Now is the time to take your customer service to the next level. I have spoken with many operators who have cut back on their marketing budgets due to slow or declining sales growth but continue to look for ways to increase sales. Many don’t realize that they can increase their sales by giving their existing customers the “Red Carpet” treatment.

There is no better time than the present to evaluate how you treat your customers and find new ways to go above and beyond their expectations. So put on your thinking cap and start thinking “outside the box” for new ways to enhance your existing customer service plan.


For starters, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If you had an issue how would you want it handled? Assuming you are like most customers, you understand that problems do happen but you want the problem resolved as quickly as possible with a fair outcome. I have attended several customer service seminars and training programs. The one that sticks out in my mind the most is the customer service strategy at Ritz Carlton. The Ritz is a premium brand and they pride themselves on customer service. They realize they charge more for their services, but feel their customers continue to stay at their hotels because they provide the highest level of customer service and go above and beyond what the customer expects. Their attention to detail is second to none.

The Ritz Carlton chain realizes that its biggest asset is its employees. They spend a great deal of money training their employees on how to interact with customers. They empower them to deal with customer service issues and find the best solution for each situation. There are no pre-defined “must do’s.”


Here is an example of how a problem was handled at the Ritz Carlton Chicago:

A guest was swimming in the pool and asked one of the pool attendants if he would bring him a hot sandwich with fries. The pool attendant normally didn’t take orders for food from guests, but he replied, “Yes sir. No problem. I will get that right out to you.” The pool attendant took a break from his duties and went to the kitchen and placed the order for the customer. He waited patiently for the order to be completed and then delivered the order to the customer’s table.

Meanwhile, the customer continued to swim in the pool. About ten minutes later, the customer got out of the pool and went to his table. The customer flagged the pool attendant down and told him that the sandwich and fries were cold and asked if he would take it back to the kitchen and bring him another. This is where most people would have lost it and told the customer what he could do with his sandwich. The pool attendant handled it the Ritz Carlton way. He didn’t get angry and simply said, “No problem sir. I will gladly do that for you and because of your inconvenience you do not have to pay for your sandwich today. It is on me.”

Wow! That is great customer service! But, it gets better. The customer enjoyed his sandwich and continued to lounge by the pool. He was greatly surprised at what he found when he finally went back to his room. In the entry way there was a nice display of cheeses, a bottle of champagne and a note that simply said, “Sorry for the inconvenience with your lunch at the pool today. Please accept the cheese platter and champagne as a token of appreciation for being such a valued customer.”


This customer wasn’t a movie or sports star. He was a businessman who was in town for meetings. Do you think the Ritz Carlton exceeded his expectations for customer service? What type of reputation do you think you would develop if you offered this level of service at your car wash? Exceeding expectations is a means to create value for your customers. The expectations you exceed today become opportunities for tomorrow.

Do what you say you are going to do.Why should you care what your customers think and say? It costs six to eight times more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Did you know when a customer has a bad experience, if the situation isn’t handled to their satisfaction, they typically tell 10 people about their negative experience? Keep your customers happy.


Here are 12 tips to help boost your customer service plan:

1. The first thing to do is evaluate how you are treating your employees. Are they satisfied with their job? One disgruntled employee can easily run off dozens of customers. Find out if you have an employee problem and fix it.

2. Be reliable. Reliability arises from consistent follow through and execution. Set a standard for service and product quality.

3. Be credible. Do what you say you are going to do.

4. Be responsive. Share your customer’s pain.

5. Keep your employees in the “company loop.” Let them know what is going on internally. This will make them feel important and feel like valued insiders. Talk to them often and get their feedback on your customer service plan. Remember that employees are internal customers and earning their loyalty is important.

6. Empower your employees to make decisions on the spot. Give them the authority to resolve issues without having to call you, or a supervisor.

7. Embrace change and reward innovation. Ask and act on advice from your frontline employees. Most of the time they are the only interaction your customers have with your wash.

8. Explain to employees the value of each customer. It seems trivial, but I have seen employees that work on tasks at hand and are completely oblivious to the customers around them.

Ask what would make the process better.9. Recognize and reward your employees for delivering outstanding customer service. Encourage employee-to-employee recognition for customer service. This is a great moral builder.

10. Constantly seek innovation. Ask everyone what they would do to make the process better. Having several viewpoints will help you offer the best solution.

11. Seek and act on customer feedback. Rather than have a customer fill out a survey, talk with your customers and let them tell you what they think of your business. Ask them what changes or additional service they would like to see at your location. Empower your customers.12. Make your customers feel important. Have customer appreciation days, offer goodies, thank them for their business.


There is no better time than now for you to evaluate and revamp your customer service plan. You are potentially losing valued customers because issues are being overlooked. Good customer service is essential to the survival of any business. Exceptional customer service will make you stand out in the crowd. Start out by treating your internal customers (your employees) well, keep them in the “company loop,” and let them do what it takes to send each and every customer away happy. Your bottom line will thank you for it.

Wash on!

Bobby Willis has been in the car wash business for over 20 years. He owns and operates Cool Wave Car Washes in Virginia. He can be reached at