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Posted on: August 24th, 2012

While You Wait

Regardless of what kind of winter we have coming, your customers will wait in longer lines than at almost any point throughout the summer. We know it’s coming so our answer, for the most part, has been to process faster and wash cars faster to reduce (not eliminate) the wait time. But regardless of what we do, the wait will be longer.

There are three basic queuing principles that apply to the car wash industry; FIFO (First in First Out) which applies to most in-bay automatic and express washes; LIFO (Last In First Out) which can apply to self-serve and full-service sites, and finally, SIRO (Service In Random Order) which can again apply to self-serve and full-service sites more than others. Whatever your site and whichever principle applies to you, you have a queue and you are not using it.

A queue is defined as a line of people or vehicles waiting for a service or product. There is a basic structure to a queue and points in it where customers can leave. A basic linear queue goes like this: input~queue~service~served customer. Along this line, customers will have the chance to balk or renege before being served. A balking customer is a customer that determines the line is too long and never enters the queue, while a reneging customer is a customer that enters the queue and, after some period of time, leaves because the wait was too long. These two customers are where we need to focus our attention, primarily on the reneging customer, and at the same time, we will improve the queue for all customers and improve their overall experience.

So what are 5 things you can do to improve your queue?

  1. Greet them: studies have shown that when customers wait for just 30 seconds without being greeted it feels like more than 3 minutes. When simply greeted, it reduces that feeling of time to less than 1 minute!
  2. Communicate a reasonable expectation: tell them how long they can expect to wait and BE HONEST, there is nothing worse than giving them an unreasonable expectation; under-promise, over-deliver.
  3. Make it personal: introduce yourself and the name of the person who will serve them. A face with a name will go a long way to making the wait seem shorter.
  4. Re-communicate: if or when the wait time changes, start over! Possibly offer them a free service or air freshener, don’t leave them sitting wondering why they are not moving
  5. Say thank you: say it with a smile and be sincere.

Practice these 5 basic techniques and you could turn your reneging customer, into your most loyal customer this winter!