Hi again everyone. I hope 2018 has been good so far with many new customers and that it sees you all profitable.

This is the time of year here in the U.S. when the coasts are in a similar position (spring weather) from each other as far as the busy season and the number of cars patronizing our respective businesses is concerned. Obviously, here on the West Coast, we are going to begin our busy season. That will continue through late summer and early fall, at which time we will start ramping down again. Over on the East Coast, however, the operations there become the envy of everyone (here out west), and your “busy season” is in full swing.

Let’s take a quick minute to review from one of my previous articles:

  • We were looking at marketing and different ways to “market your image.”
  • We have looked at advantageous times/days to spread out the daily detail load.
  • Lastly, we considered our employees and their “star power.”

In this article, I would like to visit the idea of marketing and innovation, pricing, customer retention and problem-solving.

Marketing and innovation

Some of the latest and greatest customer tracking, rewards programs, customer loyalty and social media outreach are now standard at many of the newer carwashes. I do recommend every carwash have a website with a complete rundown of services, a Facebook page and active engagement with blog and review sites like Google and Yelp. Customer suggestion boxes also work well and are usually a welcome feature.

Pricing

In today’s competitive markets and with carwash models going through some huge changes, being priced at the “advantage level” can mean all the difference in the world when it comes to being competitive in areas that are somewhat saturated (like we have here in Los Angeles). Some demographics will vary considerably by comparison.

But, within your target radius, being just a notch below could mean a few more cars per day, which, when you do the math, makes all the “cents” in the world. You can also offset some increasing labor demands with this method by simply providing more work and getting the most out of your employees.

Releated: Starting a Carwash: Pricing your services

Customer retention

Most of what keeps a customer coming back is, in fact, not pricing but service — although pricing helps. Some of the best methods I have employed are several. First and foremost is good, old-fashioned customer service combined with a “star” attitude. This is why I was trying to impress upon you in a recent article the importance of having good employees that really convey your image and set you apart from the competition.

Also, having a recognition feature that allows you to identify your customer by name is always helpful. I think we all know how nice it is to walk into a business and be addressed by your name. It makes you feel welcomed and appreciated. And, if there is a mistake or something relatively minor with the carwash’s service, a customer is much more likely to forgive and keep coming back, no matter what.

This is also a great tactic to use when directing advertising to (and attracting) new patrons. The use of multimedia that I spoke of in earlier articles greatly lends itself to good customer retention and positive customer feedback. This method is also a great tool to attract customers who would otherwise go to your competitor.

If you choose to use traditional advertising methods, such as the back of ticker tapes (supermarket register tapes) or direct mailers, then try to put a few quotes from trusted, loyal, longtime and local customers. A picture of your “star” employee(s) goes a long way also in helping to show the customer and new patron that they can count on a certain type of service — one that says, “I am customer-friendly and service-oriented.”

Related: How to manage carwash labor talent 

Problem-solving

Some of the many mistakes owners make are simply compounding one mistake after another. For instance, I have seen some owners and/or managers actually try and talk to a complaining customer right in front of all the other customers — no, no and no.

For one thing, that is a sure way to not only embarrass yourself and the employees, but it is a virtual guarantee that the complaining will not stop there. The customer will feel empowered to keep up the complaint, knowing that by having you “on the spot,” he or she will get “extras” nine times out of 10. Also, you might as well expect all the other customers to all of the sudden find “problems” with their vehicles as well. Believe me, I have seen this happen many times, and it is not pretty; the owner/manager gets all flustered, and the employees become disenfranchised.

Here’s how to remedy that. Simply apologize and offer (or rather insist) that the customer goes with you quietly into the office, where you can exude some authority and control. This will allow you to comfortably speak to and address the customer’s concerns without being judged by other patrons.

In closing, my last few articles have addressed everything from product placement, tracking and promoting to employees and advertising for all wash models anywhere and can be applied to any situation.

If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email. I hope I have been helpful and offered a way for you all to get some expert consulting without the expense of hiring to come out.


Christopher C. McKenna of McKenna Assets LLC, based in Redondo Beach, California, can be reached at (310) 947-9711 or via email at [email protected]. Visit www.carwash-consultant.com for more information on specific customer marketing. For more information on this subject and other carwash equipment, products and services, please visit www.theschoolofwash.com.