Customer feedback is the raw material needed to improve customer service. To give customers an opportunity to offer feedback, the Fire House Car Wash, an automated, full-service car wash in Denver, installed a bright red phone labeled "Hot Line to the Owner" in the waiting room. About 10 customers a week use the phone to speak with owner Bill Kuntzler.

"Customers love the phone," says Kuntzler, "because it's a direct line to me anytime they have something to report. Eighty percent of calls are from people who just want to say thanks because we offer free coffee or because employees were extremely polite and did a great job. Some of the calls come from kids in the waiting room playing with the phone. I'm always pleased to get calls from customers, and if playing with the phone entertains waiting children, all the better." If Kuntzler is unable to take the call, an empathetic message encourages customers to leave a message or, if they prefer, to see the receptionist. Kuntzler responds to all messages within 24 hours.

The 75-employee operation washes 4,000 cars a week. Its success, says Kuntzler, is due to its commitment to customers.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing