An expert’s experience in dealing with damages in the car wash
Car wash customers who want to complain about damage after a car wash are part of the daily business of a car wash. Legal disputes often arise in which an expert is also involved. CarwashPro spoke to the automotive expert Dirk Petersen about his experiences. What tips can he give car wash operators in order to have fewer problems with customer complaints?
Over time, every operator of a car wash has to deal with customers that complain about damage to their vehicles after a car wash. In some cases, unpleasant conversations with customers arise, in other cases lengthy legal disputes ensue. Experts then have to assess the damage that has occurred and identify possible causes.
CarwashPro.de spoke to Dirk Petersen, who has become an expert in the industry thanks to his previous technical knowledge. He himself operated a gantry car wash at a gas station for six years and is therefore familiar with many complaints from his own practice. As a leaseholder, however, he wanted to delve deeper into the technology, sources of errors and troubleshooting options and therefore received intensive training from the car wash manufacturer Christ Wash Systems. This laid diverse foundations for his work as an expert. Today he writes between 15 and 20 expert opinions for legal cases each year, one of which has an average processing time of around four weeks.
CarwashPro.de asked Dirk Petersen about his experience in dealing with customer complaints in an interview.
CarwashPro.de: In your experience, what are the most common occurrences related to damage management in car washes?
Dirk Petersen: The most common occurrences are again and again the scratches that are supposed to have occurred after washing. Customers drive to the car wash with dirty vehicles. If damage becomes visible afterwards, the car wash is the culprit for the customer. However, this is 90% impossible and we can also prove it.
CarwashPro.de: In your experience: How many claims are actually previous damages?
Dirk Petersen: The reported previous damage is around 90-95%. Most of the damages are also known to the customer. However, one tries again and again to regulate the previous damage via the car wash leaseholder. Then it is said again and again that the damage was not there before and was now caused by washing.
CarwashPro.de: Why are complaints about previous damage so often in car washes?
Dirk Petersen: It’s the easiest way to complain about any previous damage in the car wash. If there are scratch marks up to the primer in the paint, then it will be expensive. Most of the time, the customers do not even have a fully comprehensive insurance, or if one does exist, then one usually has a deductible of € 1,000.00. In addition, the insurance premium increases. As a result, it makes sense to settle the damage to the car wash operator. That is more cost-effective for the customer.
CarwashPro.de: In your opinion, how should operators react optimally to customer allegations?
Dirk Petersen: In order not to drive the customer away, I would report all damage to the insurance company. The insurance company is able to check whether the damage was actually caused by the car wash or not. In most cases, the insurance company then sends an expert who is commissioned to examine the damage.
CarwashPro.de: How can operators optimally protect themselves against liability claims and high costs?
Dirk Petersen: With a sensible video system for the purpose of recording, operators can protect themselves from high costs. You can usually check exactly whether the damage was actually caused by the car wash or not. The customer is obliged to report the damage immediately. After that, the operator of the car wash would have enough time to check whether any foreign bodies have got caught in the wash brushes.
CarwashPro.de: What technical options do you recommend to operators, for example to improve the evidence?
Dirk Petersen: Video recording and regular maintenance by the manufacturer protect the customer. Damage to the car wash is stored in the car wash memory and can be read out. The operator receives proof of this during maintenance.
CarwashPro.de: In your experience, what is the best recommendation to car wash operators in order to avoid a high incidence of damage allegations?
Dirk Petersen: Pre-washes are still recommended before the actual washing process. You can already see various types of damage to the vehicle. Unfortunately, the operator has to hire another employee for this. This is always associated with high costs.
Thank you for the interview.