Let’s take a look at the following story and see how it could fit in with a professional carwash.

A young salesperson for a major business phone company had been working with a large international corporation for months, trying to sell them on the virtues of his company’s telephone system. Like all the companies competing for the multi-million-dollar contract, he knew his company’s phone system addressed all of its needs. So, to make a difference, he jumped through hoops and was able to offer the entire system at a discounted price, beating out his competitors.

However, he lost the sale.

In a letter, the international corporation thanked him for his time. It wrote him that while the company’s reps were impressed with the price point for his company’s business phones, the cost of the system or any system was not an issue in the company’s decision.

This was a significant and a very disappointing loss not only for the salesperson but also for his company. As typically happens after such failures, a sales meeting was called to pick the sale apart and try to determine why they lost it. After some banter, the salesperson said he had concluded that the customer just thought the other company’s products were better, even if they cost more.

There was silence. The director of sales stood up. Some in the room later reported they saw steam coming out of his ears. He turned to the salesperson and said, “The phones are not the product. You are the product.”

In other words:

  • The phone systems from the different companies were very similar.
  • Price was not a consideration.
  • For one or many reasons, the international corporation felt more comfortable working with another company’s salesperson, and for that reason, that company won the contract.

Appearances matter

Because we are dealing with “feelings,” we are dealing with intangibles. For some reason, the winning salesperson came across as possibly more trustworthy, easier to work with, more professional or knowledgeable, etc.

So, let’s bring this home. Let’s assume the following:

  • Your carwash offers the same services as one of your competitors down the street.
  • Your customers are happy with your service.
  • You have a pay-in-advance purchasing program that makes your carwash less expensive than your competitors’.
  • Finally, you have a slightly better location.

Then why does your competitor down the street always have a line to get in and you don’t?

To answer this question, let’s look at the intangibles.

Does the staff at the other carwash wear uniforms? An article written earlier this year in this publication reported that consumers like to see workers wearing uniforms in carwashes and similar service industries. They feel it looks more professional; they have more trust in the staff when in uniforms, and that confidence spills over to the carwash company they work for.

In this case, the uniformed staff are the “product.”

Another intangible is the look of your property. Consumers are judging your carwash the minute they drive in. If clean, well-maintained and freshly painted, then things are starting out very well.

But, where the rubber meets the road is in the waiting area. That is where the customer will be spending most of his or her time, and if that area does not look good, no matter how good the service or the price, the waiting area will likely be the “takeaway” of your carwash.

Related: Practical appearance enhancements to attract carwash business

Turning the waiting room into your “product”

The most important thing we must pay attention to is the cleanliness of the waiting area. Try to look at it with fresh eyes. Ask someone else what his or her first impression is of your waiting area. Keeping it clean also means uncluttered. Some customers are more aware — and bothered by — clutter than others, and it reflects on what they might think about your carwash. Best keep everything organized and in its place.

If there are glass displays, are they clean? Display areas should be dusted regularly. Fingerprints stand out on glass displays. You want to make sure there are no fingerprints on any glass areas.

And, very importantly, how clean are the restrooms? Everything must be clean and sanitized. Paper products must be well-stocked. Check the floors. Restroom floors can get very soiled very quickly in a carwash. To keep the floors and restrooms clean, it’s a good idea to set up a “porter program,” where one or more of your staff checks and cleans the restrooms throughout the day. Have a daily check sheet visible on the times of the day the restroom has been checked — restaurants are great at doing this.

However, the most critical area to keep clean is the waiting room floor. The floor must not only be clean, but it should also have a high-gloss shine. After all, you want your customers to marvel at the glossy shine on their cars after they’re washed. Don’t stop there. Let them marvel at the shine on your waiting room floor as well.

Creating a floor care program

The first step in an effective floor care program is to work with a janitorial distributor well-versed in floor care. Not only can this person help you attain the high-gloss shine we suggest, but he or she can also help you do this cost-effectively.

If your waiting room floor has not been stripped and refinished for quite some time, now is the time to do it. We want to start fresh. Ask your distributor to recommend strippers and solutions that make the job easier. If being “green” is a concern, your distributor can suggest green-certified strippers and other floorcare products.

Once the floor has been stripped and rinsed clean, we need to select a floor finish. What we want is a very durable floor finish that will stand up to foot traffic as well as soil and moisture. Here are some things to look for:

The finish applied to the floor should be easy to scrub. This way, we can remove soil and grit quickly using an auto scrubber.

Select a finish that can be polished using a burnisher. This will keep the floor clean and provide that high-gloss look.

Make sure the finish provides anti-slip protection. You are responsible for your customers’ and your staff’s safety. An anti-slip finish will help prevent a slip-and-fall accident. Certified anti-slip products will carry a UL certified mark.

Once the floor has been refinished, it will need to be cleaned and damp mopped on a regular basis. Always use a clean mop and mop bucket. Select a pH-neutral floor cleaner that also helps restore the shine and increases the anti-slip properties of the floor finish. Have the floor burnished as often as once per week, machine scrubbed every couple of months and stripped and refinished as needed. Usually, this is every 12 to 18 months.

This may sound like a lot, but it really is not hard to do. Working with an astute distributor and quality products will make the process much easier and keep your waiting room looking great. And, the return on the investment can be substantial. Just remember — that waiting room may very well be your “product.”


Mike Watt is with Avmor, a leading North American manufacturer of professional cleaning solutions, including floor care products. He can be reached at [email protected].