A new drive through self-service car wash called Auto Spa opened up in my neighborhood, so I decided to try it. As I entered and saw it cost seven dollars, I thought that was a bit pricey just to wash the outside of the car, even though unlike other self serves, this one dries the vehicle for you. However, they market themselves as a car spa, so maybe there were some spa like amenities.
At the full-service car wash I normally frequent, they clean the inside and outside of the vehicle for ten dollars. Even when they’re crowded, they go the extra mile as well, sometimes rinsing off the mats or using compound to erase a scratch. They don’t charge for it either. Instead they smile and say, “our pleasure”.
As my car and I exited the auto spa washroom, four men yielding drying cloths began wiping down the vehicle. I opened the driver’s door and pointed to the dirty water that had pooled on the ledge where you step into the car and asked one of the men if he would wipe that too.
He replied, “we don’t do that”.
I was surprised so I repeated what he said and inquired why not?
He answered, “we just don’t do that”.
Not wanting to get into an argument, I pointed out that he was already drying the car and the dirty water at the bottom of the door was caused by the wash.
He shrugged and walked away.
So, as he and his three colleagues stood just feet away, I opened the trunk, pulled out some towels and wiped the dirty water caused by the car wash as they watched.
I was about to leave when a cloud of irritation swept over me. That’s when I got out of the car and found the manager. I told him as one business owner to another, I wanted to give him some friendly advice. After explaining what happened, he said he was sorry, and they would dry it next time. I said there wouldn’t be a next time because I was never coming back. I told him I would return to the car wash down the road because they provided better service and you got more for your money.
He nodded. I continued and explained that the bigger problem is business thrives by word of mouth. If I tell someone I had a bad experience, they’ll tell someone else who will tell someone else who will post on social media and then people stop coming. However, if you go the extra mile and provide great service, your customers can become your best public relations agents.
Something seemed to resonate as he asked who of the four employees refused to wipe the dirty water from my car. Not wanting to get anyone in trouble, I said I wasn’t sure. He walked over and reprimanded all of them. I drove away.
Regardless of industry, going the extra mile is about providing value for others. When you help someone out, do something without being asked or provide an additional service at the same cost, that’s value. Not only do you score a few extra points, but you make others feel good in the process.
I recall a situation that coincidentally, also involved cars. A car dealer we worked with wanted to provide customer service training for its service representatives after someone failed to go that extra mile. A woman who had been without her car for several days came to pick it up. It was a dreary drizzly day with salt and melting snow assaulting cars on the roads. As she drove out and put her windshield wipers on, there was no windshield wiper fluid. Furious, she drove back to the dealership and asked why. The service manager told her it wasn’t on the work order.
A few extra minutes providing checking fluid levels could have increased customer value and led to years of additional business. Instead, the woman never came back again.
So, what exactly is value? To customers, it’s often when a person feels they received good service at a good price, or they received extra services at no extra cost. Companies often claim they provide extra value at no additional cost, but the only person who can determine value is the customer. To me, value is about the experience.
Let’s say you hire a company to provide certain services. They do a good job and you feel the cost was reasonable. Next year, you hire a different company to deliver the same services. They also do a good job, but the people are friendlier, warmer and they spend more time with you than expected. Additionally, they throw in a few extras and give you helpful hints for the future. Then they check in with you a few days later to make sure all is well. You had a better experience with the second company. That experience equals value. Value often leads to loyalty.
As I am writing this article, I’m in the process of getting some insurance quotes. I reached out to three companies. The first company emailed me a form and said when I complete it, they’ll provide a quote. The second company which I already do business with told me to call my agent. The agent told me to call someone else. The third company had someone return my phone call almost instantly. She asked questions, seemed to take an interest in my needs and promised to provide a quote as quickly as possible.
Unless the quote is outrageous, I will choose her. She provided a better experience and gave me a glimpse of what it might be like to work with her company in the future.
Do an on-line search for customer value and you will find over a million articles on the subject. From creating value steps, implementing strategies to improving customer experience, many of these articles provide solid advice. The best ones offer common sense.
That means standing in your customer’s shoes. How would you feel if your car was being serviced for days and they didn’t check the windshield wiper fluid? Or you pay good money to have your car dried and they miss part of it? Typically, it’s the little things that ruin experiences for customers. Little things add up and detract from value. When customers feel they aren’t receiving what’s valuable to them, they go elsewhere, and your business dries up.