It's the middle of the winter here in the UK. In rural England where I live the roads are covered in mud and deep pools of water. Whilst this can make for some entertaining driving it also ensures a very dirty car. So dirty that I keep a packet of wet wipes in the car door pocket to clean my front and rear lights and number plates inbetween visits to the car wash so that I don't get pulled over by the traffic police.
Last week it was time for my car's annual MOT. This is a government-mandated check carried out by authorised garages to ensure the vehicle is safe to be on the road. It's always an anxious visit, even when the car is much younger than mine that is clocking in at the moment at almost 13 years old. That said, with only 45,000 miles on the clock and several recent lengthy and very good road trips under her tyres I was positive it would pass. And pass it did. To celebrate I decided to take myself for lunch and treat the car to a hand wash and valet, an upgrade from the usual visit to the local pressure wash.
The car valet service I used is in a small market town close to where I live. It came highly recommended by several friends who live on farms, have large 4WD vehicles, several kids and usually at least 2 muddy, hairy dogs. In other words their cars are usually much dirtier than mine given I have neither dogs nor kids and I don't live on a farm. The cost of the wash and valet was 6 times what I pay for a hot foam pressure wash and hot rinse, but worth it I thought. I left my car with a couple of smiling young men and headed to the local cafe for fish and chips. As I walked back 45 minutes later in the brisk, bright winter air I was looking forward to a car that was sparkling inside and out.
I was not disappointed. Not until I came out of the local supermarket 15 minutes later that is and opened the boot only to find that the grubbiest part of my car had not been touched. Disgruntled I drove off having a conversation in my head with myself about why on earth did I bother paying so much for for an incomplete job and debating whether to complain or not. I have no idea why I even thought about not complaining. Of course I needed to. It matters not how much the service cost and how much more it was than I usually pay to keep my car clean. It wasn't right and I had to take it back.
As I drove I guessed that because the valet guys are so used to cleaning really dirty vehicles - they even have a sign up saying their listed prices are for vehicles that are 'not very, very dirty' - they maybe whipped quickly through mine omitting the boot not because they were lazy but because they were cleaning what by their standards was an already clean car and they simply forgot. All that said, no matter the reason why and whether they retrieved the situation or not, I decided as I made my way back to their forecourt that I would not use their services again - too much money really and a bit of an indulgence, especially when not done properly.
As I pulled back up outside both chaps came out with looks of consternation on their faces. I asked them if cleaning the boot was part of their service and when they said yes I showed them what they had missed.
Their apologies were genuine and they immediately invited me to park up so they could vacuum the boot and clean all the panels. I appreciated their immediate retrieval and let them know so whilst all the while still thinking that I would not return. However, when they offered me a free car wash in a couple of weeks time as a gesture of apology for not doing their job properly in the first place they won me back as a customer completely. Not only that but here I am telling you about my experience, an experience that was flipped from negative to positive because I let them know they had not carried out their service obligation properly and in response they not only put things right but also offered me a free service to attract me back in the future, giving them another chance to win me as an on-going customer.
We cannot expect a service provider to improve if we do not share our concerns with them. As a nation us Brits are really good 'arm chair complainers' but often are reluctant to speak out for fear of causing offence. We owe feedback to the businesses we patronise because all comments are valuable: Our feedback helps those businesses to perform better and stay in business. Equally, when we do give feedback the business needs to respond - be that thanks for our compliments or rectification of a complaint.
Another simple equation ...
If it's not right take it back.
If it's not right, fix it.