Equipment is critical in the world of automated carwashing, but a car care business’ on-site employees are equally important. Though vibrant signs, colorful brushes and functional vacuums draw drivers in, it is exceptional service with a friendly smile that often creates a legion of loyal customers.

To that end, responsive, attentive and welcoming workers are a necessity, regardless of the wash format. In full-service and detailing operations, engaged employees provide the manpower needed to produce impressive results for every customer. In express, tunnel-style carwashes, employees keep traffic moving and assist when technical problems arise. Finally, with self-serve and automatic bay washes, employees often check functions, monitor transactions and keep sites clean for positive first impressions.

Due to the importance of service, carwash owners and operators frequently cite hiring employees and other labor concerns as some of their biggest challenges. From hiring practices and compensation to scheduling and bonuses, there are a number of issues that must be considered when it comes to finding and retaining the perfect employee fit. Here, we look at a successful Australian carwash, Grand Wash Auto, as a case study to learn best practices for creating employee longevity and satisfied customers.

Security and flexibility

For carwashes, hiring and retaining a quality staff that has the ability to provide consistent service excellence is extremely important, according to Ali Sadiku, director for Grand Wash Auto. Sadiku says, “I often quote Henry Fords’ thoughts on customer service, ‘It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.’”

To that end, once a quality carwash staff has been hired, trained and developed, the workers will desire job security. Given that the carwashing industry is a largely weather dependent business, there is often a stigma associated with that security, Sadiku notes. At Grand Wash Auto, management makes sure potential applicants understand that, despite the weather, employees will have job security. 

Another area of consideration is creating a work/life balance for wash employees. “We are a family business, so [we] understand the importance of providing our team with a flexible work/life balance,” Sadiku says. “As a seven-day operation, we ensure our full-time staff never work more than 38 hours and offer them options that work for them regarding their days off.”

Each month the business takes its full-time employees out to dinner. Here, they have the opportunity to present ideas and work through any workplace issues. To Sadiku and Grand Wash Auto, it is important that the team members feel comfortable on the job, so the wash provides employees with durable, quality uniform options at no cost to them as well.

The employees’ individual anniversaries with the business are also celebrated. “We enjoy celebrating, so when records are broken rewards are given,” Sadiku states. “We also celebrate long service, and once a team member has been with us for five years we thank them with a trip to Queensland.”

Leadership here has learned that working with the wash’s roster once a week is important as well. “Being available to help out when needed is a great way to connect and develop employee relations,” Sadiku notes.

Customer communication

Overall, carwashes are volume driven businesses and weather dependent. This is why staffing is such an important issue. Even so, Sadiku believes an express exterior wash does not present as many staffing issues as a full-service wash would. As Grand Wash Auto is automated, the business generally relies on one to three team members. In comparison, a full-service wash can rely on up to 20 people depending on how big the operation is.

At Grand Wash Auto, the automated paystations greet customers and take them through their wash options. However, as customer service is a No.1 priority for team members, employees are encouraged to greet and engage with customers wherever they may be in the wash. This can be a short chat, a big smile, a wave or a quick thumbs up.

“This is super important as it puts the customer at ease, and he or she is comfortable approaching a team member if [needed],” Sadiku explains. “You can often find our attendants helping customers wipe down their cars at the end of the wash. This is a great opportunity for engaging with customers, hearing their feedback on the wash and answering any questions or addressing any concerns they might have.”

Listening to feedback

Grand Wash Auto has been in business for five years, and the service offerings and the business are constantly evolving. For this reason customer feedback is encouraged, and when received it is taken seriously and responded to. Obtaining and responding to customer feedback is something Sadiku encourages all businesses to actively pursue. Often, the feedback can serve as a “good look in the mirror” that reveals what to change.

“We’ve all made mistakes, but the key is to ensure we learn from them and develop better ways so they don’t happen again,” Sadiku concludes. “Regular communication is an emphasis here at Grand Wash Auto and sharing the positive as well as the negative is essential.”