Focus on Fast Lube - February 2002

Training: The Second Most
Important Factor in Profitability
By Robert Brisco

How long has it been since you've reviewed your training materials and actually made changes? Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Do you have training materials? Let's assume you don't, and that your training consists of showing the "new guy how it's done." After that, your new employees are left to the watchful eye of their supervisors.

The Case for Training Materials Everyone has heard horror stories about this or that car wash owner
who got sued for this or that offense and had to pay a huge judgment. Unfortunately, that kind of thing
happens all too often in the industry. And the underlying reason can be traced back to "lack of training."

When you have a training program in place, you know exactly how a certain procedure is going to be done. You know how a customer is going to be greeted, and what your greeter is going to say. You probably have a menu of your services nearby (either on an overhanging sign, on a hand-held laminated menu, or both). But how is that menu presented? For example, if sales show one kind of wash being favored over another, you may want to listen and find out how that wash is being offered. Chances are, if the higher priced wash package isn't being purchased at the level you'd projected, something is very seriously wrong with the presentation. And that's a training issue.

What about detailing? Do you see a good mix of your detail packages being sold each week, or does your report reflect just one or two packages getting the majority of your business? Once again, that should be a red flag that things aren't necessarily right at your initial point of customer contact. Again, that's a training issue.

Do you use different colored towels for windows, body and doorjambs? If you don't, you should, so the grease from the doorjamb and the dirt from the car body don't contaminate the windows. Let's face it, once your customer sees a dirty window, no matter how clean the rest of the car may be, the entire car's cleanliness will be questioned. Remember that when it comes to washing a car, perception is everything -especially in an intensely competitive marketplace! It's a sad fact of life that one improperly cleaned windshield can be the deciding factor in a customer's decision to return to your car wash.

So what does that have to do with training? Well, in this instance, the training is yours! If you decide to have a different color towel for each purpose, then you will have to train your staff as to the reasons why - and then follow through, that is, make certain the towels are washed separately according to color, so that a "window towel" isn't contaminated by the grease from a "door jamb towel."

We are all concerned about our numbers. We know that we have to keep both costs of goods and labor costs down yet maintain a level of service excellence that will generate repeat customers. The correct washing of towels can help control costs. Prescribe a method for washing, that is, predetermine the amount of laundry soap to be used, provide training on overloading - and underloading - machines.

Train your staff to never, ever, allow a towel to come in contact with the ground. Not only might the towel pick up dirt or rocks (which could scratch the finish of a customer's car), it also looks sloppy and disqualifies the towel for future use until it's been re-washed.

Cleaning Doorframes and Jambs
Your customers should know that each time they drive into your car wash they'll receive the same quality of service they received previously. Establish a set routine for the cleaning of doorframes and jambs. Consistency from one wash to the next is as important to the customer as the cleanliness of the vehicle.

The list just goes on and on. Do you have procedures in place for vacuuming ashtrays, crevices, and door panels? What about the proper procedure for cleaning wheels? What is the best way to apply tire dressing? What is the proper procedure for shampooing mats? Is there a different procedure for rubber mats? Do your crewmembers smile? Are they enthusiastically friendly to both customers and colleagues?

When it comes to training, I've barely scratched the surface. (Sorry, "scratch" is a bad word in the car wash industry!) It's a topic that needs to be taken very seriously - and it's ongoing. It cannot be a once-a-week occurrence. It should be front and center every day, with every employee, to make certain that each staff member provides nothing short of excellent service to your customers.

In case you wondered what the first most important factor was in achieving profitability: It's getting cars to your store in the first place. And that's a function of marketing!

Robert Brisco has been manager of OILSTOP's Wine Country Car Wash for almost two years. He has worked at the wash for over five years, thoroughly training in each position before moving to the next.

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