Why Car-Wash Attitude Matters

Anthony Analetto, President, SONNY's/The Car Wash Factory

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In a single day, I often find myself having absolutely opposing conversations. One minute I’m speaking with an operator who recently converted his wash format or updated his equipment. He’s talking with enthusiasm about acquiring new customers, wash quality, training and site appearance. To him, employees are part­ners and each new customer is an achieve­ment who needs to be coddled. Later in the day, my phone rings, and I’m talking to another car-wash owner about increas­ing competition, reduced customer spending, economic unrest and the latest ideas to cut costs and raise prices. To this person, employees are adversaries and customers care only about getting more for less.

Remember TWA, MCI, Compaq, General Foods, E.F. Hutton and other once-great organizations that have disappeared? Hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to find a timeline on the blunders that led to each company’s decline. But I’d venture a guess that each began its downward spiral the day the culture and attitude lost its enthu­siasm to love its customers.

Responding to changes in the mar­ketplace and developing more efficient and profitable practices is crucial. But cultivating a positive attitude in your business can overcome a lot of challenges.

Destroy Indifference

Attitudes are contagious. Enthusiasm is infectious. Think back to the grand opening of your first wash. Odds are you labored over every detail, including uniforms, signage and wash packages. If a customer wasn’t happy with the wash, your staff would have gone out of their way to fix the problem. Does that energy still exist today? If not, what happened?

If enthusiasm is allowed to die, indif­ference, which is even more contagious, becomes devastating. If you suspect that indifference is trying to destroy your business, stop and determine if your wash can benefit from an attitude remodel. It’s easier to do than you think and usually costs nothing.

Meet & Greet Your Customers

A little conversation can go a long way. If you’re not already doing it, invest as many hours each week as you can in talking with customers. Thank them. Ask them for rec­ommendations to improve your service. Listen to them. Employees will model their behavior based on your actions.

Identify Loyal Customers

Finding a way to visibly mark your loyal customers is vital. Whether you use an advanced POS system or simple loyalty club card, do not skip this step. Not only will you be able to give your best custom­ers the special attention they deserve, but your staff also will be constantly reminded that their efforts to deliver enthusiastic customer service makes a difference.

Focus on Maintenance

Landscaping, paint, bathrooms, drive­ways, lobbies: Keeping all areas of your wash spotlessly maintained and cared for works like a force field against employee indifference. The opposite is equally true. If you allow the appearance of your site to deteriorate, you’ll be left wondering, “Did my best customers leave because my wash didn’t look cared for, or did they leave because my employ­ees felt indifferent and didn’t care for my best customers?”

Focus on Performance

Cars change. Climate conditions change. Water quality changes. Are you constantly evaluating and tweaking your detergent and wash equipment to deliver the best pos­sible product? Talk about wash quality constantly with employees. Involve every­one in preventive maintenance and share your ideas for continuous improvement of the wash process. The more visible you can make your obsession for delivering a clean, dry, shiny car, the harder your employees will work to satisfy your customers.

Sometimes the best things in life actu­ally are free. Remodeling the attitude of your car wash doesn’t call for any large sum of money, education or special tal­ent. With a little friendly conversation, a role model for good customer service and vigilance in maintaining your site, employee indifference will wash awa

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