Any length of car wash downtime is costly, and managers and operators should work diligently to prevent and minimize such occasions. Fortunately, with a thorough preventive maintenance schedule, robust backup systems, an up-to-date inventory of detergents, and a good stock of spare parts, the problems that cause downtime can be largely eliminated or minimized.
But despite all these measures the unexpected may still occur. And if a technical issue or customer accident does prevent the wash's proper function, a plan should be in place that goes beyond just putting up traffic cones, turning off the lights, and pointing customers away. Operators and managers can take steps, like the following, to put a positive spin on an unfortunate downtime situation and deliver a great customer experience regardless.
Though they go by many names, Inconvenience Cards are business-sized cards passed out by managers or staff to customers who come for a wash but are turned away due to technical difficulties. The card explains that the car wash business regrets the inconvenience and, by way of apology, invites the bearer of the card to come back for a free wash or a dramatically discounted one when the facility is back up and running.
Of course, because inconvenience cards represent a certain value, there is a cost involved and they can present theft risk. Therefore they should only be accessed and their use approved by managers in specific situations. Nevertheless, using these cards effectively turns costly downtime into a free-car-wash marketing event and ensures that any new customers coming through don’t leave with negative impressions that may turn them away forever. Instead, each visitor will return in order to redeem the card, experience the wash, and possibly become members or regular customers in the future.
This above-and-beyond approach leaves a fantastic impression in customer’s minds, and even club members (who don’t need the cards for themselves) frequently pass the cards along to close friends or family, allowing a car wash to market effectively to new customers via referral.
Other operators have had great success with freebies like air conditioners, cleaning kits, or other giveaway items to visitors during downtime. These promos can be presented to customers at the entrance as they are turned away, or at other facility locations like the dog wash centers or vacuum stations.
Again, by offering customers something relatively inexpensive, but which still has useful value, washes effectively combat negative experiences to promote greater customer loyalty and satisfaction.
If possible, update social media channels like Facebook and Twitter both when the downtime begins and when the wash is back up and running. Explain the situation briefly and with a positive tone. For instance, “We are experiencing a glitch in our computer system and are working to resolve it so that each customer receives the wash that they paid for. Please pardon any inconvenience and we hope to see you at the wash soon!”
The same goes for in-person communication on-site. Have good signage plan in place and have team members explain the situation in an open and friendly way to any disappointed customers who may come by. This can also be a great opportunity to have conversations with customers and answer any questions they raise - especially any questions regarding the local membership program!
Refer Customers to Services that are Still Open
Even if a car wash goes down, customers may still be able to make their trip worthwhile if other on-site services are up and running. Free vacuum stations, dog wash centers, or detailing services can all operate independently of the wash tunnel and offering discounts on these services or inviting customers to use them, since they are already there, can help salvage what might otherwise have been a wasted trip in the customer’s mind.
Preventing downtime and properly mainlining a car wash’s normal function is a critical priority, but failure to plan is planning to fail, and operators should take steps to make sure that if and when they do have problems, they are able to continue serving and impressing their customers. Have a plan that lets you and your team go above and beyond to deliver the best possible experience for your customers no matter the circumstances. They will notice.
Tommy Car Wash Systems.