A Cluster at the Car Wash

When was the last time you witnessed a good old fashioned rant by someone who received lousy customer service? I had a front row seat for one last week at the car wash.

As those of you who live here know, Texas weather can be erratic. Early last week the temperature topped out at 80 degrees. By Thursday the low was in the 30’s. Just before we ran out of sunlight I made a snap decision to get my car washed. When I pulled in, there were four “wipe down your car guys” standing there in a semi-frozen state. One of them directed me toward the empty car wash entrance. He handed me the receipt and I made a beeline into the warm confines of the building. I paid for my wash and took a seat in the lobby. All along I was feeling a little guilty for making these workers be out in the cold for any additional time.

As I sat there checking my emails on my phone, a lady bursts through the door and stomps towards the front desk, clearly on a mission. The unsuspecting manager was about to get blind-sided. He looks up and asks, “How can I help you Ma’am?” Within in seconds he’d be sorry he asked!

She went off, “I’ve had to clean my own car while your people could care less. I had to vacuum out the car myself. It was still dirty after it went through the wash. I had to wipe it down. I’d like to know what you are going to do about it!” Then came her best line… “Are you going to pay me for working here or what?”

The manager stumbled and bumbled into an absolutely deplorable response…

Inside Manager: Ma’am, I am the inside manager today. The manager responsible is outside. He’s the one you need to talk to.

Oh and it gets worse. The outdoor manager walks in… The inside Manager redirects his attention towards him.

Inside Manager: C’mon Joe you know better. Go outside with this customer and make sure her car is cleaned to her satisfaction.

Customer: No. You don’t understand, I finished cleaning the (expletive) car. I don’t need to get it any cleaner. I want to know what you are going to do about it!

I cringe waiting for the inside manager’s response.

Inside Manager responds: I can give you a coupon for a FREE CAR WASH on your next visit.”

Customer: I don’t want a coupon for a free visit. I don’t live around here and I’m not coming back. Are you going to compensate me for the work I performed on your behalf, YES or NO!?

Inside manager: Sorry there’s no way I can do that.

The customer (who will no longer be) turns around and stomps out.

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. The manager’s responses were so wrong on so many fronts. First, if he had his head anywhere but up his behind he would have realized this customer was not coming in to wish him happy birthday. He then could have proactively addressed the situation instead of allowing himself to be ambushed. The customer was justifiably pissed. His first thought needed to be, what can I do to de-escalate the situation?” Instead, every time he opened his mouth he added fuel to the fire. The right solution was so simple a monkey could’ve figured it out. The conversation could have gone something like this:

Customer: I had to wash my own car. Your employees could care less.

Manager: I’m so sorry Ma’am. That is unacceptable. Please let me pay for your car wash today and I’d like to offer you an opportunity to come back for a free detail, at your convenience, of course.

Chances are the discussion ends there. She might even come back. If she does and the detail service exceeds her expectations, there’s a chance she becomes a regular customer. If she doesn’t come back for the free detail, at least you went above and beyond to address her situation.

This bit about “I can’t refund your money” is pure, unadulterated BS. Certainly this company has a way to provide refunds to dissatisfied customers. If not, I would have taken the cash out of my own pocket, then, asked the boss for reimbursement. If the boss refused to reimburse, I’d go look for another job.

This is an extreme example of poor customer service which probably has more to do with poor hiring than poor training. Certainly the inside manager has been trained on the basics of customer service. However, in this situation, he was unwilling to apply what he learned.

Inside manager? Are you (expletive) kidding me?

About Culturedude

President of The Jeff and Bryce Fan Club, head cheerleader for my wife, Susan, lucky devoted brother of Beth and Barbara, perennial pal of the Bunko Squad, passionate customer service advocate, forever loyal fan of the Yankees, Packers, Buckeyes and Wildcats. favorite pastimes: writing, public speaking, golf, cartooning, reading, playing and blogging!
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1 Response to A Cluster at the Car Wash

  1. Todd Cook says:

    Great story. The employees clearly were not trained on appropriate responses. But,, keep in mind that (in my opinion) we’re at an all time high for customers taking advantage for a free wash, dinner, coffee. I see it all the time these days in places like Starbucks and Chipotle. Customer just decides to complain and the employees respond with a few coupon and I’ll fix the current order. Any car wash I’ve ever been to over the years invariably I have to ask the outside guys to dry the bumper again or the passenger window was not done right, and they do it. Sometimes I even grab a towel and show them how a real pro does it. I’m kinda on the fence on this one culture dude.

    Liked by 1 person

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