by Frank Scandura
Frank’s Mercedes Service
Let’s talk about cleanliness. And, I mean more than just surface cleaning. Ever walk into a business that looked clean initially, but really wasn’t? You could just tell. The next thing you know, you’re looking more closely under the tables and chairs, and then it’s pretty obvious that it’s not very clean at all.
The topic of cleanliness calls to mind some childhood memories, especially very fond memories of my paternal grandfather. I called him Papa. He and my father were both barbers. I remember one time a customer asking my grandfather if he could use the men’s room. My grandfather responded with humor, as he always did, “there is no men’s room, but feel free to use the ladies’ room.”
After the customer emerged, he looked my grandfather in the eye and said that was the dirtiest ladies’ room he ever saw and he proceeded to leave. I stood in shock and watched Papa walk into the restroom then come out and announce, “He’s right, it’s filthy.” He was actually embarrassed.
And, that day, I saw Papa do something I’d never seen before. He got cleaning supplies and cleaned the restroom.
This lesson was repeated when I got my first real job, at age 14 or 15, at the Exxon gas station across the street from that barber shop. My duties were clean up, and that included the ladies’ room.
Fast forward a few years and I’m at the Sunoco gas station that had two restrooms, one for the owner’s wife and one for customers. The owner never let his wife use a dirty restroom, do you? I cleaned that one, too.
I remember my mom visiting me at work one day and using that restroom, and then making the comment how it was the cleanest gas station restroom she had ever been in. She asked who cleaned it, and I don’t think she believed me when I told her I did. (After all, she still remembers my bedroom growing up.)
History Lesson Relevance
Why did I bore you with my clean restroom history lesson? Because it matters today even more than it did 35 years ago. Only now, I don’t stop at the restroom. The entire shop building, inside and out, needs to set the tone for the image you portray to your customers.
We don’t call the landlord to paint the fire lane curbs red; we get the paint and do it ourselves. Whatever we can control, we do. We clean the exterior windows on a regular basis, not when we can’t see out of them. The counters, the customer chairs, the coffee bar —everything — should be spotless. We’re in a building with multiple tenants and it helps us stand out (you can, too).
Think about how easy it would be to hire someone part time to help with the cleaning, or hire a professional company to come in after hours, one or two times a week. Get the floors polished at least once a year, or more, depending on traffic. There should not be any fingerprints anywhere. Is your shop as nice or nicer than your dentist’s or doctor’s office? It should be.
I challenge you to take a close, hard look at your entire shop. Pay special attention to the areas the customers have access to. I always tell shop owners to take pictures of every bench, wall, chair, door, nook and cranny. Get them printed, look at them when you’re away from the daily grind and select a couple of them to work on at a time; that way, you’re not spending an entire day on housekeeping.
Look at every aspect of your shop through the eyes of your customers — the shop floor, the equipment, parts shelves and, my favorite, technician work benches. Ever notice how some parts get saved for months, except the ones you want to show a customer when the car is picked up? Are new parts on nice shelves and well organized or just thrown in there? Also be mindful of the oil drains and oil tanks — they should look perfect.
Paint the shop every few years. I prefer white walls since they reflect light better and make the shop look cleaner. If you want color, add an accent stripe or design, or get some colorful metal signs from your venders. Oil companies and battery suppliers love when we advertise for them. Make sure they’re metal and they’ll last a long time.
Your employees like a clean work environment, whether they admit it or not. When their surroundings are clean and their equipment is in proper working order, they will be more productive. Let’s all do a better job showing our customers we are professional and care enough about them and our employees to provide a clean, safe and inviting atmosphere for them all.
Frank Scandura is owner of Frank’s Mercedes Service with locations in Las Vegas and Henderson, NV. The 33-year industry veteran boasts the shop’s Golden Wrench Service Commitment – providing customers with the safest and most reliable auto maintenance and repair services possible. His shop specializes in M-B, BMW, Jaguar, Audi and VW, with an emphasis on driveability.