A pair of enterprising brothers are steering growth in their upstart business using a simple strategy: give people what they need when they need it.
For many people, squeezing in even a simple fill up at the gas station can seem like one-too-many tasks in an already-packed day.
Brothers Max and Ryan Tanski understand that pain point, and they’ve created a business to address it.
That company, Sarasota-based Fillr, is a subscription service for car maintenance, from gas ups and car washes to oil changes and more. It’s a business built on convenience — Fillr technicians come to the customers wherever they are to deliver the services. Some customers choose to get a fill up on gas while their car is parked in their driveway at home. Others want a car wash while parked in their office parking lot. (The company fills gas in cars through a transfer tank in the bed of a truck hooked up to a pump and hose — it looks like a gas station on wheels.)
‘We’re constantly reaching out to our users trying to ask them how their experience was and how we could have improved on that.’ — Ryan Tanski, Fillr
The Tanskis are signing on new customers regularly and even seeing a boost in customers during the pandemic. That’s one benefit of the touchless service they offer — Fillr eliminates the need to visit highly trafficked gas stations. No more touching those grimy gas pumps. “I think we’ve seen a lot of traction because of the recent events,” says Max. “We have definitely grown during the pandemic.”
The brothers, who grew up in the Detroit area, want to gain more users in the Sarasota and Tampa Bay area. Once they hit a critical mass, their plan is to apply the business to other cities. To grow and improve Fillr, they’re harnessing the power of customer feedback, often gleaned through one-on-one conversations.
Max, 28, a U.S. Marine about to be deployed again, and Ryan, 26, with a background in economics, started working on Fillr in 2018 and incorporated the company in early 2019. Since then the company has been growing and gaining momentum, they say.
Underlying Fillr is a simple idea: give people what they need when they need it. The brothers initially thought the service would particularly appeal to busy moms and executives, but they’ve found their customers are usually males from 25 to 55 years old. In another interesting demographic twist, several sons have signed up for the service to make sure their mom’s vehicle is taken care of.
Customers can choose between three monthly subscription levels: $9.99 for gas delivery; $29.99 for unlimited washes and gas deliveries; and $59.99 for premium, which includes everything in unlimited plus four oil changes a year.
Fillr’s customer-facing mobile app allows people to select services and the address they want the technician to visit. Backend elements allow the company to optimize the moving of technicians and trucks around the service area.
The company has three trucks that service the Tampa Bay and Sarasota areas. Its technicians are busy heading to service appointments scheduled in advance as well as on-demand appointments. Some users have technicians come to their home and others to their office while they’re at work. They’ve even done a few service calls while a customer was getting groceries at Publix.
Fillr, which hasn’t relied on any outside investment yet to fund operations, acquires customers primarily in two ways: digital marketing and word of mouth. Vibrant orange Fillr trucks also help draw attention to the company.
As Fillr grows, customer feedback has proven crucial. Ryan, who handles sales and customer service, says, “We’re constantly reaching out to our users trying to ask them how their experience was and how we could have improved on that.” Because the company is hands on with its customers, it puts changes into place quickly.
One change a user suggested was the ability to schedule services. Previously, customers could only schedule on-demand service. But when that customer told them that scheduling would be helpful, they added the option. “We try to incorporate as much customer feedback as possible,” says Max.
Ryan says since he’s in constant contact with users, feedback often comes up through normal conversations — a key lesson he's learned along the way. “I’m always, always, always probing to see how we can do things better and make it easier for them,” he says.
That’s a strategy they’ll use moving forward, too. Fillr is shying away from spreadsheets filled with data gathered from surveys and instead utilizing one-on-one, direct comments. “We’ve gotten more beneficial data from Ryan having conversations,” says Max.
Ryan agrees. “If you just send out simple question surveys, chances are you’re losing a lot of nuance,” he says. “Hopefully we will always have someone in some capacity having conversations.”
Max and Ryan, whose first job was washing cars for a quarter a car, say they want Fillr to continue to be customer-focused as it grows. Ryan says, “We’re really just trying to change how people view their car care and bring as much value as possible.”
Editor's note: This article was edited to reflect the correct price for Fillr's premium service.