Cleanliness Lesson

My old boss at Auto Glass Specialists, Mr. B, always said the customer has just one way to measure a quality job immediately after an installation: by how well the vehicle was cleaned up. Think about it for a minute—the customer doesn’t know if his glass is bonded correctly. He doesn’t know if the installation will be leak free. Many times he doesn’t know what the moldings and trim looked like prior to installation. All he knows is how his vehicle looks now.

Mr. B’s motto for his company and the installation crew was always, “leave the customers’ vehicle cleaner than you found it.” That may mean cleaning all the glass and not just the part you worked on. It could mean vacuuming out the vehicle or simply dusting the floor mats. Whatever “extras” were done, he felt the customer would appreciate and reward the effort.

I remember an incident that illustrates our company’s dedication to customer service and cleaning the customers’ vehicle:

A technician in one of the branches I managed really took to heart our owner’s directive to leave the vehicle cleaner than he found it. He was dispatched to replace a broken rear door glass. Upon arrival, he noticed that the rear passenger compartment looked like a dumpster. It was filled with sporting equipment, school books, notebooks and wrappers from every fast-food franchise imaginable. However, he knew what his job was. Once he was done with the installation, he did a stellar job of cleaning up everything.  He threw away the garbage and neatly stacked the books, notebooks and sporting equipment on the back seat and proceeded to vacuum up the broken glass.

When the technician arrived back at the shop, his manager asked him if he remembered this particular door glass. Obviously he did, and he asked if there was a problem. “Yes,” the manager said, “when you cleaned up the broken glass, the customer said you threw away a McDonalds Monopoly game piece worth a thousand dollars.” True or not, we ended up giving the customer a free installed door glass, demonstrating Mr. B’s dedication to customer service.

We may or may not have been taken advantage of, but the incident did pose a dilemma. As a company, how do we portray the impression of a “clean” car without getting it too clean? We decided to have bags printed with our company name on them accompanied by the words “Litter Bag.” We supplied every tech with a generous supply of them. The directive was that all items found in the vehicle, except broken glass, were to be put in the bag and left on the seat. What we had accomplished by using the “litter bags” was that we were able to deliver a vehicle cleaner than we found it, leave the customer a little gift of a litter bag for future use, place our company name in front of anyone occupying the vehicle and eliminate future claims of cleaning too well.

I tell the people I teach that Mr. B’s old adage is still applicable today. Use drop cloths on the interior surfaces, fender covers on exterior surfaces. Pay attention to the hidden mess, under the exterior door handle, behind the inside rearview mirror, the door pull area of the door panel and behind the steering wheel.  Don’t forget to tape up the defroster vents and radio speaker covers.  Clean it as if it were your own vehicle.  If you can leave a gift with your company’s name, they won’t forget you.