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Operations and Management

Carwash customer retention policy

I wrote the following Customer Retention Policy for my managers and thought it would be beneficial to share it with other operators.

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The most valuable person at the carwash is the customer. All businesses need customers to be profitable, and it is imperative to keep as many customers as possible for life. The carwash should always be motivated to improve quality and customer experience. Every interaction with customers should be energetic, polite and professional. All interactions with customers should begin with positive greetings and end with a “thank you.”

Customers should always be comfortable and have a hassle-free, positive experience. When a customer has a negative experience, that is an opportunity to satisfy the customer and make sure they keep returning and generating revenue for the carwash. 

Customer satisfaction guarantee

If a customer is not satisfied with the carwash experience, they can redo the service they paid for at their convenience. If a customer paid for the incorrect service to satisfy expectations, the manager can recommend the correct service and subtract the total they paid from the recommended service at the customer’s convenience. 

Refund policy

No refunds on used services. If a customer did not receive the correct service, the manager can issue a partial or full refund. If the customer does not use the unlimited plan, the manager can offer a free first month when they return, prepaid washes or — if necessary — a refund within three months or a combination of incentives. If a customer is not satisfied with the outcome of the unlimited wash plan, they can contest up to three months with their credit card company, and the carwash will lose money and the customer. 

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Accidents

The safety of employees and customers is most important at the carwash. When there is an accident, the first response is to check the health of anyone involved. It is vital that anyone involved in a workplace accident get the medical attention they need, which, depending on the severity, may include emergency services. Once everyone is safe, the manager must investigate the incident and save any camera footage and report to the proper insurance company. Accidents should be prevented before they occur, and all OSHA regulations must be strictly adhered to at the carwash.

Damages

If the carwash is liable for a customer’s car damage, the carwash will return any damage to the prior condition at an approved carwash repair shop. No insurance can be used for any damages under $10,000. Any injuries must be reported to the carwash’s insurance. The manager must make an incident report and take pictures of any damage caused by the carwash.

False or disputed damage claims

If a customer claims damage is caused by the carwash, the manager should investigate. If the manager determines the carwash is not liable for the customer’s damage, it is imperative that the manager makes a positive effort to satisfy the customer. The manager should not take liability, deny liability or place blame on the customer for the damage claim.

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The manager should listen to the customer and empathize with the customer’s situation. How would you like to pay for a service and then deal with damage you were unaware of? A customer’s car is their most or second-most valuable asset after their home, and they came to the carwash to maintain their asset. The manager can use carwash services to satisfy the customer, including prepaid carwashes, buffing or fixing damage. 

The manager cannot use carwash money to fix a false or disputed claim. Without denying liability, the manager can explain how the carwash cannot take liability for damage but should never accuse a customer of intentionally making a false claim. The manager can further help a customer by using carwash-approved repair shops to have the damage fixed at the customer’s expense at the lowest cost possible. 

If the customer is not satisfied with the outcome of the damage claim, they can report to their insurance, and we will lose the customer. If the manager cannot satisfy a customer claim, the customer can be referred to the carwash website and write an email to the owner. If the customer is satisfied with the carwash’s response to the damage claim, they will trust the carwash and potentially become a lifelong customer.

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Online reviews

A positive online reputation can attract new customers searching for carwash services. However, a negative online reputation can cause potential customers to choose another carwash. 

If a customer has a negative experience, they should be directed to the website to write an email to the owner, so that the owner can attempt to satisfy the customer. It is better to deal with a customer through email than publicly online, and extra effort should be made to satisfy those who email. 

Related: Wash Wisdom: How to handle negative reviews on Yelp

All reviews should be responded to, so the customer and online reputation are retained. Not all customers will be satisfied, but it is imperative that potential customers see positive responses to negative reviews to assure them that the carwash cares about the customer’s experiences. 

Bad customers

All customers are valuable, but some customers can be bad. Bad customers don’t pay for their services, treat employees and managers with disrespect, yell and curse, and/or make negative experiences for other customers. Bad customers must be treated with respect while quickly and quietly encouraged to exit the carwash. A bad customer will write a negative review, which gives the carwash a chance to respond appropriately and obtain closure. Sometimes, a good customer will not be satisfied and criticize the carwash and be vocal to the manager about their negative experience, but as long as they are respectful, every effort should be made to satisfy their criticism and retain them. 

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Customer retention is a team effort. The vacuum attendant, detailer, service advisor, cashier, manager and owner must all take great care with customers. One bad experience can cost a lifelong customer and the revenue they generate. A bad experience turned positive can strengthen the bond between customer and carwash and generate years of revenue and growth.  


Greg Paul is the president and co-owner of Valencia Car Wash and Canyon Car Wash as well as the general manager of Fashion Square Car Wash, all of which are located in the Los Angeles metro area. 

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