How to Keep Online Customer Complaints From Tarnishing your Wash’s Reputation

May 23, 2019 | Julie Graff

It never fails. You could provide the perfect wash to hundreds of customers, but that one unhappy visitor is the one who goes on social media and trashes your well-earned reputation.

You may be tempted to delete the comment, but that would be a mistake. Deleting customer reviews and comments makes it look like you have something to hide.

Instead, take a deep breath and face the situation head on. Here are some tips on how you can limit the damage customer complaints can cause and maybe even turn them into a positive.

Have a Plan

If a negative review hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s only a matter of time. You need to have a plan in place BEFORE it happens.

Someone (either yourself or an assigned staff member) should own this process, monitoring social media and the internet at-large regularly for mentions of your business name, product names, the names of key people within your car wash, etc. There are many tools available that can automate this, such as Mention and Tweetdeck.

When there is a negative mention, it’s critical that your business responds quickly. Delays can add fuel to an already volatile situation. Even if it’s just to say you are looking into it, you ideally want to acknowledge the feedback within an hour. At the very least, make sure you are responding within 24 hours.

Make sure your staff knows who is assigned and that no one else should respond. This helps ensure appropriate and consistent responses.

Don’t Panic

When a customer complaint inevitably arises, approach the situation calmly and in a positive manner. By doing so, you can reduce, and maybe even reverse, the negative impact. Everyone makes mistakes. If customers see that you own up to your mistakes and make them right, it can actually boost your reputation.

Moreover, a couple less-than-stellar reviews can add legitimacy to your positive ones. Think about it: If you look at a product online and it has nothing but 5-star reviews, doesn’t it make you a little suspicious? Perfect reviews make people wonder if they’re real.

Publicly Acknowledge It, Privately Fix It

Post a public response saying you’re sorry they were not satisfied (even if you don’t think it was your fault) and tell them that you want to make it right. This isn’t the time to tell your side of the story. At this stage, you simply want to show that your business cares and is responsive.

Here's a good example. Even though they didn't have an answer, they acknowledged the negative review, apologized and promised to look into it.


Take the conversation offline as soon as possible to discuss the details. Hashing it out online invites others to judge your response and your business. Provide the customer with an email or phone number to contact you or send them a private message requesting their contact information.

When you connect privately, let the customer air their concerns and really listen. If you’re in the wrong, do whatever you can to fix it. Sometimes something as simple as a free or discounted future wash can go a long way to rectifying the situation and restoring goodwill.

But what if it’s not your fault? This is where you can state your case, but be sure to do so in a polite and calm way.

This can get tricky when it comes to damage claims, and we could write an entire article just on that complex issue. Here are some approaches that have worked for other operators:

  • Show customer any photographic or video evidence that the damage was present before the wash
  • Point out signage on your site that explains your damage policies
  • Walk the customer through the tunnel explaining how the equipment works. Hopefully, they'll see it isn’t capable of causing the damage.

Know When to Walk Away

The sad truth is that there are some customers you can’t please. If you’ve taken the steps above and the customer is still not satisfied, there’s often nothing else you can do.

Use the situation as an opportunity to improve your wash. If you focus on consistently providing the best customer experience, the positive word-of-mouth will undoubtedly outweigh the occasional negativity.

About Julie Graff

As our Digital Manager, Julie manages the websites, social media accounts, content marketing strategies and more for DRB. She has a background in journalism and has been helping companies with their marketing strategies since 2004. Connect with Julie on Twitter and LinkedIn.

More posts by Julie

Related Content

hand setting a red block on a wall of other red blocks

Blog Post

Setting Your Car Wash Marketing Foundation

July 26, 2024

Before you can launch a successful marketing campaign, you need to do some foundational work to ensure its success.

Read more
Multiple cars in car wash tunnel

Blog Post

Hit 1,000 Members Faster Than Ever!

June 14, 2024

The faster you can get members, the earlier you generate monthly recurring revenue (MRR) that drives ROI on your wash investment.  

Read more
upward bar graph overlay in front of a man pointing

Blog Post

Maximizing Car Wash Revenue: 4 Key Tactics for Sustainable Growth

May 30, 2024

If you're looking to achieve growth at your car wash but not interested in expanding, check out these tactics for boosting revenue.

Read more
Translucent arrow decoration

Don't Miss a Post

Subscribe to our monthly Soapbox newsletter that includes all of our latest blog articles, plus events, news and more.

Air bubbles in blue water