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Avoiding the Curse of the Terrible Towel

How to improve the customer experience.

On a recent business trip, I stayed in one of the area’s nicer hotels. The lobby was amazing, the staff was very courteous and helpful, and the check-in process was quick and efficient. Once I secured my key, I headed up to my room to unwind. Upon opening the door, I was pleased to find a nice room layout and good-sized flatscreen TV. I kicked off my shoes and went to hang up my clothes in the closet next to the bathroom.

It was at that moment that I saw something out of place: A sopping wet towel was hanging from the shower rod, dripping water onto the bathroom floor.

“Ugh, disgusting!” I said to myself, and a string of questions immediately began pouring through my brain. “Why it is it there?” “How do I get it down without touching it?” “Why is it wet – how could someone have left it there?” “Should I get a new room?” And so on. I’m not really a germaphobe, but this was more than a little gross.

More internal dialogue followed: “You would think a hotel this nice would have a process to ensure this stuff didn't happen. But maybe this place doesn’t have such a process. Maybe this place isn't so nice after all. There was a nice place across the street and it costs the same so maybe I should stay there next time.”

My wet-towel problem got me thinking: As a business owner, I recognize how hard it is to get everything right – and how easy it is to ruin the experience by missing a single detail. I continue to question our practices at bluemedia, but I sometimes wonder how often we might miss details like these. And, by missing something like the wet towel, how often – and how badly – do we ruin the customer experience?

A matter of pride
Just as importantly, what can we all do to ensure our own customers don’t find a “wet towel” when it comes to our performance and jobs? What follows are just a few points I’ve come up with.

I know it seems basic, but a process to ensure that a final inspection is done after a wrap is installed is vital. This inspection should be thorough and it should be done by someone other than the installer who completed the wrap. A second set of eyes here garners a much higher probability to catch anything undesirable. The inspection should be scheduled, planned for, and assigned. It should cover not only all wrapped areas but many other items – including clean mirrors, no tools left on or in the vehicle, and windows cleaned inside and out.

And this inspection should always involve a physical checklist for many reasons. Checklists are easily editable, easy to add to as your experience level increases, and easy to print out as needed. A good process might require that the checklist is taped on the window of each vehicle that comes in for a wrap.

I must admit, I’m also a big fan of the inherent accountability in requiring initials and time stamps at the bottom of the checklist. This feature keeps it front-of-mind that we’ve promised our customers a certain level of professionalism and thoroughness, and we expect it to be followed. The signature line could read, “Proudly inspected and found to be perfect by [name].” This should be a matter of pride – not only for the shop owner who made the rules, but the install team who actually executed the amazing job.

Next, it’s time to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and think hard about the details required for a perfect presentation of a freshly wrapped vehicle. I recommend that our vehicles are washed, free of hand prints, and that the wheels and tires are dressed to a shine. Make sure that someone checks all seams, removes any grease-pencil alignment marks, and looks for anything out of place like masking tape or edges not completely down. This is also a great time to look for any vinyl popping up in tight corners, bubbles in the window perf, or any vinyl that’s not been trimmed to perfection.

The challenge
To ratchet your service up to the next level, ask what more you can do. Call a team meeting and get a whiteboard brainstorming session going. Get creative, have fun, and come up with cool ideas here.

Can you check the tire pressure, throw in a cold bottle of water in the cup holder, and hand the client a use-and-care guide for the wrap? Maybe you can work a deal with the local bakery and include a treat for the driver? How about a free ball cap? Our bluemedia ball caps (FlexFit black hats with an embroidered “b” offset on the front) have been a customer favorite for years. I’m sure there are a lot of great ideas on how to perfect the final delivery of a vehicle that has been newly wrapped.

Let’s learn from the best in other industries and be more observant of what makes for an amazing impression. The W Hotel gives out stress balls, Mercedes-Benz calls you by name as the camera reads your license plate and queues the lot attendant, and Neiman Marcus puts out iced tea on hot days for shoppers. These are all examples of customer-centric companies that have applied a great deal of effort to ensure the maximum customer experience.

I challenge us as an entire industry to find ways to step up our collective game. It’s time to think, time to innovate, and time to improve the customer experience. It’s time to get processes in place that a wet towel could never sneak past.

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