Any that join the FOXY Lady Approved network expect to be visited as part of our compliance scheme. For as long as I can do this myself I like to visit as many personally to make sure they meet my standards, before handing over to others for future visits.
Among other things, I am looking for signs of measurable quality, value for money (not the cheapest, more the best value), cleanliness and customer service. You need to visit a business and ‘feel’ their culture – I say I can tell just walking through the door…
Some businesses want to be seen as female friendly and perhaps they are, but their location lets them down. It’s rare for garages to be in shopping areas but that’s really where we want them to be so we can catch up essentials whilst the car is MOT’d, serviced or repaired.
When I find myself in a dreary industrial estate I have to judge whether this is likely to be a good place for women to visit on a dark wintery day when the location is likely to look even more depressing.
Another bad start is when I drive into a forecourt and there is no parking space or I am expected to reverse out of a tight spot, with staff watching. Signage can also often be improved upon and surely customer parking should take precedence over unattractive cars for sale?
Then of course I’ll assess the garage amenities inside, but a less than favourable start has been made to any customer visit.
An important area that many garages neglect is cleanliness. I can see at a glance if a workshop is clean, neat and tidy by the state of the floor, the state of the overalls the staff wear, whether they wear gloves, have tool cabinets and such like. Whilst this isn’t part of my typical FOXY checklist it always sets the cultural scene for what I expect to find in the customer reception area. As I see it, if a workshop is dirty and disorganised it is likely that this disregard will translate into customer areas.
Having seen immaculate garages, bodyshops and dealerships with gleaming customer facilities I know it can de done. In my book there is no excuse for a grubby waiting room – just a poor cleanliness regime. For example, try the finger test for yourself. Wipe it over the desk counter or any coffee tables in the waiting room. Then check your finger. Could you live with that at home? Should you have to as a paying customer? If it doesn’t matter to you, that’s fine of course.
I’m often told ‘we clean on a Friday’ as if a Thursday customer (or when I call on a different day) will feel any better for knowing this. Business cleanliness needs to be ongoing, not just a weekly chore.
Reading materials are interesting too. If a business is female friendly and women are likely to have to wait for their car to be ready or paperwork completed then it’s a nice touch I feel. I’m not sure if it’s better to provide aspirational-related magazines such as Superstar Homes or Celebrity Holidays (imaginary titles both) but I’d prefer to see these than magazines full of gossip about soap stars I don’t know. But that’s just me. So I realise it can be tricky to get the reading choice right for women but I like to see garages try.
I am often told “we used to get x title but women went off with it…” so I always suggest they provide colour supplements from a recent quality weekend publication. There’s no excuse then.
Needless to say, men are always catered for in this area assuming they want to read about performance cars, motor sports or mechanical/trade matters.
Washrooms ie customer toilets are the ultimate barometer of cleanliness for me. Why some garages feel the need to list one as a customer facility when the mechanics use it as well remains a mystery. Nothing can be more off-putting than the loo seat lifted revealing a stained bowl and just as bad, oily marks on bar soap at the sink and a dirty looking towel for afters.
This pink toilet inspection was one of the most memorable for me. The garage owner had asked his staff to walk the extra two yards down the corridor to use the male facilities, urinals and so on, without success. So one weekend he painted the ladies in shocking pink and the mechanics have never used it since. That’s all it took, it’s a bit startling I know but it’s proof of the pride the owner takes in the facilities he provides.
Some men don’t see this need for cleanliness, despite most of them thinking their garage is a female friendly one. If it’s a garage on our network I simply remove this so-called amenity from their listing but wonder what possessed them to think women would want to use this?
As a customer, I’d mark their card as a dirty business (in my mind) and never return.
And if you think these comments are simply about back street garages, think again. Some of the smartest and cleanest facilities have been in small and family run garages whereas some of the scruffiest and unkempt ones have been in dealerships. Where I’ve found lewd calendars too, by the way. So you can’t be sure of getting better facilities by paying more.
As I always say, if a garage has facilities that are better than the rest and they pay everyday attention to maintaining a spic and span workshop and customer area, they should be shouting about this to women because we all know that other varieties exist.
In my experience, women will choose the female friendly garage variety as soon as they realise they have a choice in their area.
That includes females who jump ship after putting up with second rate services for too long, once they discover that things can be better elsewhere. So comments from garages such as ‘we treat all customers the same’ don’t resonate with me. This level of complacency is either a lazy excuse for not trying harder for women or a missed opportunity for not marketing to women as ‘better than the rest’ which is what most of us expect to be treated as.