Auto Laundry News - January 2013

Customer Service — A Critical Key To Success, Part II

By Sharie Sipowicz

In last month’s issue of Auto Laundry News, we started a discussion on the importance of customer service. This month, we take a closer look at what it takes to provide good customer service, and offer some suggestions on how to deal with unhappy customers.


So, how do you know if you are providing good customer service? To begin with, you can assure better customer service by hiring people who have a caring attitude and are eager to learn. Make sure they are articulate and have a strong sense of self-esteem. The human-resources programs of today suggest hiring people with good values and teaching them the skills that are needed to be successful.

In addition, you have to pay a competitive wage — no excuses. Paying minimum wage does not mean you cannot get a qualified person; just look at all the businesses in your area that pay this starting wage. However, you have to find the right employee by knowing what you want, the standards that are important to you, and not deviating from this standard.

You simply must spend more time training and reviewing procedures. Every successful operator I know has a standard for the type of employees they will hire, an initial training program, and a constant review process with rewards and recognition for good performance.

How can you measure where you stand with customer service now? The first step is to keep track of your customer service performance. This will ensure that goals are being met, and will let you know what aspects of your customer service need to be upgraded.

Another way is to ask, listen, and respond to what your customers are saying. Understanding customers’ or potential customers’ needs should be the top priority of any business owner. Make sure to give them an avenue to make their needs known. Ask what you can do to improve your level of success. Knowing and fulfilling a customer’s expectations is what customer service is all about.

It is important to listen to what your customers are saying, both verbally and nonverbally. In addition, encourage your employees to be aware of these signs and how to respond to them.

Also, always ask questions about your service when customers come to pick up their vehicle. Follow-up a day or two later with a postage-paid customer comment card or e-mail. You can even dazzle the customer by taking the time to make a personal call a day or two later. These things let even an unhappy customer know that you care.


How do you handle an unhappy customer? The first step is not to justify the mistake by getting defensive or offering excuses. Remember, an unhappy customer offers you an opportunity to build customer loyalty.

When a complaint is handled satisfactorily and quickly, the customer will continue to do business with you and probably become a repeat customer.

In addition, they will even tell friends and family what superior service they received from your business.

Fred Pryor Seminars offers the following suggestions on how to handle an unhappy customer:

  • Do not return aggression with aggression — one angry party is enough.
  • Empathize with the customer by acknowledging their feelings. Only respond to comments relevant to the problem and ignore false statements.
  • Listen and agree with the customer when possible, and quickly apologize if you made a mistake. One key: let the customer tell their side of the story completely.
  • Stay in control by asking open-ended questions, and make sure they are questions that the customer cannot answer with a yes or no answer. Let them know you are writing down the information you are being told so you can investigate the complaint.
  • When you have all the facts from the customer and those involved from your business, discuss a resolution with the customer. Suggest what you will do and get the customer’s agreement that this will satisfy them. Whatever you commit to, follow through. Nothing is worse than broken commitments.

In next month’s issue of Auto Laundry News, we’ll discuss good telephone skills and provide a do-it-yourself business-evaluation checklist.

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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