Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Happy employees = happy customers

October 11, 2010
Back in 2005, the International Carwash Association and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) formed an alliance with the goal of protecting members in the professional carwash and car care industry. Safety, injuries, slips, trips and falls were addressed under the alliance, but what about keeping carwash employees happy?

Those who work for a full-serve have a lot to deal with. They’re bending, lifting, standing, using their arms, legs, driving other people’s cars, staying out of a car’s way, dealing with customers, all with (hopefully) a smile on their face. After all, happy customers are created by happy employees. And happy customers mean repeat customers — most of the time.

According to the website, Business Know-How®, an article written by Dr. Jan Stringer entitled How to Keep Employees and Customers Satisfied and Improve Your Bottom Line, said that studies show that there “is a direct link between satisfied employees and happy customers.”

The article also said that, “From the customer perspective, this lack of turnover means a more stable, responsive team to address their needs and concerns, something that those surveyed worry about.”

Keeping it in the family
Aaron Zeff, CEO of Harv’s Car Wash, a network of full-serve washes throughout Northern California, said that recognizing and rewarding good workmanship is an important aspect of his success. “All of our employees are part of the Harv’s family — with employees receiving the necessary training and oversight to do the tasks at hand. We also consistently promote and hire from within our existing workforce, demonstrating to our employees that quality work and performance is recognized and rewarded.”

Randy Cressall, owner of Valencia Auto Spa, Valencia, CA, who calls himself the “humble servant of his employees and customers,” agrees with the employee/family member correlation. “A good employer is aware of his or her employees – they ask how their family members are doing and asks how they are doing,” he said. “That’s because they are family.”

Zeff added, “We treat our employees with respect and make every effort to assist them with their professional development and with personal/family matters that may arise.” Zeff said they do everything from bringing in food and refreshments during busy days to providing training and opportunities for advancement, in order to build and maintain a satisfied and efficient team.

A little something for a job well done
Cressall thinks that employees need to be recognized regularly in order to keep them happy. “More than anything else, employees want recognition,” he said. “They need to know how they’re doing and like a coach who encourages his or her players in order to receive their peak performances.”

Zeff also believes that good work should be rewarded. “We provide gift certificates for high-performing employees,” he said, “and during the holidays, employees receive gift cards and coupons for local merchandise and restaurants.”

After all, it all starts with how you treat your staff. Mary Kay Ash, the late entrepreneur famous for Mary Kay Cosmetics, once said that the way employees are treated is key. “We treat our people like royalty,” she said. “If you honor and serve the people who work for you, they will honor and serve you.”

Minimizing both physical and emotional stresses
Full-serve employees are busy employees. The emotional stresses that go with every job are there as well as physical stresses. Also, the status of their jobs can often depend on the weather, or the environment or the economy.

Zeff thinks one way to deal with such things is to cross-train employees so that they can perform many different jobs.

“One of the main difficulties facing full service employees can be the lack of a predictable work schedule,” he said. “Specifically, due to the nature of the carwash business, inclement weather conditions can reduce workforce demand. Our employees are cross-trained and rotate through different positions during the course of a week.” This method shows there is a “commitment to having employees take on different roles and responsibilities (vacuum station, detailing) allowing for variety and minimizes potential physical stresses,” Zeff said.

Zeff also said that for all of the Harv’s locations, there is a continuously updated list of site-related work that needs to be completed (i.e. deferred maintenance and other projects). Then, during poor weather conditions, every effort is made to employ staff members by having them work on the necessary improvements at each location.

What goes around comes around
It is nice to have happy employees, but happy customers are important too. Happy customers can become repeat customers and without them, you do not make money and as a result, do not need employees.

Zeff said that respect to both the customer and employee at his locations is evenly distributed. “At Harv’s a reliable, hard-working, and customer-friendly workforce is the key to our overall success,” he said. “As a business, we pride ourselves on the respect we give our customers and our employees.”

At Cressall’s AutoSpa, there are signs posted over the doors that read: “Through these doors walk the world’s greatest customers and the best ever employees.”

Cressall said his customers continuously rave about how wonderful his employees are and said the way an employee treats the customer is very much a mirrored-reflection of the way the employer treats the employee.

“That is the culture that we work and have worked to achieve and has become a reality at our business,” Cressall said. “Our employees see the value of our customers and our customers love all of our employees and it’s kind of like a snowball rolling down hill and the relationship continues to grow and grow and it’s contagious.”

Debra Gorgos is the managing editor of Professional Carwashing and Detailing. She is a very happy employee, thanks to the respect she continuously receives from her boss and co-workers.