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How do your customers rate your carwash?

October 11, 2010
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Armed with the information obtained from a customer survey you can assess your carwashes strengths and weaknesses.

This way you can build, market and advertise your strengths while working to correct and overcome weaknesses.

What you need to know about surveys

Question: How many surveys should I get to make my results reliable?

Answer: You should complete at least 250.

Many customers are reluctant to give information about income or employment, but not every item needs to be answered.

This is good information to have because it relates to being able to afford extra services and frequency of washes, but it is not vital to the survey results.

Q: What is the best way, if you get a number of surveys, to tell if there is a difference in the customer who comes in on various days? How do they differ? How are they alike?

A: First, have your questionnaires printed on three different colors of paper:

  • 300 yellow
  • 300 pink
  • 300 blue

A total of 900 questionnaires.

You should conduct a survey once every four months when you start and then at least every six months thereafter.

By the time you have surveyed your customers with the same questionnaire four times, you will probably have come up with some questions of your own that you want to add to other questionnaires.

Use yellow questionnaires for Thursdays, pink for Fridays, and blue for Saturdays. This way you can compare and contrast each day and get totals for all three days.

There are enough questionnaires to distribute the survey on several Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and you may get 250 completed questionnaires for each of the three days.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are good days to use because they are typically the busiest days, but feel free to choose any three days you wish. When you make a choice, you should use the same three days for at least three successive weeks.

Q: How should I get my customers to cooperate and complete my questionnaires?

A: The best way is to use a middle aged, personable lady. She will present a friendly approach that is non-threatening or insulting to either male or female customers.

This is important because this person's appearance and approach is absolutely key to your success.

Try not to use your own employees because people are reluctant to be unbiased in sharing information with people that they see on an ongoing basis.

The survey person will not personally fill out the questionnaires. Their job is only to get the customer to fill out the form and deposit it in a container when finished — this way the customer will know that no one will connect the survey information with them.

For this to work well, you will need at least 10 clipboards with the questionnaire clipped to it and pencils. Be sure to use pencils so that any changes can be made easily.

Q: How do I use the information in the questionnaire? What does the information tell me about my customers?

A: In order to answer these questions let's consider each question separately:

Question #1: Approximately how many times in the past three months, other than today, have you had your car washed at this carwash?

This information will show you the percentage of heavy users, moderate users and light users.

To determine these categories, consider that there are 13 weeks in a three-month period. A heavy user would be one who used your wash 10 to 13 times, a moderate user would be one who used it six to nine times, and a light user would have used it one to five times.

The questionnaires can be divided into those three categories to find how each group is similar and how they are different.

Remember, these are already your customers, and they are already using your wash now.

Question #2: How many vehicles do the members of your immediate household own?

This information lets you know the potential total base of vehicles available to you from present customers.

Question #3: Please check the type of vehicle and write in the model and year for each vehicle in your household.

The vehicles washed most frequently are new to two years old, next are two years to four years, and vehicles over four years old are washed very infrequently.

Question #4: Please rate this carwash on each of the following characteristics as either excellent, average or needs improvement.

This section is divided into specific segments rather than giving them in the order asked on the questionnaire.

Section 1 — The carwash facility is:

  • Arranged so you can watch your car (This question may not be needed for exterior only, rollover, or self-service washes)
  • In a convenient location
  • Designed so you can easily get in line to get your car washed
  • Is clean

Section 2 — The wash must:

  • Have merchandise for sale
  • Be proficient in speed of service
  • Be consistent in courteous customer service
  • Make clear that employees care about what they are doing
  • Have employees who are proficient at handling problems and complaints
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Have competitive prices
  • Honor special requests
  • Return the car the way it was given to them

Section 3 — The wash and services:

  • Must not damage paint or chrome
  • Must clean the car's exterior
  • Must not leave swirl marks
  • Must do a thorough job of drying
  • Must clean the car's interior
  • Must clean the windows
  • Must clean ashtrays and consoles
  • Must clean the floor mats
  • Must include a vacuum
  • Must include protectant services polish and rust inhibitor

Question #5: How far do you live from this carwash?

This information gives you an indication of the spread of your customer service area, and an idea of how many other carwash facilities your customers passed to come for your service.

Question #6 and 7: When you came to the wash today where were you coming from? When you leave the wash today where will you be going?

These questions are particularly important concerning the speed of service:

  • Are they going to work or on a lunch hour?
  • Do they use their vehicle in business or are they on their way to pick up a client?
  • Are they getting their carwash before they shop — no packages left in the vehicle, or after they shop — packages will be left that may have to be removed from the vehicle?

Question # 8, 9, 10, 11, 12: Profession, employment status, age, sex, and household income?

These are important bits of demographic information that will help you know the variety of customers you serve.

By analyzing this information you will understand their expectations and their diversity.

This type of information helps you plan a marketing strategy that pinpoints these various customer segments and avoids wasting energy and money in worthless advertising and marketing efforts.

Back to the Q & A

Q: How do I analyze the results to determine what all this information means?

A: Make a large chart with each item listed separately and under each item leave a space for excellent, one for about average, one for needs improvement, and another for no opinion. Then go through all the survey forms and record you results.

You will need four charts so you have one for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and a combined chart for all three days. This may seem time consuming but it is truly worth the time and effort.

When you have completed the tallies, look at the percentages for each item by its evaluation components.

Try not to get too overjoyed or too discouraged. Let this information guide you in the decisions, changes, and actions you take.

George Akers is a Memphis, TN-based consultant and a former partner in the Mr. Pride chain of carwashes. He is a former ICA president and a longtime contributor to Professional Carwashing & Detailing.