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Business Operations / Carwashing / Sales and marketing

Four different customers, four different experiences

Presenting ways to handle four very different types of customers who view the same wash differently.

March 24, 2014
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Picture for a moment the exact day that your business staring going up...or downhill. Here is a snapshot of four potential customers that are pulling into your carwash today is your wash ready for them?

Meet the four customers

Here are scenarios of four different "potential" customers and why they will, or are not visiting your carwash or detail facility.

Customer 1: Jim, the car devotee

Jim is a well-to-do yuppie who likes to pamper his new "baby." I spoke with Jim about his new BMW and found out he pays a specialty shop to hand wash it. “You know how those automatic carwashes scratch the hell out of a vehicle,” was the reason Jim gave. I asked Jim if he has ever personally experienced damage to his vehicle after using an automatic wash. He said no, but added that he is now not willing to take that risk.

.Customer 2: Carol, the busy mom

Carol is an overwrought soccer mom who is always in a hurray to run her list of errands. Carol intends to get her caravan washed on a regular basis but rarely finds the time. When she does purchase a carwash it is where ever she happens to be when she finds a few minutes of rare time. A carwash visit for her is rarely planned ahead of time.

Customer 3: Yolanda, the college student

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Yolanda is a young college student. She is on a very limited budget and just needs a basic wash but expects good quality. Yolanda grabs a roll of quarters and heads to the corner self-serve carwash bay. She feels that an automatic wash is just too expensive for her very limited budget, so she resorts to having to wash her Camry herself to save money.

Customer 4: Greg, the frequent driver

Greg is a 60ish high mileage Tundra owner who still likes to take above average care of his vehicle. Greg uses his vehicle day in and day out. He would prefer to hand wash and polish his vehicle as he takes great pride in its appearance. But, like most of us, he just can't find the time to pamper his truck as often as he would like.

Now, let's take a look at the "perception" that each of these has of your business...... and why they will (or will not) be returning.

As an experiment I purchased a carwash at the local Alpha Sonic drive thru wash

for each of these four customers. All I requested in exchange for the "free" wash was feedback as to what their impression and perceptions were. I asked them to jot down what they observed, the people, the wash quality, and the overall experience. What surprised me is the difference of the perception of each wash experience. They are four different customers with four different needs and vehicles.

Some of the questions I asked were: What does your customer think they experience when the purchase your services? Are you seeing, feeling, smelling the same things they are? Are you sure?

What they had to say

Take a moment and see if any of these four people are your customers and if their perception does not match your perception then a review of your operation may increase customer satisfaction and bottom line profits.

1.      Jim, the car devotee BMW owner, has a certificate for the ultra-deluxe wash package. As he enters he is very nervous because most of the vehicles are "regular" cars and SUVs and only a couple of high-end are in line. Jim repeatedly questions the attendant about potential vehicle dings. The attendant is calm and professional and explains that the facility is state-of-the-art and that he'll be impressed with the wash quality. At no time does he notice the signage or price points … he is instead focused only on protecting his car. During the wash, Jim is impressed by the high pressure prewash and extensive multi-colored foaming with no brushes contacting his vehicle. As he exits he finds two attendants hand drying his car.

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Before he exits he immediately pulls off to the side to check his vehicle for damage. While walking around the vehicle an Alpha Sonic employee approaches and asks if he is happy with the quality of the wash.

“Wow,” says Jim, “somebody else cares about his car.”

Jim leaves impressed with the facility, the employees and the wash.

He said he will come back for more washes and he'll recommend the wash to his high-end vehicle-owning friends.

2.      Carol, the busy mom, is getting a mid-level wash service. She is very nervous because there is an extensive line of vehicles waiting at the wash and she has to pick up her daughter from ballet class in 25 minutes and her son from school in 40 minutes. For a second she considers leaving and getting the wash another day. Then she remembers the free wash certificate she was given. She declines the offers for interior cleaning and the exterior options today. Her other two young ones scream in the backseat with delight at the multi-colored foam and spraying water jets. Carol anxiously checks her watch every 15 seconds. So much to do today, so little time, she opines. She exits to smiling employee faces who hand dry her vehicle. Carol is delighted to see that even with the huge number of waiting vehicles she is in and out in under 12 minutes. She said she is going to have to tell the other moms about the great service she received that didn’t disrupt her busy-schedule.

3.      Yolanda, the college student, is just glad to get the free wash certificate. She notices the price board but fails to see the available $5 basic wash in the fine print near the bottom of the menu. All she sees are the multiple choices of washes costing as much as $20. The wash attendant tries to sell her an interior detail, an exterior wax special, tire dressing, and body gloss, but Yolanda becomes irritated by the sales pressure and repeatedly says that she just wants the wash on the certificate. She doesn't notice the state-of-the-art facility or the smiling faces on the rest of the employees. She leaves disgruntled vowing never to return. She says it was too pricey and felt way too much pressure from the employees.

4.      Greg, the frequent driver, has been to this wash before. The quality has always been

Consistent, but cannot say the same for the employees. However, today’s visit has been a good one so far. The attendant is friendly and smiling. She offers the usual array of upsells. She recognizes him as a regular and tells him about the unlimited wash special (a full month of deluxe washes for $25) where you can get a deluxe wash every day for the price of 2-3 washes. Greg signs up for the deal and watches closely goes through the wash. Everything is normal … no shortcuts to offset the lower price of the package. When Greg gets home he notices the tailgate and rear bumper are not as clean as they should be. He'll return to the facility, not because he's thrilled with the wash, but because even with the minor problems he experiences they are still the best quality for the dollar spent in his neighborhood … at least, for now.

Now what?

Do you recognize these customers? lf not, you should. For four experiences you should have for thrilled customers. Do you?

Maybe Jim and his high-end vehicle-owning friends would respond well to an email or social media contact. Use keywords to let them know you care about his car. Sound corny? It’s not to someone who spent $30,000-$75,000 or more on a vehicle. Does your signage and advertising tell your prospective customers that their car will be pampered? lf you’re your competition will.

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For a customer like Carol, it seems like nobody has enough time these days. Therefore, play to this and let your customers know that your facility can take care of their needs FAST. Remember: Quality without speed = unhappy customers and vice versa.

As for Yolanda, you have to remember that not every client wants, or needs, your top-of-the-line services. Yolanda, and her friends on budgets, can add substantially to you car count and monthly bottom line, but you have to target this demographic correctly.

Also, let employees know they cannot pressure the customers in any way. When the customer feels pressured they immediately go into defense or shut down mode. At this point an upsell is just about impossible. You have to build trust first and then an add-on sales attempt can come later.

Lastly, take the time to make sure that your repeat customers are coming to your wash because your wash is the best, not just because it is the cheapest or most convenient. It’s also important to recognize those repeat customers, such as Greg, and make them know you appreciate their business. At some point someone else is sure to offer a lower price or be handier. At that time it is the quality of your people and service that will you keep your wash busy and shining above your competition.

Gregory Falker has been an ASE Master Certified Auto repair technician since 1976. He was awareded teh 2001 NAPA/ASE National Automotive Technicain of the Year award and has written the ASE automotive exam test questions for 20 years.