Customer. Service. Putting Them Together


By Karen Hodges

An experience, from a customer’s viewpoint, has made me aware of some things I didn’t realize were so important to me. Now that I know, however, I wonder if they are important to my customers/clients?

Today I wanted to get my car detailed. I’m driving across the state on Friday to attend a work conference, and decided my time was more valuable with tasks other than scrubbing and vacuuming my car. I did a google search for “Full Service Car Wash near me” and was presented with several ads, and several non-ad listings, complete with reviews.

I scrolled past the ads, looked for a business with at least a 4.5 star review and looked at their website. It did not perform very well on my phone. “Pinching” with my fingers and turning sideways let me eventually see all the pertinent info. Decent reviews. Price seemed reasonable. Not far away, so I navigated over there.
I pulled up to a car repair garage, that had a little sign in the corner of the office window referencing the detailing business. Went inside, only to be told, “No, that’s not us, we have a guy who rents a bay from us. I think he’s on vacation but you can call him.”  OK. That was not successful.

Customer service Tip #1 – Communicate with your customers. I should have called, maybe, but it’s very easy to add a text box on your website “Closed for vacation until_____.”

Tip #2 – Be sure those who would be directing traffic your way represent you in a positive light. They should use your name and don’t “shrug you off” when someone inquires.

Back in the car, I searched again and found another business with 2 locations, the nearest was about 6 miles away. “Full service auto spa” it said. Decent reviews. Prices were not listed, but how much could it be? I navigated there, only to see it was actually the “express” version of their business: nothing more than an ordinary spray booth with a coin operated vacuum.  I went to the other location, because now I’m 38 minutes into the process and determined to get this done.  Should have called, maybe, but no where on their website did they state “by appointment only.”  They had a drive through car wash similar to many other businesses, but “detailing” was not available on a Wednesday at 10:15a without an appointment.

Customer service Tip #3 –  Your advertising should never be misleading. If you call yourself “full service” you should actually provide that. If you have two locations and one of them has different amenities and services, you should state that clearly on all your advertising.

Tip #4 – If you require appointments, you should say so. You should clearly state appointments are needed and exactly how to make one. A booking link is a great idea.

Back in the car. I searched again. Another place – decent reviews, they have a menu that lets me decide what level of “clean” I want and it’s about 4 more miles away from my home base, but I’m into this now. I navigate there, pull up and see a man talking to a driver, so I wait. He returns to a little podium and picks up a phone and has a conversation. Then puts the phone down and begins writing some things.

I’m patiently waiting and he finally looks up at me and from the podium says, “Yeah?” “Ummm…I was thinking I wanted the “Super Clean” package. I really need the inside windows cleaned and vacuumed…” He held up his hand (as in “stop talking”) and picks up a mobile phone and makes a call asking about how long they have the crazy lady’s van so he can decide if he can take a “Super Clean” customer or not. (wow…referring to a customer as a “crazy lady” in front of me?) He listens a minute….then dials again and speaks to someone else…and then I hear “I already asked her—”  He then hangs up, and makes a third call…”Yeah, I’m calling back because she told me to ask Ruben—how the hell would Ruben know anything?”  At this point…he’s getting louder and angrier….and I’m thinking “I wonder if I can reverse out of this lane without hitting anything…”

Customer service tip #5 – Never denigrate a customer in front of another one. It’s so uncool. Makes the one customer wonder “what must they think of me?”

Tip #6 – Don’t ever make your clients feel as if it’s a great imposition for them to be there. Make them happy to give you their money.

He hangs up the call, walks over to me and hands me a piece of paper and said, “Go behind the blue car over there. It’ll be about an hour.”  Alrighty, then. I guess I’m in. I gather my satchel and phone out of the car and stand there watching people working on other cars….and I caught the eye of a woman and asked, “Do you have a waiting room?” She said, “yes” and kept working. Oooookay! I started toward an unmarked door when a different woman came around a car and said, “That door” and pointed to a second unmarked door.

Customer service tip #7 – Give your customers clear instructions on how to navigate through your system. Give them a tour! Never assume they know the things about your business you know.

Tip #8 – Clearly mark doors with signs and arrows.  So cheap to do…so cheap-seeming if not done.

I walked down a hallway and found a waiting room. Set up my computer and did some work. About an hour and 15 minutes later, I looked up, decided to put my things away and go wander around to check on the progress.

About that time, a man came in, caught my eye and motioned me to the cashier. All is well.  I paid $74.68, tipped the guy for bringing my car around and got in to move it out of the way—there was no place to park on that side of the building, only a driveway onto the street. So, I went on my way. My next errand, I walked around the car and checked the back seat and the trunk. The back seat was supposedly “treated” but a throw I keep back there was in exactly the same position with the same corner flipped up I’d noted earlier. (My OCD had wanted me to fix the corner, but I’d already shut the locked door.) And the trunk had clearly not been vacuumed. I tolerated the poor greeting. I put up with running over the time by 25%. But I am ticked off I paid for work I did not receive.

Customer service tip #9 – If you charge for it, then you have to do it. Not fully providing the services promised is theft. You entered a contract when you accepted the customer’s money…keep your contracts!

Tip #10 – Follow up. Just as you want the waitress to stop by to be sure you have everything you need before presenting the bill, you want any service provider to be sure you are happy with their work before they hustle you out the back door.  Don’t be that provider.

I hope my little adventures this morning helped shine a light on some things we all need to be very clear about in our own businesses:  putting “customer” with “service” 1) takes work 2) is vital to success.
Anyone know a good car washing business in Fort Myers?