“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” – Jeff Bezos

Welcome to the year 2020! New year, new goals, new opportunities. Would you run your business without looking at financial statements? Do you know how many cars you need to wash at an average price to achieve your goals? Do you know your customers?

If the last question stumped you, you’re not alone. Actively earning customer loyalty may be the single most profitable action you can take. I recently saw one study conducted by management consultants Bain and Company that shows increasing customer retention by 5 percent can give a whopping 25 percent boost, or more, to your profits.

It’s generally easier to keep a current customer than it is to secure a brand new one. But without a connection, customers may feel like they are only a dollar sign to you.


In my experience the key to success lies not only in the wash quality you deliver but also in knowing your customer. Listen, we deal with competition every single day. Win with your customer and you’ll win the repeat business.

The following five tips are my top suggestions for earning repeat business.

Step 1: Make Your Intention Clear to Your Staff

“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” – Henry Ford

Human interaction. Ever meet someone for the first time and before they even say hello you have already formed an opinion of them? Then they do something as simple as smiling or bringing up a topic that you enjoy or (in the case of car washing) asking a question that makes you feel they generally care about the service you are looking to receive. Trust is built.

As an owner or manager, customer satisfaction is a top priority. You may pay your team’s wages but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, your team works for the customer.

Of course, product details, understanding soaps and waxes, and pricing are important but without building a rapport with a customer, you can miss out on long-term revenue and much more.

When a customer complains about their car still being dirty, empower employees to fix the problem. Let them know it’s ok to rewash the car and hand the driver a coupon to scale up on the next wash. With this approach, you’re building a trusting relationship and loyalty to your brand.

Encourage your staff to guarantee interaction is contributing to customer satisfaction. Thank customers for their business. Offer suggestions for an even better experience. Remember, it’s the small things that make a big difference.

Step 2: Be Consistent

“The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.” – Richard Branson

Consistency is not just about the cleanliness of the vehicle. Customers count on a predictable wait time, amenities, hours of operation, and familiar interactions with your staff. They don’t want surprises.

If equipment breaks, get it fixed within 24 hours. If your lights go out, replace them. If your chemical mix is off, adjust it. Your retention rate won’t rise overnight, but in time, you’ll see the difference.

Step 3: Know Your Customer

Once upon a time, knowing your customers meant exchanging a firm handshake. The world has moved on, and your ability to gather data has exploded. Websites are the new billboards, marketing automation is the checklist, and social media is the back fence.

With your website you can gather information by signing up subscribers for clubs and perks. With club membership or opt-in perks, you’ll not only know who your customers are, but what they buy and how to entice them to buy more.

You also want to entice customers to get social. Request that they connect on your social media pages for information on future events and promotions. Make it personal and take it local. What’s even better about social media is that you’ve now inserted your wash into their personal time.

Your pay stations are also a venue to gather information. Once you identify customers, monitor how often they show up, what they purchase, and what you can offer for return trips. Incorporating license plate recognition (LPR) takes it a step further. LPR lets you gather the most information with the least effort.

Step 4: Keep it Personal

How many e-mails do you delete on a daily basis that you never read? You know the ones from your favorite retail store — save 25 percent today only!

Customers are most likely to take advantage of an offer aimed directly at them. Create a subject line that makes sense to your customers. Try a software program that inserts their name into the subject or e-mail. Thank them for their business, note their last purchase, tell them it’s been three washes since they had a tire shine, and you suggest upgrading on their next wash. Communicate with their best interest in mind. If you operate multiple washes, base your offers on geographic area, local celebrations, or weather events.

If your customers come in at off-peak hours but don’t come often enough, send out announcements of early bird specials. “Exclusive” perks will make a customer feel special and eager to take advantage of VIP treatment.

Step 5: Don’t Fake it until You Make it – Be Real

Frequently touching base with your customers will keep your wash on their minds. Find unique ways to spark a conversation where they can relate in some way: Who wants a bubble bath? Your car. Come in for a visit.

For those who haven’t shown up for a while, a slight nudge like a “drive-on-back” discount may do the trick. You can also send a heartfelt query asking why you no longer see them.

Keep your signage and materials up-to-date and vibrant in color. Rearrange your waiting room. Walk around your property, pick up trash, improve the landscaping, and touch up the paint.

Interact with your social media followers on a real-time basis. Respond, interact, and educate them on new equipment or chemical upgrades you’ve made. Broadcast your enthusiasm and offer the chance for a new and exciting experience.


Getting repeat business takes thought, planning, time, and effort. You and your team won’t have all the answers and may make mistakes. But if you are being true to your brand and communicating naturally with your customers, you’ll earn your customers’ trust and repeat business.

While the process to earn repeat business seems pretty simple, many sales teams forget the basics and the importance of caring more about the individual than just the sale. Whether you are new to the concept or just need a reminder, incorporating some or all of the tips in this article will help your bottom line.

Anthony Analetto has over 35 years’ experience in the car wash business and is a partner at SONNY’S The Car Wash Factory. Before coming to SONNY’S, Anthony was the director of operations for a 74-location national car wash chain. Anthony can be reached at (800) 327-8723 x 104 or at AAnaletto@SonnysDirect.com.