Washing a customer’s car is like a cup coffee

Washing a customer's car in the early days.
Washing a customer’s car is nothing new. That said, automated car washing technology has come a long way since this early photo was taken. Modern systems can scan the vehicle and adjust brushes to maximize clean with minimum pressure.

Washing a customer’s car. Probably not a blog topic you might expect here. Bear with me. A few weeks ago, I was visiting a dealership. As I wandered around the store while waiting for my meeting, I noticed there was no coffee available and one of the two available vending machines was broken. Although I had the option of buying a snack, I had nothing to drink since there was no coffee or bottled water available. Just an old school water fountain located outside the bathrooms. I was there to talk to the dealer about his upcoming facility renovation. It dawned on me that our project was going to be more than just brick and mortar.

chik fil a cafe in car dealership
In-dealership customer amenities have become the norm. We’ve taken them to the next level by partnering with local restaurants to provide food services that attract customers and keep them in the dealership. The picture above is of the Chik-fil-a cafe at Milton Martin Toyota.

In-dealership amenities matter, and the list is growing.

Just as the automotive business environment has evolved, so have customer expectations when it comes to their overall dealership experience. I have mentioned in a previous blog, why bathrooms in a dealership matter. Whether it be a sales or service customer, when they walk in your bathroom and see the condition of it, they make assumptions about the type of experience they are going to receive. If the bathrooms are clean and modern, they feel good and comfortable. If they’re unkept and outdated, they wonder it you care about them and their business. As I walked around the customer waiting area at the dealership trying find something other than the old water fountain, I found myself making those same assumptions.  How could they not have basic amenities such as coffee or water available for customers?

Refinished car dealership bathroom
Customers expectations of dealership facilities continue to rise. They judge the experience at your store by how the facility is kept. Clean, modern bathrooms are key. If the bathroom is dated, worn or unkept, its sending a bad message to the customer. The photo above is an example of a refinished bathrooms at Pinehurst Toyota.

Then I started to think. “What are the basic amenities a customer has come to expect in a dealership?” Today coffee and water are staples in every automotive repair facility. Even your local muffler shop offers them. But what does your customer expect these days as a part of their overall dealership experience? Beyond the refreshments, there are other items like free Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, a clean facility, those are all given. But what else should be a standard deliverable? I found the answer in the service drive.

Walking a mile in your customers shoes. Would you want a dirty car back?

Still waiting for the dealership owner who was running late, I stopped and watched customer after customer picking up their serviced vehicles, having just paid their invoice. On one hand, I was happy to see the staff using the service drive to deliver vehicles back to customers. On the other hand, every single car was dirty. They were simply returning the cars in the same condition they arrived. Washing a customer’s car, isn’t that a given?

Standing in the service drive I watched an elderly customer pick up their car. It was less than two years old and had the dealership’s license plate frame. The advisor seemed to know the customer well. What struck me was that this newer car didn’t look like it had been washed since the day it was purchased from this dealership. Watching the effort it took the customer to get to and into their car, it seemed very unlikely they would be washing it themselves anytime soon. How nice would it have been, to wash this customer’s car and return it to them looking like the day they purchased it from this very dealership. It truly is the little things that matter to customers. Always.  

Ironically, right behind the service drive there was a newer looking Roll Over Car Wash System sitting there unused. I asked one of the service advisors why they weren’t using it. His response, “half the time its broken, and when it is working, it takes too long so we just stopped using it.” I was shocked.

The customer benefits, but so do you.

Washing a customer’s car is truly in your best interest. Returning a customer’s vehicle washed has proven to increase CSI.  We’re all aware of the range of manufacturer benefits a dealership receives from high CSI scores.  That’s why you ask your staff constantly to remind customers they’re going to receive a survey and to please let you know if there was or is anything that would prevent them from given you the highest scores.  Returning a clean car will help ensure that customers give your store those high marks. It will also be one more reason for them to recommend your dealership to their friends and family.

washing a customer's car with a modern dealership car wash system
Today, having a modern, efficient drive-thru car wash system is as critical a component to your store as lifts in the service department. Returning a clean car to a service customer, even for the simplest of service tasks, shows you value their business and are as proud of their car as they are. We have installed a number of Belanger Car Wash Systems for our clients. They are efficient, reliable, and pay for themselves over and over in improved CSI scores.

Wrapping it up – you need to consider a car wash system.

In closing, in making the statement, “washing a customer’s car is like a cup of coffee”, I don’t make it lightly. I truly believe returning a washed car should be on the list of standard amenities that all our clients offer.

A part of every project we do, is to evaluate and upgrade the lighting in the service drive. It helps the advisors better see the condition of the incoming vehicles. So, why not take advantage of that and deliver a clean vehicle back to your customer? Your customers will appreciate it and your bottom line will likely appreciate the improved CSI scores. You may even increase body shop revenue through small scratch and dent repairs that a clean car reveals.

Car wash technology has improved significantly over the last several years. If your store has an unreliable and slow car wash like the one that was at this store, maybe it’s time to talk to us about planning an upgrade. Several our clients have had great success with the drive-thru systems we have been recommending. When you can wash a car every 90 seconds and not have to wait for one to finish before starting the next, there is simply no reason not to deliver back every customer vehicle washed. Washing a customer’s car has become just like that free cup of coffee. Customers have come to expect it.