In today’s fast-paced electronic era, it is apparent we are losing touch on one critical component: SERVICE! I am not just talking about your team members saying “hi” to a customer with little to no eye contact or a wave thanking them with a half-smile. No, what I am bringing to light is what separates an average carwash operation from a five-star operation, and that is great “old fashioned service.” This to me is a dying art. It should be the culture in your carwash and woven into the fabric of each and every one of your employees, especially management.

“Old-fashioned service” to me is one of the most critical pieces of the carwash and unfortunately gets put aside and forgotten about the most often. This industry is very unique and very challenging!  It has many moving parts, literally.  Hundreds of expensive vehicles every hour, complex machinery and electronics, challenging climates, advanced chemistry, timing, settings and the need to process customers at a fast pace all the while having to inspect every car for safety before entering the tunnel to avoid damage claims. To add to this list is the enormous investment it takes to acquire and build a facility. With all that being said, now we add the fact that our labor pool is a majority of entry-level candidates. After reading this, some people may ask, “Why get in this particular business?” It’s simple: For the majority of us, it is our passion — it is in our blood! We love to see filthy, dirty cars pull on our lot and in minutes transform them into a showroom car: clean, dry,  shiny. We can all draw a sense of pride from the owner to the management to the attendants as we work together to produce a modern-day marvel.

Currently, there is a building surge of washes across the nation. Companies big and small are searching for land to put up the next high-volume site. So with all of this growth and the idea that our markets are getting “flooded,” operators worry about losing their market share. How do you combat this? The answer is simple, and it was taught to me at the age of 13 when I first started in the industry from a man that took a chance in 1960 in St. Louis, Missouri. That man was my father, Richard Barthelmass. A humble, sincere, hardworking and intelligent man. He understood it!  He preached it to my brother and me about service — not just average service, but over-and-above service: “old fashioned service”! Service that goes beyond the norm and the superficial fake smiles. Service that the attendants are engaged with on each and every customer. Service that prevents a situation from spiraling out of control because your employee was paying attention. Service that just touched someone who was having a rough day and all that it took was eye contact, a big smile and a thumbs up! Think about that for a moment: This could be all it takes for your business to rise above your competition. It does not cost anything, so why would we not implement this? I know this works because I have lived this for 44 years in the industry. I have been blessed to be able to turn locations around from operating in the red to the black in a reasonably short time by implementing this simple principal and getting the entire team to buy into it.

My father explained to us that you cannot control the economy, you can’t control your competition and you can’t control Mother Nature, but you can control your own house — your carwash. Set your expectations and training to the highest standard, and even if you miss you still land on top. Expect it, demand it! In today’s express carwash, we have limited interaction with our customer base. Make it count — be the best! Train your employees to seek eye contact with the customer and share a big smile. Smiling is contagious and spreads positive feelings. Keep your site clean, stay current on maintenance and continuously train your employees. Set the high standard for your customers and your market!

Now, go make a difference! Happy washing!


Mark Barthelmass is a 44-year industry veteran and currently teaches in the Car Wash College on the west coast. He is also assisting in the roll out of Diamond Shine car wash chemicals in California. Mark can be reached at [email protected].

This content is sponsored by CarWash College. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Professional Carwashing & Detailing editorial team.