In the not-so-distant past, customers made purchasing decisions based mainly on price, followed by product quality and convenience. However, at many retail businesses, it seems customer experience is driving sales these days, and carwashes would be wise to adapt.

In fact, as noted previously in this publication, a recent study by Walker reports that by 2020 customer experience will pass price and product as the key brand differentiator, adding that 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. Improving customer loyalty and satisfaction as well as increasing word-of-mouth advertising and upselling/cross-selling opportunities are just some of the reasons your wash must focus on elevating the customer experience moving forward.

But, what is customer experience?

While there are several factors involved, customer experience comes down to a customer’s perception of how your business treats him or her. In addition to service with a smile and practicing “the customer is always right” strategies, this also means providing value — real and perceived — throughout the business-customer relationship.

Today, many industries are focusing on and investing in customer experience technologies, systems and processes. Is it cheap? No. Will these investments lead to customer loyalty and ultimately more sales in the years ahead? Experts say yes.

Examples of customer experience investments required in professional carwashing can include: staffing, such as through training and retention; growing loyalty programs and data; upgrading equipment, chemicals, facilities, signage and supplies; and becoming more tech-savvy, particularly on mobile devices, just to name a few examples.

The good news is that professional carwashes, unlike many retailers, have the ability to deliver an amazing, memorable customer experience on a consistent basis once these investments are made.

The future of selling across many industries is trending toward maintaining and using data and comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) tools in order to build customer profiles and offer customizable, unique experiences.

Loyalty programs and getting to know customers while on-site can help to build this foundation, if you haven’t started already. Customer buying habits are moving fast. Is your business keeping pace?