Busy managers often put off maintenance duties until equipment breaks down or the supply closet is empty. Not so for customers of Super Wash, a company based in Morrisson, Ill., that builds self-service car washes. Super Wash customers get quarterly reminders from the company's customer advocate, whose job is to nip potential service crises in the bud and keep customer relations positive rather than adversarial.

Four times a year, the 450 owners and operators of Super Wash car washes receive a phone call from a proactive service representative. The rep finds out whether their equipment has been functioning properly, what glitches they have encountered in receiving supplies or parts from the company, or whether they need any help preparing for a big event. Summaries of the conversations are then handed over directly to Bob and Mary Black, cofounders and chiefs of the company, as a way for them to monitor the quality of service customers are receiving.

"We depend upon the quality of our service and referrals to sell new car washes," says Mary Black, who notes that because of the proactive service customers receive, the company employs just one salesperson on staff and "there is no wining and dining here." Black says the customer advocate position more than pays for itself.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing