The Hidden Costs of In-Tunnel Collisions

November 07, 2019

When it comes to in-tunnel collisions, damage claims are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In fact, since most accidents in the tunnel are caused by customer error, such as braking or shifting out of neutral, the car wash often isn’t liable for the damage costs at all.

Even still, car washes do pay a price for every in-tunnel collision, and those costs often greatly exceed the physical damages.

Lost Time

Anytime an accident stops your tunnel, you’re losing money. Whenever vehicles collide in the tunnel, it takes time to determine what happened, fix the issue and reset all the vehicles. This is time during which you could be washing more cars.

Consider also the time it takes your supervisors to complete incident paperwork. How could their time be better spent?

Lost Customers

A collision is a traumatic experience for everyone involved. The customer who caused the accident has it the worst. They’re liable for something that doesn’t feel like their fault. It’s an experience that will likely not make them too eager to return to your wash.

Then there are the other customers whose vehicles are damaged as a result. They don’t know whose fault it is. They just know their car was supposed to come out of the tunnel clean but is now damaged.

When it comes to washing cars, customers always have another option. Even if you’re the only operation in town, they can wash their own cars. What do you think the chances are of them returning after being involved in a traumatic and stressful situation in your tunnel?

Lost Reputation

But that’s just a few customers, right? Wrong.

Studies show that an unhappy customer will share their story with nine to 15 people. With social media, it’s way more than that. The customer can share their bad experience with their 1,000 closest friends before they’ve even left your site. You can bet they’ll also leave scathing reviews on social networks and review sites that can haunt your business for years.

The-Iceberg-Effect-1.jpgLost Employees

In-tunnel collisions take a toll on your employees, too. Often, employees are assigned to tunnel lookout and receive the blame when they’re unable to prevent an accident. They also often take the brunt of angry customer complaints.

Nobody likes being threatened, called names or being a scapegoat. The stress can lower morale and ultimately send good employees elsewhere, costing you time and money to train new people. Taking this stress off employees can help you avoid these costs.

Impact on Your Bottom Line

McNeil &Co., a nationwide leader in specialized insurance programs, calls the impact of an in-tunnel collision the car wash “Iceberg Effect.” A damage claim, whether paid by the customer or the wash, may only be $1,500. However, McNeil & Co. Risk Management Program Specialist Dave Snyder says there could potentially be an additional $6,750 associated with indirect costs such as the effects of negative comments and reviews online, lost time for the investigation, time to repair damaged equipment and lost business due to the wash being out of service.

“Time is money, and getting the wash back up and running as soon as possible after a tunnel collision is imperative to keeping the revenue stream flowing,” Snyder said. “Just remember not to wash money down the drain by not completing an incident report and securing video footage after an incident. Months later, you can get an attorney letter blaming the wash when you were not at fault. The lack of this documentation can result in a payout to satisfy the claim, adding to those hidden costs.”

An Ounce of Prevention…

Car wash pileups impact far more than direct damage costs. They drive away customers, impact your brand and increase employee turnover. You may be able to stop the bleeding some with excellent customer service, but the best solution is avoiding the pileup in the first place.

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