Clean Up — For Customer Satisfaction and Profits
According to the International Carwash Association, the car wash industry brings in $23 billion in revenue each year. In an industry where cleanliness is the name of the game, many car washes owners and operators neglect to take into consideration the image and cleanliness of their business. However, in this highly competitive industry, it can be an effective way to differentiate your business from the competition and encourage repeat customers.
Even if you don’t routinely think about cleanliness, your customers do. In fact, according to a 2011 Harris poll, 99 percent of U.S. adults reported that poor cleanliness would negatively impact their perception of a business. This is especially true for women who account for more than half of a car wash/quick lube store’s customer base.
Through the development of a customized program that includes deep cleaning and ongoing maintenance, you can proactively address customer concerns regarding cleanliness, minimize complaints, and encourage repeat business.
In developing your cleaning program, focus on three main customer areas:
1. Waiting Area
The waiting area is the first opportunity to create a positive impression among customers. Keep this space in pristine condition to project the best possible image of your business. Ensure that chairs, tables, and refreshment stations are kept clean and free of debris and trash. Sanitize and disinfect surfaces daily to remove bacteria from hard surfaces such as door handles and chairs, reducing the opportunity for customers to become sick by lingering bacteria. If your waiting area includes a viewing area of the wash tunnel, wipe these surfaces as well since children are likely to have left these areas dirty (e.g., food residue, gum, germs, etc.). In addition, develop a trash-removal schedule to eliminate odor-causing waste that accumulates throughout the day.
Ensure that refreshment areas are well-stocked by providing a selection of beverage and snack choices for customers. Keep a continuous supply of coffee, tea, soft drinks, and snacks to accommodate varying customer preferences. Since refreshments are typically self-service, spot check this area frequently and clean it once every few hours to remove spills and trash.
According to the Harris survey, 94 percent of adults would avoid a business if they encountered dirty restrooms. To avoid losing customers who use your restrooms, ensure that guests are greeted with a sanitized, well-stocked, and odor-free restroom.
One of the key components of restroom satisfaction is having the right supplies on hand. Make sure restrooms are regularly stocked with soap, paper towels, and toilet paper to keep restroom users satisfied. During peak busy times, assign someone to regularly check on restroom conditions and restock essential supplies.
Fragrance is critical to a first impression when entering a restroom. Frequently, customers will complain about unpleasant odors in restrooms. Lingering-odor problems can be solved through the use of time-release air fresheners. By neutralizing odor-causing bacteria, these fragrances last longer and eliminate odors rather than simply masking them. Select air fresheners made with essential oils that deliver the highest quality fragrance for consistent performance. These air fresheners work continuously through the day to consistently deliver a pleasant first impression.
To thoroughly clean all your restroom surfaces, schedule restroom deep cleanings to sanitize and remove lingering bacteria on walls, toilets, urinals, sinks, and mirrors. During a deep clean, all surfaces should be treated with disinfectant, followed by a fresh water rinse and extraction to completely remove contaminants from the restroom. This will leave restrooms completely clean and ready for staff and customers.
3. Service and Bay Areas
Regardless of facility type, the wash tunnel or bay must always remain in top condition. With windows giving customers a clear view of the operations, the cleanliness and overall condition of the space will impact their perception of the business. To keep the service areas clean, develop customized cleaning protocols based on location needs. Use slow periods to perform thorough cleanings and remove buildup that may have occurred during the busier times. Keep wash equipment clean and regularly wash walls and ceilings throughout the bay.
Car washes that provide quick-lube services should develop more extensive cleaning protocols to keep service areas free of lubricants and fuel. Use heavy-duty cleaning solutions to cut grease and oils that spill during peak times. Matting should be placed in all areas where foot traffic flows from back of shop to the front of shop. Doing so prevents grease and oil from being transported on the bottom of shoes to customer waiting areas where they can create slip and fall accidents. Train all employees in the cleaning of service areas and create schedules based on peak business hours.
Busy days can often produce piles of soiled towels, cleaning brushes, and squeegees. Develop procedures to properly remove any tools and supplies used during the day. While employees should be trained on daily cleaning protocols, partnering with a towel laundry service can ensure clean, laundered towels are always available and dirty towels stay out of service areas.
Schedule periodic deep cleanings throughout the service areas. Keep in mind that service area cleaning protocols must adjust to changing facility needs. As your business grows and service offerings increase, these areas will likely need to be cleaned more often.
DON’T FORGET FLOORING
The cleanliness of floors throughout the car wash or quick-lube service center can be one of most critical factors influencing customer perceptions. Additionally, floor maintenance programs prevent slip and falls to increase customer safety and satisfaction. Since the car wash/quick lube environment is highly conducive to the presence of water and debris, develop an ongoing maintenance plan to remove contaminants from all areas.
A floor maintenance program should include the following elements:
Daily mopping throughout the service area, waiting room, and restrooms reduces particulates in flooring but fails to remove all contaminants. Enhance image and cleanliness by scheduling periodic deep cleanings to remove buildup. Deep cleaning restores flooring through a combination of temperature, agitation, chemicals, and extraction to effectively remove chemical residue, oil, and dirt.
Once floors have been deep cleaned, you want to preserve their pristine condition. While wet floors cannot be completely prevented in a car wash, they can be offset by the placement of matting to absorb water. To prevent the spread of water into waiting areas and indoor spaces, combine rubber scraper mats outside and carpet mats at all entrances. Make sure your mats are long enough to capture contaminants from both feet as a customer or employee walks across. Keep service area contaminants from being spread to the rest of the facility by placing matting in high-productivity areas. In addition to keeping your facility clean, proper mat placement will lower your risk of a costly slip and fall accident.
The right tools and cleaning agents are critical to daily floor maintenance that will keep flooring in top condition for customers and personnel. Sweep floors frequently to remove debris and dirt from the building. Work with employees to determine the best times to mop floors during the day. When using wet mops, be sure to use dual chamber mop buckets that separate the clean and dirty water. This will protect against spreading dirty water over your clean floor.
Once the floor surface is clean, use agitation tools such as brushes to keep debris and oils from building up on flooring surfaces. Keep in mind that proper dilution is essential to ensuring floor-care chemicals work properly. Wall-mounted chemical dispensing units properly dilute chemicals every time they’re used to improve employee safety and inventory control. Provide ongoing training so employees know how to properly clean floors and reinforce cleaning frequencies with checklists so other team members know exactly when floors were last cleaned.
A comprehensive floor-maintenance program will keep even the busiest car wash or quick lube operation in top condition. Ensure that all employees are on board and understand the impact that clean floors have on the business and customer satisfaction.
In this industry, peripheral business responsibilities such as cleaning can often seem overwhelming for even the most seasoned personnel. You can alleviate much of the time and potential issues associated with cleaning duties by partnering with a facility services provider. A customized program with inventory management by a service professional can deliver everything your car wash needs to provide an exceptionally clean experience for your customers — restroom essentials, waiting room refreshments, mats, cleaning tools, cleaning chemicals, and fresh towels. In addition, they will use professional equipment and highly trained service technicians to achieve optimal results, boost customer satisfaction, and positively impact the most important part of your business — the bottom line.
Dave Mesko is senior director of marketing for Cintas with more than 16 years industry experience. Cintas Facility Services offers a wide range of solutions that enable businesses to build their image and increase profitability and productivity. For more information, please visit www.cintas.com/FacilityServices.