Auto Laundry News - January 2011

Service Success — Customer Satisfaction vs. Customer Loyalty

By Sharie Sipowicz

Customer satisfaction is at an all-time high, but customer loyalty is at an all-time low. At first glance, this might seem to be a contradiction. However, it is really quite simple: satisfied customers will shop anywhere. Satisfaction is not an indication that a customer will patronize a business again. Haven’t you, as a consumer, been quite satisfied with service but never returned to that place of business?

Businesses are discovering that today customers’ satisfaction is no longer a measure of customer success. Loyalty is. What then makes the difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer?

Simply, a loyal customer is one who will say good things about your business and make personal referrals, that is, personally tell friends and relatives that they should do business with you. Loyal customers are those who would rather “fight than switch.”

Okay, how can I make my detail customer loyal to me? I have always thought they wanted a cheap price and good quality. That is not true. When you offer a lower price, the customer becomes “loyal” to the lowest price. Nevertheless, as we all know, there is more to loyalty than money. Money can certainly be used as bait to lure customers from their present detail shop. However, remember that the lower their loyalty to the other detail shop, or to your detail shop for that matter, the more they will take the bait of lower prices. What does that tell you?


Loyalty occurs if you are first in mind when a motorist wants a detail. Satisfied customers are the last to tell you they decided to use another detail shop. Loyal, first to know. Satisfied, last to know. Think about it.

You can better understand loyalty if you apply it to the word “fan.” If you have an NFL or NBA team in your city, you could be called a “loyal fan” of that team. Fan, as you know, is derived from the word “fanatic.” Sports loyalty is to love one team and hate its archrival. Do your customers love you?

To make it even more complicated, loyalty is not a one-action event. If it were, everyone could be considered “loyal.” Loyalty evolves. For example, loyalty to a spouse or friend matures or, conversely, dissolves over time, based on what you do or say.


So what can you do to get your customers to be loyal to only you and your detail shop? As mentioned, loyalty does not just happen. There are a number of elements that breed loyalty with customers:

Try to be unusual; do the unexpected. Changing what you do everyday to wow the customer can create an atmosphere where the customer just has to tell others about how great it was. Hand out a free pen or calendar, give customers a coupon for the next visit, provide a private office with a fax and phone for the business customer, etc.

Be a salesperson for your customer’s business. If you want to build tremendous loyalty, just start getting your customers hot leads and business prospects. Then when you call them, they will not know if you are buying or selling.

Give your customers valuable information to help them maintain their vehicles better. Customers want answers, not always more of your service. If you want customers forever, become a valuable resource of information they cannot get along without.

Always give proactive service. Do not wait for the customer to call you for another detail. Call or write them, and let them know it is time for another detail service. Offer to pick up and return their vehicle. As always, do something so memorable that they call others and tell them about your service.

Provide “service beyond the sale.” Give customers a supply of tire and vinyl dressing to apply on their own, a free fragrance tree, etc. Give them more than what they pay you for — something that always has them thinking about you and your detail business.

Give them the best detail service they could ever have. Actually, good service is at the heart of the loyalty process. Service that begins with yes provides solutions and ends with “wow.”

Give friendly service. How important is “friendly?” Ask yourself where you like to do business and I will wager that everyone is friendly at the establishments you choose. Your customers want to deal with friendly, happy people who give the impression that “I am happy that you are here.”

Answer the phone in a prompt, friendly, and professional way. You only have a few moments to make an impression, and the telephone is a big impression builder. Think of this from your point of view. How do you like an unfriendly, uninformed person answering the phone at a business you call?

Go beyond the expected. Customers expect a detailed car. Give them more, whatever it might be. What can you offer extra that your competition does not?

Be fun, unusual, creative, and different. Being simply human in the world of business can set you apart more than
you know. Become a likeable person and people will like to do business with you.


Loyalty is the most difficult of the customer service goals to achieve. However, once you’ve earned it, you have something your competition will never have — the next order.

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at

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