Waterway Featured in BBB Torchlight

In the News June 14, 2022
It All Starts with Trust

Waterway was featured in the BBB of Eastern & Southwest Missouri & Southern Illinois Torchlight Magazine.

Waterway Carwash is a flurry of activity on a sunny spring day. Vacuums hum inside gleaming, freshly washed cars as employees polish wheels and grills. Drivers lounge in cushy outdoor chairs in the sun or on couches inside the peaceful lobby, where they can watch through large plate-glass windows as cars cruise through the touchless car wash. When a car is ready to go, an employee holds a towel aloft and twirls it expertly in the air like a circle of pizza dough.

It’s a scene of unparalleled service for the many cars that pass by this flagship Waterway location at a busy intersection in suburban Kirkwood, Missouri. That level of service is intertwined with customer relationships and community trust, says Todd Smith, market leader for the St. Louis region.

“When somebody comes to see us, they’re focused on not only getting a clean car, but the customer experience as well,” says Smith as he sits in the lobby of the Kirkwood location, with the automatic wash bustling behind him. “We pride ourselves on having team members who are highly focused on that and focused on building relationships.”

Waterway has come a long way from the single car wash founder Henry Dubinsky opened in Kirkwood with a group of friends in 1970. The company expanded across the state to Kansas City in 1987 and now operates 28 locations in five markets, in Denver, Cleveland and Chicago as well. 

Key to Waterway’s growth is its BBB Accreditation, which it earned in 1989. BBB Accreditation and BBB’s Standards for Trust are a reflection of the company’s commitment to relationships, Smith says. In particular, he points to the dispute resolution process as a key benefit of Waterway’s BBB Accreditation, touting the importance of a third party in navigating a conflict that might otherwise damage a customer relationship.

“Any good relationship starts with a foundation of trust,” Smith says.  

Drivers trust a car wash, particularly one with full-service offerings like Waterway’s, to safely clean and care for what likely is their second-biggest asset. With that in mind, Smith says the company’s upscale facilities – which in many cases include a gas station and convenience store in addition to the car wash – aim to provide a relaxing and worry-free experience for customers while their car is being cleaned. That’s true whether the vehicle is an older compact car or a shiny new SUV, he adds.

The customer experience – the wash, the facility, the team, all of it – is the biggest demonstration of Waterway’s commitment to values and trust, Smith says. “For us, our values are our guiding light, not just aspirational statements. Having a really good core understanding of what those values are and knowing that it’s not just corporate lip service is something we teach our team members.”

A linchpin of Waterway’s business is its monthly Clean Car Club unlimited wash program, which has created countless regular customers who have committed to their relationship with Waterway. That commitment came into play during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Waterway’s business dropped as cars sat idle (and clean) at home.

Smith says even as the company worked with customers on modifications to their Clean Car Club membership, many customers continued to pay for their membership despite not using it – a gesture of goodwill during the pandemic and resulting economic slump.

“Our customers trusted that we were going to do right by them, and I think that they recognized that we were trying to do the best we could with the situation we had,” Smith says. “I think many of our customers really rallied around that and supported us.”

Waterway is growing fast, setting its sights on 50 locations by 2028 – but the company’s commitment to trust and the fruit it bears will be a constant through it all.

“We’ll grow the same way we’ve always grown, which is one relationship at a time,” Smith says.

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