What can we learn from a car wash?

by Diane Campbell

I attend a networking event at my local chamber. In there, is a car wash owner, that does hand washing and detail work. His business is located in a busy area. It’s not in the city of Atlanta but in one of their sprawling suburbs. He has sponsored a sign inside the chamber that I see every week. Wanting to support my fellow chamber member, I drove out of my way to get my car washed before a company retreat. Here’s what I found.

A killer location, probably over 50-75 thousand cars pass this location each day. I knew exactly where it was by looking it up on google. When I approached, because of the busy location, I had to turn in. If I didn’t, the recovery time to get back there with traffic, would have deterred me so much, that I would have opted for another day.

It’s 9:20 in the morning on a Thursday. Still rush hour around here. Once in, I am not greeted by clear signage, not greeted by an attendant, and not entirely sure if I’m in the right place.

I drive around the building once, and on my second time around, one guy comes out. He looks like he just woke up. Baseball hat is sideways and shirt is wrinkled, pants are falling down and I was seeing way too much of his boxer shorts than I needed to. I roll down the window and ask if I’m in the right place? He says yes, but the owner is at some kind of chamber event he says, (the one I know him from was the day before on Wednesday). The attendant knew that much. He went on to say that no one else was here.

I had to pay cash because their processing machine was broken, and he could wash my car only after he set up the folding chairs for him to sit on for the rest of the day.

I told him I’d come back another time. I lied. I won’t be back…ever. His reaction to my statement that I would come back another time was one of disgust.  It was as if he wanted to be directed better, have a better system, and not have to turn away customers and tips.

I learned a lot in this one minute encounter. Let me share.

First, your chamber presence can be all spit and polished, but, if someone is driving to your location to support you, it had better match the presentation. He has a great location but he is totally blowing it on his presentation. Is the owner spending too much time on sales and not enough time on developing the actual business? Should he either be there himself, or have a trusted confidant to carry the presentation and culture of the business forward on site in his place?

How about you, are you where you need to be and/or have the right people in the right place, doing the right things?

Second, signage.  His signs were green and blue on a black background. Not sure if it works. Nor was it consistent and well marked throughout the location. I felt confused and really didn’t know what to do once in there. Is your printed material clear and simple to understand? Don’t bog down your readers with more information then necessary. If you make your information hard to read and to understand, you’ll lose them. This includes everything from your business cards, brochures, store signage, banners, flyers, all of it.

Third, employee presence. This guy was a mess. How eager do you think I was to get out of the car or give him my business. I didn’t feel safe doing either, so I didn’t. Your employees, if you have them, are an extension of you. Communicate with them the look you’re after and enforce it, otherwise, your team can take you down just by how they look. Know who your audience is that you are trying to sell to and match and mirror that look. Proper hygiene rules the day in any business.

Fourth, have payment methods available. Do you really think I’m going to get out of my car and give you cash? I’m not going to give you my credit card either. If you are in business to make money, have the ways to accept payment working. Are your payments set up correctly? If not, take a second look at them so people will feel safe giving you their money from what ever form of payment method they choose.

Fifth, you are the face of your business. The face of this business is now tarnished. I won’t ever go back nor will I refer this business to others. In my mind, it’s to risky.

How does your business look to others? Others may be saying good things or bad things based on their first impression. My impression of this car wash was great until I went there. Now my impression meter won’t move the needle. So what can you do to move the needle on your business? If your clients are happy with your product or service, ask them to give you a review on Google +, or write a testimony about their experience.

Remember facts tell, stories sell. Sell the sizzle not the steak.

I still haven’t gotten the car washed. I’m disappointed I missed the opportunity. Now my passengers with me on a long road trip, won’t get to experience my red carpet treatment for them. The sadder part is, the car owner wash never knew it and can’t fix it. His loss.

2 thoughts on “Car Wash Lessons for Business”

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