Hi again everyone and happy new calendar year to you all; hope 2014 brings many new customers and sees you all off to a fine start.
This is the time of year here in the U.S. when the coasts are in juxtaposition from each other as far as busy season and the number of cars patronizing our respective businesses. Obviously here on the west coast, we are going to begin our rainy season soon and the good Saturdays are like a blessing that is rare. That will continue through late February and early March at which time we will start ramping up 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 my last article…
1) We were looking at marketing and different ways to ‘market your image’;
2) We have looked at advantageous times/days to spread out the daily detail load; and
3) Lastly, we considered our employees and their ‘star power’.
In this article which will be the last in a series, I would like to visit the idea of pricing, customer retention, and problem solving.
First let’s look at 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 off set some increasing labor demands with this method by simply providing more work and getting the most out of your employees.
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 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 welcome and appreciated. And, if there is mistake or something relatively minor with the car wash’s service, a customer is much more likely to forgive and keep coming back no matter what. This is also a great tact/technique to use when directing advertising to (and attracting) new patrons. The use of multi-media 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 (aka ‘the other car wash’). If you choose to use traditional advertising methods like 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 / Rely upon’ a certain type of service. One that says “I am customer friendly and service oriented”. Tell the competition to put that in their pipe and smoke it!
Lastly, let’s take a look at problem solving
Some of the many mistakes owners make are simply more mistakes after a mistake (if that makes sense). 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 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 because he/she knows that by having you ‘on the spot’, they will get ‘extras’ nine times out of 10. Also, you might as well expect all the other customers to all of 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 get disenfranchised.
How to remedy
Simply apologize and offer (or rather insist) that they go 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.
This last series of “Consultant’s Corner” (last 6 articles) has 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.
Till next time,