Relationship Marketing:
The Key to Keeping Customers

By Joseph Rosales

    If you are like most car wash or fast lube operators, you invest significant time and money attracting new and return customers to your business. Obviously, most successful businesses have a plan for consistent use of advertisements and coupons. However, we find that one of the most important aspects of a successful marketing plan is based on what is done once the customer comes into the facility for service. It specifically concerns those activities that create a relationship, which will result in bringing a customer back every time he or she has a need for a service you offer.


    If your customers genuinely like you, they are more likely to use your services regardless of your price. If they don't like you, they won't use your services regardless of your price. Sounds too simple, doesn't it? Well it is, but fewer people than you might think take the extra time to develop
a relationship. This is not because operators do not see relationship building as important, but because it takes extra effort to be in position to make customer contact and develop productive relationships. It doesn't necessarily take more time, but it does require an effort.


    Recently, I was scheduled to visit with a new client. When I first arrived at his facility, I was not overly impressed. The facility was somewhat basic looking and was not very appealing. It was not well merchandised, and was only marginally clean. The employees were however technically proficient and the service was fast. The client had called me in to work with him specifically on improving the revenue per car and to help him to develop and implement some specific training processes. Before my visit, he was producing above average industry car counts.
    What I was most surprised to discover was that despite the mediocre facility, his customers were highly motivated to come to his facility. The number of compliments and praises I observed from customers was exceptionally high. The overwhelming message from his customers: They trust him as the owner. He and virtually all of his technicians have lived in the area their entire lives and everyone knows them. This trusting relationship is clearly the reason for the high car counts and even more reason to raise his prices and implement some more focused techniques to increase revenues.


   We are not talking about just giving good service, were talking about providing for and creating customer relationships. The following breakdown illustrates how typical customers base feel about their service provider:

• 80 percent don't have a definite reason to like or dislike you;
• 10 percent really like you and will always come to you for service;
• 10 percent didn't like you and will not return.

This illustrates the concept that 80 percent of your customers may be somewhat neutral about how they feel about you and your business. Sometimes referred to as the "silent majority," these customers neither compliment nor complain, but just wait to be swayed in either direction. The challenge is to move more customers from the 80 percent neutral zone over to the "really like you" zone.
Meeting the customers' expectations for quality products and services is mandatory, however many operators already do that. What can you do to stand above your competition? Let me make some suggestions to help create more productive customer relationships:

• Be in a position to make contact with your customers. Don't always have your head under a hood or in the office. If you are not in position to make contact with customers, you can't find out firsthand what your customers are saying about your business and what their specific needs are. The most productive use of your time related to business development is talking to your customers and making them feel cared for.

• Make sure your staff understands the importance of customer relationships and how superior service helps create loyal customers. Everyone should be committed to delivering customer service. Don't just tell them to do it, be sure to show your staff what exceptional customer service looks and feels like.

• Make an effort to understand what is really important to your customers. Don't just assume that you know, ask individual customers!


    Most customers aren't looking for the fastest or the least expensive service. Most are looking for the best total value. Value is determined by several factors not even related to price. These include such elements as trust, dependability, quality, and service. So don't cut your price, instead increase service, value, and relationship.
Consider a customer with a baby, a small child, and a large bag full of supplies: When she arrives at your shop, she needs someone to open a door for her and a clean and safe environment for her children to play in while she waits. She also needs help getting back into her car. Or, how about using an umbrella when greeting customers when it's raining? It takes only a little extra effort, but returns big dividends in customer impressions.
    There are literally hundreds of ways to create a positive impression with your customer and most don't require a special skill, just a desire to serve your customers with excellence. Give your customers a reason to say: Wow, this is great customer service and I will come back!

Joseph Rosales is the founder and president of Performance Resources, Inc. and has been involved in retail business development and training for over 30 years. To find out more about the services PRI offers visit our website at:, or email us at


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