaired a slow leak for me within an hour, and charged me nothing for it, which is standard policy.
Two days ago, that small investment in me reaped a $1,000 reward as I returned to see if they could identify and repair another slow leak. Turns out my tires were dangerously bald, and I needed new tires. Having built a relationship with me, I trusted them enough to slap a new site of high performance tires on my car, which they did.
The real secret came at the end of my call, when I asked jokingly if I’d be getting any “free beef” with my purchase. The representative on the other end of the line apologized that the “free beef” program usually runs in February, and the beef was long gone. I asked if they maybe had a pepperoni stick or maybe even a package of M&Ms instead. She replied, “I’ll see what I can do.”
When I went in to pay for my new tires and pick up the car, they gave me my key and receipt and directed me to my car parked out front. When I got into my car, there was a package of M&Ms sitting on the dashboard. I have to say, the .75 package of M&Ms went a long way with me that day. For a small investment (much less than the free beef offer to be sure) they helped me both feel better about my huge purchase, and get me to talk about my experience.
If more companies understood what the employees at Les Schwab understand, from tire changer to CEO, this world would be a better place. I guarantee that Les Schwab’s profits are greater than most, because they instill a level of caring and service that has redefined the tire industry, let alone the service industry. For more on Les Schwab’s philosophy, check out his book, Pride in Performance.