Lessons for How to Swim in a Blue Ocean from the Girls Auto Clinic

Often entrepreneurs reach out to me to discuss “customer-centricity” and the likely viability of their innovative products or services. To give you a sense of some of the key filters I use to evaluate the probable success of various ideas presented to me, let me offer an example of a small business that I think does a brilliant job of innovative customer-centric design.

The company is called Girls Auto Clinic  (GAC) located at 7425 W Chester Pike in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. So, what is Girls Auto Clinic? What makes it so special? And what can every business owner/leader learn from it?

According to their mission, GAC is designed to “cater to our #1 customer: women.” To execute their mission, GAC demystifies and educates women on the automobile repair process by having services delivered by “shecanics” – female mechanics. Not only does the company transform the traditional “male mechanic/female customer” interaction but they also design “female-centric” experiences into other areas of the customer journey such as the service lounge (which at GAC is embellished with a team that provides manicures, pedicures, and blowouts).

If you spend some time at the Girls Auto Clinic website you’ll get a more detailed sense of what you can learn from the brilliance of its founder, Patrice Banks. But for this blog let me highlight a few key elements:

Identifying a Significant Market

In creating GAC, Patrice didn’t attempt to “be all things to all people.” Rather she elected to address very important challenges faced by a sizable target audience – the more than 51% of US drivers who are female.

Understanding a Central Pain Point for the Target Market

Rather than treating female customers in stereotypical condescending or patronizing ways, Patrice established a business value proposition where women are informed and empowered in their knowledge of automotive needs and in their understanding of the solutions necessary to meet those needs.

“Swimming in a Blue Ocean”

In 2005, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne wrote Blue Ocean Strategy which essentially encourages business leaders to seize opportunities to avoid entering highly congested and competitive waters (red oceans where much blood is shed to survive and thrive) but instead swim in blue oceans where few other competitors are located.

Essentially blue ocean strategy centers around creating your own unique business category (like Cirque Du Soleil or Yellowtail Wine) which in turn makes traditional competition irrelevant. Patrice did just that in creating GAC.

Her category creation is reflected in marketing imagery and the design of the female-centric experience. From brand logo to the signature uniforms (including red heeled shoes) to social media strategy (#shecanics) to actual design across key customer touchpoints (offering salon services in the waiting lounge) Girls Auto Clinic is swimming in its own blue ocean.

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Telling a Great Story

GAC has a great story to tell about their differentiated value proposition. For example, did you know that only 2% of mechanics are women? Patrice, herself, left a career as an engineer and took night classes to become a mechanic. She also personally experienced treatment that made her wary of a male dominated automobile repair industry.

GAC’s story is garnering considerable attention including a segment on NBC Nightly News as well as media like The Washington Post, Mashable, The Huffington Post, and so many others.

Back to You

As you think about your current business or other future business possibilities, you might want to take a lesson on customer-centric design from the Girls Auto Clinic. I wouldn’t doubt we will see a chain of GAC repair shops emerging in the future and while that’s happening I hope their business acumen will help your company grow and prosper as well.

Here’s to much success as you craft your customer-centric offering that will allow you to swim in your own blue ocean.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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