What is the your business’s greatest asset?
Is it your equipment?
Is it your building?
Is it your technology?
Is it your marketing and sales techniques?
Is it you, the business owner?

Most businesses operate under the assumption that the business owner is the greatest asset of the business and is the person employees have to please. The fact is that customers are the most important assets of the business. Staff and employees are a close second because they are the people in contact with the customers on a daily basis. The owner may oversee the operations and get to know some clients, but the employees are in direct contact with the clients every day.

EMPLOYEE/CUSTOMER INTERACTION

The reality is that the manner in which the owner treats the employees is mirrored back to the way the employees treat the customers. When employees are mistreated or disrespected by the owner, it is normal human behavior for employees to have no loyalty to the business. They do not have the business’s bestThe way employees are treated, is mirrored back onto customers.interest in mind; therefore, they will not have any reason to take care of the customers. All the employees care about at that point is showing up to work and putting in their hours in order to receive a paycheck. This is not the attitude you want your employees to have when they come to work.

Instead, the owner’s business philosophy should be concentrated on building a culture to serve the employees so they will be happy to come to work every day. Have the staff feel as if they are owners and empower them to take initiatives. In return, employees will put forth the effort to please customers and keep the best interest of the business at heart. For a business to remain successful, you have to provide the highest quality and unsurpassed service in the fastest time possible to exceed customers’ expectations and give them good reasons to come back. If customers do not come back, you lose and your competitor wins.

The following chart shows the priority of importance in most businesses. Managers and employees want to serve the owner, so they keep their jobs. When employees serve the owner, they forget about the customers. The problem with this way of operating is you are missing the first cornerstone necessary to build a strong foundation to grow your profit exponentially.Fall in love with your customers, not your company.

I visit many car washes, and some of the questions I ask management (excluding owners) and employees include:
• Who is the most important person in the business?
• Who is the person you want to make sure you please in order to keep your job?
• Who is the person who pays your wages?

Sadly, many employees answer that the owner is the most important person whom everyone has to please “because he/she is the boss and pays our wages.” The only answer to all these questions is “customers.” They are the most important people to please at all times, so they come back to purchase your services and pay the wages.

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” — Albert EinsteinThe most successful organizations are those that understand the true meaning of falling in love with the customers, not the company. The most prosperous businesses are the ones that invert the triangle and build a foundation based on the owner as the main servant to managers and employees. Inverting the triangle is something that takes time and actions by the owner to create a culture where everyone’s main concern is to serve the customer, appreciate their business, and exceed their expectations, so that the customer will remember the experience and come back.

A business philosophy based on owners serving employees is one reason why organizations prosper in good and bad times. After all, people do business with the people, not companies.

Every single customer experience counts. The better the customer experience your company provides, the more likely your customers are to purchase from you again and to recommend your services to friends. You can differentiate your car wash brand based on the experience and service you deliver to your customers. These intangible experiences are hard to copy by your competitors.

REASON ENOUGHGreat staff makes great companies.We cannot win the battle without great soldiers.

Why is building a customer service culture important to the success of your business? Would the following stats be good enough reasons?
• It is six to seven times more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. (White House Office of Consumer Affairs)
• 78 percent of consumers have abandoned a transaction due to bad customer service experiences. (American Express Survey 2011)
• Unhappy customers are highly unlikely to be repeat customers as 89 percent of customers report having stopped doing business with companies because of bad customer service. (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report 2011)
• People are twice as likely to talk about bad customer service experiences as they are to talk about good experiences. (2012 Global Customer Service Barometer)
• Nine out of 10 consumers say they would pay more to ensure good customer service.
• 70 percent of customers will do business with you if you resolve their complaint.
• 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer service experience. (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report 2011)
• A 2 percent increase in customer retention has the same effect on profit as cutting costs by 10 percent.
• A 5 percent increase in customer retention can increase profit between 25 percent and 125 percent. (Harvard University)

CUMULATIVE EFFECT

Just as you cannot blame a flood on one drop of rain but rather on all the raindrops combined, it’s not one thing you do that keeps a customer coming back, but all the little “wow” moments combined. You must provide an unforgettable experience every step of the way, starting with landscape, painting, value, greeters, bathrooms, waiting area, speed, quality, etc. Give customers as many reasons as possible to come back. Become a destination business, not a convenience business.

However, if there is one visible drop of rain that contributes most to success, it’s the culture you build at your business with employees. The happier the employees are, the nicer the experience customers will have at the car wash.

I have two cars: a BMW and a Cadillac. Both service departments I take them to are 30 minutes away from my house. I take them there not because of the company, but because of the service people I deal with. We’ve built a good relationship and I trust these service departments to take care of my vehicles.

After my service person left the BMW dealership, I have never been back. I now take my vehicle to another BMW dealer that is only five minutes from my business. As for my Cadillac, before the service person left he called me and introduced me to another service advisor. I continued taking my car to that dealer until the new service advisor left. Since then I take my Cadillac to another dealer that is also five minutes from my business, which is more convenient.People do business with people, not companies.

Each drop of rain is a reason why customers should come back to you. One reason alone is not enough. How many raindrops do you provide your customers? How strong is your flood? The first and most important thing I do when I hire a new employee is to conduct a lot of staff meetings and meet with my employees individually to build the desired culture.

In our meetings, I change my employees’ perspectives of who’s the boss. I talk about how the customer is the most important person in our business. I tell my employees that the customers, and not me, control their paychecks. The customers are the bosses and we must do whatever our bosses want so we can keep our jobs. I make employees realize that the more customers we have, the more hours they can work and the bigger their paychecks will be. The fewer customers we have, the less money we all make. Our success and quality of life depends on our customers.Good service is not good enough.Good service is the enemy of great service.

Once customers leave our facility, they have the choice to use another car wash next time. We can control their decision if we give them enough “wow” reasons to come back. We need to wow them so much that we become their destination car wash.

A HAPPY PLACE

I also mention to employees that the only way we can achieve all of the above is if they are happy at work. They work for the customer and I work for my employees. Their job is to make sure the customers are happy with the service and have a great experience. My job is to make sure the employees are happy at work and have a great experience.

If you have a choice between a work environment that is friendly or hostile, supportive or discouraging, which one would you choose?
• If you want ideas to grow, the work environment must be enjoyable.
• People who enjoy doing what they’re doing, do it better.
• Fun is infectious and has a snowball effect that helps breed good work throughout the company.
• There is a direct link between joy at work and employee creativeness, productivity, morale, retention, and customer service.

At our car wash, we create a fun, family culture and sense of loyalty. We have a sense of urgency to do whatever it takes. We all work as a team and help each other with wowing the customers as our common goal.

When we hire a new employee, if that person doesn’t learn to become part of our culture and work as hard as everyone else, the other employees can collectively decide to fire that person.

Like each one of your fingers is different from the others, each staff member is an individual and different from the others. Your job as the team leader is to have them work together as one, just as you bring all your fingers together to work as one hand.

Why do people drive out of their way to go to Starbucks and pay more for their coffee? Is it because it tastes better? Or is it because of the experience and atmosphere? I suggest you read the following two books about Starbucks: Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time and It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First From a Life at Starbucks. FYI: A happy employee invented one of Starbucks’ most desired drinks, the Frappuccino.

AJ Rassamni is the author of two books written specifically for the car wash industry: Increase Business 30% in 30 Days, and Dirty Cars Filthy Rich, He is CEO of both the Great American Car Wash and MyLoyaltyApps. AJ can be reached at info@MyLoyaltyApps.com. Text 559-284-1919.