For those who read my column monthly, you may have noticed I have a handful of chosen quotes — versions of “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” Another one of my favorites comes from former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: “There are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.”
As a basis for hiring the best staff at your wash, I’m melding them together. Why? Because I’m a business owner. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a manager. And as a global pandemic continues and a presidential election approaches, I am neither a politician nor a fortuneteller.
I must implement systems and processes that ensure my business can roll with the punches.
So, what do I know? I know that I don’t know if there will be another stimulus; if a stimulus will pay staff more to stay home than to work; when or if the economy will recover; if we’re soon struggling to find staff; or if we’re entering a prolonged period of unemployment.
Fortunately, I have a couple of knowns.
I know that people want and need to wash cars. I know that my volume of customers is growing at a steady pace. I know that a competent and motivated crew is vital to customer loyalty. And I know that if I work hard to recruit, train, and retain the best staff, I’ll have the best chance at success — regardless of what happens beyond my control.
Gut hiring decisions can wreak havoc on your success. We have all made the mistake of hiring the first person that comes through the door. Sometimes it works; most times it only works for a short time. In order to attract, screen, select, and train qualified people, create a written process for hiring and put in place a set of onboarding procedures.
Your finished recruitment process may look different than mine, but it should address each of the following areas:
Get It in Writing
Prioritizing and writing down key requirements for each position at your wash may seem time consuming but the payoff is worth it. Think about the qualifications you’d like a potential employee to have — traits, characteristics, and experience. Determine the pay range.
And write it all down as parameters when hiring.
Get It Right
Some express operators start by hiring a manager with car wash experience. The manager’s first job is to hire a combination of full-time, part-time, and temporary staff. Other operators create an organization chart and job description for each position, then hire for each position. Both net at hiring six to eight people. That’s where the similarities end.
The operator that hires without job descriptions in place will tend to have a higher turnover rate. This costs time and money.
First, create a clearly defined organization chart indicating the number of positions needed to deliver your customer satisfaction standard.
Next, define what qualified means in terms of work-related aspects of each position. Managers should have a different written job description than a customer service attendant (CSA). Part-time CSAs should have a different job description than full-time CSAs. Customer service and customer satisfaction skills should appear in every job description. Feel free to customize the wording, but a phrase like “must have an outgoing personality and interact positively with customers to ensure an enjoyable experience,” can go a long way in hiring qualified staff.
Finally, have new hires sign their job description before starting and make sure it has customer service as a core value of your wash. When working with an employee to improve their performance, this signed document provides the standards they agreed to.
Never find yourself scrambling to hire a warm body to keep the tunnel open. Develop a process to attract, screen, and select the best candidates before positions open.
This starts online. Your website should have an open invitation to download or submit an application. Drive potential applicants to this page.
When someone stops in asking for a job, give them an application, ask that they fill it out and e-mail it back to you. They may not have a scanner, so let them know they can fill it out online or take a picture of the completed application from their cellphone. Maintain the list of qualified candidates in a batch e-mail service.
Share the opportunity with your internal employees and encourage your staff to provide referrals. Refer back to the walk-in and online applications you’ve collected. This should be in your e-mail. When job openings become available, you can send one e-mail to the list which has a big button telling them to forward to a friend.
Make It Known
Once you identify the best candidate, train them. Several car washes have formal onboarding processes including training sessions, videos, and testing related solely to understanding the customer service culture and expectations of the operation. Staff works at the car wash and for your customers. There should be no question in an employee’s mind as to how they must dress, smile, and communicate.
Make Raving Fans
Step back and see your wash from your customer’s perspective — would you be a raving fan? With current equipment and chemistry technology, nearly anyone can produce a clean, dry, shiny car. Real success and growth come from superior customer experience. Every detail matters.
Making customers feel welcome by a friendly smile is hard to automate. Helping customers feel appreciated with a quick thank you or wave goodbye is hard to replicate.
Bring It All Together
I’m a huge fan of automation. I’ve spent countless hours crafting videos at menus and pay-stations to make customers feel welcome. I use controls to notify me if something isn’t running right. I’ve even day-dreamed about a self-vacuuming robot to keep my driveway clean (I have one in my house after all).
At the end of the day, we’re a service business. The known known is there will always be a customer service component that involves a positive interaction with the staff. Automate it as much as possible. Create the organization chart. Create the job descriptions. Create the parameters that make it easy for you to find and identify staff that meets your requirements. Be in control of your hiring process.
Good luck, and good washing.
Anthony Analetto has over 35 years’ experience in the car wash business and is a partner at SONNY’S The Car Wash Factory. Before coming to SONNY’S, Anthony was the director of operations for a 74-location national car wash chain. Anthony can be reached at (800) 327-8723 x 104 or at AAnaletto@SonnysDirect.com.