How to turn an upset customer into a happy customer

Written by on Aug 9 2012

Note: I grew up in the car wash business, my Grandfather opened car washes in the early 1950’s and my Dad still runs them today.

As a child I saw my Dad talking to the occasional upset customers at the car washes we owned. A customer would be angry because something on their car wasn’t clean to the standard they expected. When the customer asked to speak with the manager, my dad would listen to the problem and not make an excuse. Instead, he’d ask one question:

“How can I make this right?” Side Note: Seriously these words are magical, how do you get mad at someone when they ask you this?

The customer, stunned they weren’t being given the runaround, would reply, “Please clean X better.” My dad would usually ask, “Do you have an extra five minutes, I’d like to re-clean the whole car myself?” The customer didn’t expect the owner of the car wash to fix the mistake. Dad would then go out and wash, vacuum, dry, and dust the whole car—he’d do every bit of the work himself. He’d then give the customer free wash coupons, one refunding their money and a second coupon for that customer to give to a friend. I’ve seen customers stand there dumbfounded, or hug him or simply walk away happy.

You can’t always “win.”

“Winning” is ego driven. Did every customer that complained have just cause? No, many customers had too high of an expectation of a $10 car wash. But an excuse would only have fueled that upset customer to tell all their friends about their bad experience.

To be generous and giving means a few people will take advantage of your kindness, but this shouldn’t stop you. Everything, even a complaint, is an opportunity. Be generous and humble.


Hi I'm Allan,

I wrote the article you're reading... I'm one of the co-founders of LessEverything. I love my family more than breathing and I love creating videos about our family adventures.

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