Get Your Free Car Wash Cheat Sheet

This cheat sheet breaks down the basics so you can get squeaky-clean, pro-level results on the inside and outside—every time you wash!

Unhappy Customers or Negative Reviews in Auto Detailing? What to Do

If you run a mobile detailing business or even a traditional full-service car wash owner, you’re bound to run into an unhappy customer from time to time. Some of these complaints may be warranted – maybe one of your guys was having a bad day. Lots of things can happen.

The best approach is to always reassure the customer and assure them that your top priority is their satisfaction. In this blog, I’ll cover a few strategies I have heard in the detailing community when dealing with angry or unhappy customers.

What to do when you are at fault

scratch after detailing

In certain situations, the customer may actually be reasonable in their complaint. If they do try to email or call you, one idea is to ask what they are unhappy with, and apologize immediately. If you are just starting out you really have to embrace the fact that the customer is always right, and try to be as reasonable as possible.

With Yelp, Google Reviews, and other mobile detailing apps you may want to sign up for, a bad reputation can ruin all the hard work you put in if you don’t handle the situation appropriately. Word can spread fast, but there are a few things you can do to help combat negative reviews.

Tip 1: Offer to make it right

If a customer is complaining about a backseat being dirty (for example), or shows you a picture of an error (where you are clearly at fault), the best thing to do is to offer to fix it free of charge whenever they want, and wherever they are. This can go a long way to build loyalty later on, and shows that even though a mistake is made, you value their business.

Tip 2: Offer a future discount

In combination with making a mistake and offering to fix it for free, another idea to offer a coupon, promo code, or some form of discount in the future. Anytime you receive a complaint from a customer, you’re really at risk of losing them forever especially in a competitive industry like auto detailing.

Even though you may be losing a few dollars if they take you up on the discount, the chances that they will turn into a repeat customer are pretty high in this case.

What to do when they are being unreasonable

In some cases, you may run into customers that are nitpicking and being unreasonable. The best thing you can do most of the time is to offer to make it right (even they don’t take you up on the offer), but in other cases they may have not ordered the correct package.

Tip 1: Set expectations upfront

Making sure customers understands your menu of services before they place an order is key, so they know what types of services will be included with the package they order. A basic interior detailing basic can be much different from a premium interior detailing package, where you are using a carpet extractor or conditioning leather seats.

Just make sure they understand what they’re ordering when booking over the phone or through your website or app.

Tip 2: Don’t overreact to try to win the argument

Unreasonable customers are, well…unreasonable. The best strategy is to just move on and be nice, even though you may be tempted to point out the fact that you are actually right. As an example, one good strategy is to explain that leather seats are conditioned at the gold level instead of the silver level (that they purchased), and that you are sorry if there was a misunderstanding.

Make sure you have insurance

In the event that a customer is legitimately upset because you scratched their vehicle (for example), you will want to make sure you have an insurance policy that can help pay for some of the damages if the customer files a claim. For information on the types of insurance that you may need, check out my post Insurance 101 for Mobile Detailers to learn more.

In addition to insurance, you may want to even consider the right detailing business structure like an LLC to protect yourself as a detailer. If an unhappy customer decides to take legal action, you don’t risk your personal assets if you are an officially incorporated business.

For example, an LLC separates yourself from the business, whereas running a business as a sole proprietor could put your personal assets in jeopardy in situations like this.

Avoiding negative reviews

car wash detailing reviews

A happy customer tells 3 people, an unhappy customer tells 300. Whenever dealing with negative reviews, always remember to respond by being very nice and professional, addressing them directly with a comment.  Instead of using phrases like “Customer was told…”, you may want to use a phrase like “We’re so sorry to hear you were not satisfied. Our goal is to make it right. Please contact us..”.

You can even provide an email or phone number for contacting you within the comments, so other people skimming reviews will know that you care enough to make it right.

Understand some business models are prone to bad reviews

If you are serving the general public as a detailer, it’s helpful to understand you will come across unreasonable customers from time to time. On the other hand, if you are only dealing with high-end clients, it may be less of a problem.

Since detailers targeting high-end supercar or sportscar owners (charging hundreds of dollars at a minimum) will deal with customers on a much more personal basis, the intimacy of this type of business relationship usually leads to less bad reviews.

After all, you probably are going to go above and beyond to make a customer happy if they are willing to pay more than a couple hundred dollars every few weeks, and leave their vehicle with you.

Encourage customers to leave a review

In addition to simply avoiding bad reviews, encourage your best customers to leave a review if they are satisfied with their service. It’s much easier for new customers to look past a negative review as long as there are are many more positive reviews than negative ones.

I do not recommend incentivizing reviews with gift cards (for example), as it is against the policies of many review sites and Google. However simply asking politely for a review if your customer is satisfied with their service is a good idea, and is something you can use for your marketing materials later on. Check out my post Advertising Basics for Increasing Business to learn more.


In conclusion, unhappy customers are a part of this business, like any other services-based business. Always try to make it right when you can, avoid having a negative tone, and do the best you can. You can’t always please everyone.

Another idea is to ask another successful entrepreneur or business owner in this type of industry (with great reviews and customer loyalty) what they do to maintain such a loyal audience. Have any other tips that have worked for you? Let me know!

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

Leave a Comment