Reaching for Perfection with the Customer Experience
November 29, 2023
5 minute Read
How customers feel is important because perception is reality. So if a customer feels frustrated or angry or inconvenienced, then the experience needs to be improved.
Competing on price is a loser’s game. Just ask the owner of the corner gas station; every time they lower the price of gas by a penny, the gas station across the street does the same thing. Clearly, that’s not sustainable, unless the gas stations want to give away the gas for free. Yet competing on price leads to this inevitable conclusion in almost every industry.
Competing on product or service has also become really difficult, as I’m sure those same gas station owners would attest. After all, they sell essentially the same products, both at the pump and inside their convenience stores.
Consider a company that many cite as one of the most innovative companies in the world: Uber. It completely upended the taxi industry, causing riders and drivers alike to rethink what it means to get from point A to point B.
But three years after Uber launched, a new company emerged: Lyft. Fast forward to today, and it’s nearly impossible to tell if a particular car or driver is an Uber or a Lyft. In fact, it’s often both.
If one of the most innovative companies in the world can essentially be copied, so can your business.
Simply put, car wash owners have to get past the fact that the service they offer just isn’t that much different from the car wash down the street. The end result is the same: a clean car.
That’s not meant to sound harsh; it’s just meant to expose the reality of today’s business climate. So if companies can’t compete on price and can’t compete on product or service, what’s left?
The answer is customer experience.
Customer experience can be defined as how customers feel about every single interaction with your company.
How customers feel is important because perception is reality, so if a customer feels frustrated or angry or inconvenienced, then the experience needs to be improved. And “every single interaction” means that each step along the customer journey — from the decision to visit a particular car wash to the feeling days later when the car still shines — adds up to a customer’s holistic view of the business.
The good news for car wash owners is that two-thirds of consumers across industries cannot remember the last time any company exceeded their expectations, according to an Acquia survey. Therein lies a huge opportunity for business growth.
Happy customers stay loyal longer, spend more and tell their friends. And when they do share a positive experience with friends, family and social media followers, that word-of-mouth marketing is far more powerful and persuasive than any advertising campaign.
Here’s the bad news: According to the same Acquia report, 72% of consumers agree with the statement: “I am loyal to certain brands, but as soon as I have a bad experience with them, I move on.”
So the customer experience bar is low, but the stakes are high and the rewards are great.
The best part about customer experience is that it’s delivered by human beings, and the humans at your business are unique. Yes, technology can help, but it can also help your competitors. No one else has your human beings, which means that you can provide a customer experience that no one else can.
There are two main ways to improve the customer experience: By creating experiences where none currently exist and by removing customer pain points.
Creating new experiences can take time, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. The key is to examine every single interaction and figure out how to make it better or at least different from the competition.
Start with every communication point, from signage to menus to receipts. Try to make each communication a little more fun, a little more human. A quick search of “funny car wash signs” on Google resulted in these gems:
● “Salt’s great on your French fries, not on your car.” ● “Umm… yeah, I’m gonna need you to wash your car, that would be great.” ● “All employees trained by Mr. Miagi.”
Wouldn’t you be more likely to stop at a car wash with a sign like that versus one that simply has a name on the sign?
Any interaction that involves one of your employees can be improved simply by teaching them to be empathetic and to look for opportunities to go above and beyond.
According to Harvard Business Review, the No. 1 most important factor in a customer’s loyalty is reducing customer effort. Think about that every day. Think about how you can make your customers’ lives easier, and how you can remove pain points. Do that, and you will create endless loyalty.
Does a car wash really need to have 6, 8, 10, or even more price points? Isn’t that overly confusing for customers, who just want to get in and out quickly with a clean car? Making customers do math, or giving them a dizzying number of add-on choices, is the opposite of reducing customer effort.
Former Major League Baseball manager Joe Maddon coined the mantra “Do Simple Better” to ensure that the basics are never forgotten.
In baseball, Maddon is talking about always making routine plays, whether it’s fielding a ground ball, sliding into second, or laying down a bunt. In business, this equates to making every interaction with the customer easier.
Simplicity is a basic tenet of customer experience, but it is often overlooked in favor of a business’s outdated policies or procedures.
Doing simple better means aiming for the fewest steps possible to complete a task, allowing a customer to easily talk to a human being if they need to, and writing all communications in a language customers can understand.
Customer experience is a journey, not a destination. There is no perfect experience because consumer preferences are always changing. What works consistently is focusing on the little things, because little things add up. Find opportunities to put a smile on a customer’s face or make interactions outrageously simple, and you’ll be well on your way to making customer experience your competitive advantage.
Article written by Dan Gingiss, a speaker at The Car Wash Show 2023.