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There is a lot of talk these days about "enhancing the total customer experience". Working to deliver a positive customer experience makes absolute sense for any service industry, ours included. Obvious enhancements to the core service of car washing might include: friendly attendants wearing shirts with the logo of your carwash, fresh paint on the building, and attractive landscaping. None of these actually make the cars come out any cleaner … at least not directly. But your customer's perception of the service they get when they visit your wash is influenced by the care you give to everything around the core service.
Some outstanding carwash operators take this concept much further than the surface aesthetics we've listed so far. They do this by purposely making deep and lasting connections with their customers. Using a great wash I know of as a case study, here are a few things this wash does to forge real connections with its customers.
Connect to the Owners — People like to do business with people they like, and it is always good to put a friendly face on a business. The two partners at this particular wash do this by featuring a photograph of them on all the literature for the wash. Not just any photo, this one was taken years ago at their high school prom. It shows two guys in tuxes and the pastel ruffled shirts of the '70s — not good fashion, but a lasting image of childhood friends who grew up to own a carwash together. The subtext is that these guys have been friends forever. They like each other, and you will like doing business with them too.
Connect to the Community — The wash in question is a busy full service tunnel wash that also pumps gas and has an upscale gift shop on site. Long ago, the two owners decided to deal in off-brand gasoline instead of offering one of the juggernaut brands. They use the resulting economies to deliver savings to their customers, and they also donate a portion of the profits to local schools in the community. A running tally is prominently displayed to show how much money has been donated to date, and it is an impressive number. Customers feel good every time they gas up. Some drive out of their way to purchase gas, and once they are on site … well, they might as well get the car washed too.
Connect to Culture (Really!) — In the gift shop at this wash, there are many of the items you'd expect to see: car accessories, birthday cards, and photo frames. In this particular shop though, there are also … books. And these books aren't just a collection of current bestsellers. They are a wide-ranging selection handpicked by the owners to recommend to their customers. The books reveal something about the owners' eclectic interests, and by doing so, another connection is made with their customers.
Connections like these can really "enhance the total customer experience". By developing real ties, your customers become loyal fans who will actively promote your wash to their friends and neighbors.
Laurie Sherman is Co-owner of Blendco Systems, LLC. Blendco manufactures a full line of detergents and waxes for the professional carwash industry. You can contact Blendco at: www.blendco.com.