Car Wash Customer Service Tips and Best Practices
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It’s a tale as old as customer-service time — a positive business experience may not produce an immediate brand evangelist, but you can bet a negative experience will produce an immediate business critic.
Car wash businesses are no exception. Customer service reigns supreme when providing the best possible car care to your guests and can be the make-or-break factor nudging you apart from local competition.
We’re scrubbing away the muck to bring car wash business tips and best practices you can implement beginning today — then see stronger customer satisfaction and profit margins tomorrow.
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The Benefits of Good Customer Services at Car Washes
Not all car wash operations run the same. While the outcome may be similar — a clean and polished car, inside and out — businesses with an emphasis on stellar customer service reap benefits the average car wash won’t.
1. Creates a Stronger Brand Identity
Brand identity encompasses all the ways the public perceives your business. It’s what customers say and feel about you, which in turn influences how often or how little they engage with your facility.
Customer service is an essential branch of brand identity, right there alongside your company name, its logo, its website, service offerings and other consumer-facing materials. Going above and beyond with each guest interaction builds the foundation of a brand identity known for its customer service.
2. Retains More Referrals
Well-serviced guests are more likely to recommend your products or services to their family and friends. Research shows word-of-mouth recommendations from a trusted source — like a neighbor or parent — are the most persuasive form of advertising today, with 83 percent of people favoring it when making purchasing decisions.
3. Grows Their Loyal Customer Base
Good customer service acts like a seed. When tended, your business begins to sprout more loyal customers — people who innately trust and return to your place of business, even if it’s inconveniently located or premium priced.
Customer loyalty can be cultivated for full-service as well as automatic and self-service car washes, too. Tactics like loyalty programs or car wash punch cards work particularly well for automated conveyor car washes, incentivizing return visits.
4. Operates a Stable Business
Loyal customer bases build the foundation for a successful, long-term business. These people are the pipeline that keeps your business fueled day after day, year after year.
Improve Car Wash Customer Service by Building Positive Relationships
People — not cars — are at the core of your car wash. While a successful wash revitalizes a vehicle’s appearance, a car wash is first and foremost a service. And as part of the service industry, the interactions taking place between your customers and your staff become the backbone of your customer service reputation.
Just how can you build a culture of positive customer relationships for your business? We’ve got a few suggestions.
1. Positive, Customer-Centric Employees
Your staff is the face of your business. Aside from the quality of the wash, research indicates employee interactions will be the most memorable aspect of a customer’s visit. They may not remember every last name or detail of treatments they opted for — but they will remember how your staff made them feel.
Customer-centric employees are ones who frequently treat customers with:
- Conscientiousness, asking questions and openly receiving customer feedback.
- Warmth and politeness, engaging with each customer as they would want to be serviced themselves.
- Talk like a human, not a robot reciting a programmed script.
2. Problem-Solving Conversations
People make a stop at the car wash because they have a problem — their vehicle’s exterior is dirty and grimy and their interior is scuffed and worn. Their car may have a funny smell lingering from too many on-the-go meals, a companion who smokes or a gym bag left in the backseat too long. Floors or seats could be stained from kids spilling drinks or coffee thermoses going rogue. The situations vary. The cleaning solution they’re looking for doesn’t.
Train staff to consult with each customer on details and specifications required for an ideal wash. Or, consider letting visitors, especially first-time ones, fill out car care forms that you upload into a computer database, then have on-hand to service their next visit better.
3. Patron Perks and Amenities
Car washes can impress new customers and retain familiar ones with business add-ons that go above and beyond routine vehicle cleaning.
- Car wash loyalty cards that people can sign up for at no cost. Car wash loyalty programs give members a sense of exclusivity when their commitment is rewarded with things like service discounts, free washes, special members-only car products and more.
- Tiered membership levels, with customers earning extra points or perks the more they come in.
- VIP lanes for loyalty card customers, so they don’t have to wait in line during peak business hours.
- On-brand freebie items like air fresheners given to first-time visitors or top loyalty program members.
- Local business discounts, where your company partners with area stores and restaurants to offer additional savings when loyalty members patron their shops and vice versa.
4. Frequent Customer Touchpoints
Today’s burgeoning technological tools allow full-service and automatic conveyor car wash owners alike to manage more personalized, consistent touchpoints with customers — keeping your business top-of-mind when the time arrives to revitalize their vehicle.
- Mobile marketing: Mobile marketing lets you reach customers on their smartphones and tablets. Today, one in five Americans is a smartphone-only internet user, meaning they exclusively research businesses and make purchasing decisions through their mobile devices.
- Social media marketing: Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are a popular and cost-effective way to spread ads that can reach hundreds, even thousands, of eyes.
- Email marketing: Email marketing lets you send business updates, service deals, coupons, content and more straight to customers’ inboxes.
5. A Thoughtful Environment
What better way to build positive customer relationships than to go the extra mile in creating a positive car wash environment? There are many ways car wash owners or managers can create a facility customers want to return to, with small comforts to make their trip easier and more enjoyable.
- Toys for kids while they wait with parents during a full-service car wash.
- Free water and coffee available in the customer waiting area or near the register.
- Vending machine snacks for hungry patrons.
- Magazines for customers to read.
- A bright, clean and well-decorated atmosphere, especially in customer waiting rooms and inside facility bathrooms.
6. Show Community Involvement
Car wash businesses build further positive rapport when they showcase and support their community. As a local business yourself, it makes sense to be involved and engaged with the other organizations, schools, nonprofits and event happenings in your area. Plus, community support efforts are an indisputable way to spread brand awareness, sharing your business with convenient, local customers in your own backyard.
You can highlight community involvement at your car wash in many ways:
- A community board advertising local events like concerts in the park, sports matches, farmers markets and more.
- Support local fundraisers, such as sponsoring a local school’s car wash to raise money for new school equipment, or donating a portion of your proceeds to a local charity.
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How to Create a Customer-Focused Car Wash Experience
A customer-focused car wash experience is one where guests are wowed — by staff interactions, facility atmosphere, perks and amenities and, of course, a standout vehicle wash. There’s a range of car wash best practices to make this the norm at your business.
1. Increase Car Wash Processing Speeds
Your business’ average car wash processing speed is the total time it takes to service an end-to-end vehicle cleaning. From point-of-payment to prepping and pre-soaking, to washing and drying, then through the exit, the average full-service car wash customer expects to wait 20 to 25 minutes for their interior and exterior vehicle cleaning. For exterior conveyor and in-bay conveyor car washes, customers are generally satisfied with a five to 10-minute process.
Just remember — speed should never sacrifice quality. You want to strike that Goldilocks balance between an expedient yet thorough car servicing. Start with strategies that minimize customer wait times, expedite payment or reduce line lengths extending out into your parking lot, which will likely deter other customers from stopping by — not shortening the cleaning itself.
2. Give Customers Servicing Options and Offer Customizations
Mass customization is the term used for the growing consumer trend of wanting goods and services tailored for them. Everything from smartphone cases to car wash details falls under mass customization’s umbrella, and small businesses are taking note.
Allowing your car wash customers to pick and choose exact car treatments makes them feel valued. You step up your service offerings while stepping up your customer-focused car wash experience by having the following available:
- Specialty waxes and polishes
- Undercarriage washes
- De-salting treatments, especially during winter in snow-prone areas
- Paint restorations
- “Ozone” eliminations to rid cars of smoke, pet or any otherwise unpleasant odor
- Leather seat protectants
- Headlight and rear light reconditioning
3. Know What Your Customers Actually Want
Customer-focused car washes are dedicated to their guests, genuinely caring about their car’s appearance and interested in the treatments their customers need most.
The best way to assure you’re meeting those needs is simple — ask! Highlight online, through in-store signage, across your advertisements and on customer feedback forms the range of car wash services and treatments available, as well as what those treatments do and if you’re the only one performing them in the area. Track and analyze which of those services customers respond to, including many of the following:
4. Put Your Best Foot Forward
Take pride in the appearance of your business, inside and out. After all, your entire business operates to deliver spotless, polished, high-quality car washes for satisfied and loyal customers. Dirty, disorganized or unkempt facilities run entirely contrary to this, giving patrons the wrong impression on the quality of your services. Would you trust someone to clean your car if they don’t even clean their business?
5. Pay Attention to the Details
The smallest details can have the largest impact when it comes to knockout customer service. For the 90 percent of car washes today that fall into the small businesses category, no detail is too insignificant.
Train staff to remember names and faces as much as possible, especially amongst your car wash loyalty program members. Have a system in place to keep track of how often members stop in, even noting the hour. Customers will be impressed with your memory and more likely to recommend you to friends and family.
6. Provide the Best Car Wash
It’s not exactly rocket science — car washes that combine top-tier customer service with the highest-quality cleaning products, concentrates and chemicals will be the car washes customers feel good about choosing. There are dozens of car-wash industry products on the market today, and not all of them deliver the same clean. Do your research and don’t be afraid to try new concentrations or formulas to reap the most from contemporary car-cleaning products.
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Use Car Wash Loyalty Programs to Enhance Your Car Wash’s Customer Service Experience
Car wash loyalty cards are one of the best ways for businesses to prioritize their customers. Plus, loyalty programs are flexible, cost-effective and highly customizable — the perfect combination for small businesses in the service industry.
There are numerous ways to wield membership or loyalty programs at your car wash.
1. Offer Product and Service Discounts
The most common perk to car wash loyalty cards is product or service discounts earned from aggregate member points. These points are a result of a certain number of visits or purchases from your car wash and can be easily tracked using apps, websites or software readily available today.
Get creative with your car wash loyalty programs. Look at businesses within and outside the service industry for inspiration on amenities and bonuses to incorporate into your program, attracting the most members possible.
2. Employ a Multi-Tiered Membership Program
Adding tiers to your membership creates significant psychological motivators in your customer base. In essence, tiered programs turn the “earn then burn” expectation of most loyalty programs into an active, ongoing initiative. Customers view their rewards differently as they level up. Each new tier builds a stronger and stronger commitment between them and your car wash business — while each new incentive adds a boost to your customer service impressions.
3. Have Speciality Services
Car wash loyalty members can earn specialty on-the-house or discounted services unavailable to non-members. These include treatments like:
- Car odor eliminations
- Paint or car light restorations
- Deep carpet cleanings
- Tire and wheel treatments
- Leather seat protectors
- Commercial truck washes
- Express or VIP lane availability
4. Promote the Loyalty Program — and Its Members
Generate even more awareness for your loyalty program — and your commitment to customer service — by promoting it every chance you get.
Create signs, banners and posters to hang throughout your facility that detail the benefits of participating in your car wash loyalty program. If you’re a full-service car wash, have staff ask guests at the register if they would like to join, or hand out a pamphlet detailing the program for them to take home. If you run a conveyor wash or in-bay automatic wash with electronic service registers, you can program the kiosk to ask customers if they’d like to join the loyalty program with a few simple clicks. Use social media and mobile marketing to create ads explicitly discussing your car wash’s new or enhanced loyalty cards.
Go the extra customer-service mile by then highlighting program members on your own website or company social media profiles. Ask if you can share photos of new members, customers who’ve reached a new program tier or the special products or services members receive. Doing so puts real faces on your loyalty program and says thank you in a personalized, proud way.
Provide the Best Car Wash Products for Your Business — And for Your Customers’ Experience
High-quality car wash chemicals take care of the scrubbing, soaking and polishing that goes into a good car wash so you can focus on what you should — happy, returning customers.
With over 40 years of experience in manufacturing and supplying car wash cleaning chemicals, JBS Industries knows what it takes to revive vehicles. Boost the quality of your car wash services and the satisfaction of your customers, new and old, with our lines of concentrates, detergents and protectants specially formulated for top performance
Browse our full selection of car wash products, then reach out to get your business outfitted to provide the best end-to-end car wash customer service in town.