While I was instructing our Management I class at our Phoenix facility, our company founder’s voice popped in my head during the customer service segment. Sonny Fazio used to tell us all quite frequently, “Take care of the customer, and the money will follow.” Probably the simplest business advice ever given, yet also highly effective.
In my first year at Sonny’s (2003), I distinctly remember a customer asking for warranty consideration on an item that had obviously been abused and, therefore, not eligible for warranty. I was on the phone with the customer asking what happened, how old the item was, etc. when Sonny walked by my desk. He stopped and listened for a few moments. Then, he leaned into my cubicle, put his finger to his lips in a shushing motion and told me, “Shhh, just give it to him.” I told the customer we would take care of the issue and ended our conversation. When I turned around, I saw that Sonny was still behind me. He sat down on the end of my desk, looked at me and said, “Don’t worry about the money; it will come back tenfold.” As usual, Sonny was right!
Over the next 10 years, this customer went on to build several more tunnels and purchased all of his equipment, parts and supplies from us before selling his washes to one of the bigger chains. Did he continue to purchase from Sonny’s because we warrantied an item that I didn’t necessarily think we should have? I’m not sure that was his only reason, but I am sure that might have played a part in his decision.
Business 101: Take care of the customer. It seems to be a dying art in a lot of industries. Ours shouldn’t be one of them. It also shouldn’t just be a management focus; it should be a focus of all employees.
No one likes to be taken advantage of, and I’m a big believer in fighting for what’s right. But there are times when taking care of the customer requires us to swallow some pride and look at the overall picture. If a customer has a complaint about wash quality, do we dismiss it as unreasonable? Or do we take it as an opportunity to convert an indifferent customer into a lifelong fan of our business?
Remember, customers don’t always remember the issue. They remember how we made them feel about the issue.
If you can change the situation into a positive, you can bet your customer will tell others about the experience. This is the best (or worst) word-of-mouth marketing you can have.
I read a recent statistic that the average American tells 15 people when they’ve experienced poor customer service, and there’s no way of knowing how many people those 15 tell. None of us can afford this. I also read a statistic that customers are willing to spend 17% more to do business with companies that deliver excellent customer service. How about that easy nugget for winning your unfair share?
As our industry becomes more competitive every day, attracting and keeping customers should be our focus. The better we treat our customers, the better off our business … and bottom line.
It’s funny how sometimes the simplest advice can be the most effective. Thanks, Sonny!
Bob Fox has 35 years’ experience in the carwash industry and is the vice president of Sonny’s Car Wash College™. Bob can be reached at [email protected]. For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit CarWash College or call the registrar’s office at 1-866-492-7422.
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