I am not starting this path to building a $30 top package with some magic application that entitles you to increased profits. You must earn the right to charge top dollar, you are not entitled to it.

            We know that chemistry application dynamics change with temperature, vehicle profile, surface contaminants, and water quality. We know that wash quality depends upon mixing sufficient wash media and motion to agitate chemistry and remove all road grime at the fastest conveyor speed you run. We also know that customer experience influences the price you can command.

            I will touch upon the latest chemistry applications fueling this growth later, but first, you need to have established quality standards in place with a system to monitor their performance. Washes that are commanding $30 for a single wash with a $50 monthly club plan option are doing far more than adding ceramic and graphene-infused applications and some signage. At this pricing tier, every customer must leave every location, every time, so satisfied with the value of the experience that they share it on social media.

Start with the Basics

            Make sure every drop of your chemistry is used precisely. Measure usage at the beginning and end of the day to ensure every customer received what they paid for. Your chemical distribution panel, applicators, and pumps must be up to the task. Invest in one of the real-time reporting, dashboard, and notification solutions out there to ensure you’re on top of consistent chemistry applications across all your locations.

            Commanding top dollar is about delivering a shine they can’t get elsewhere. Wrap that in a feel-good experience inside and outside the tunnel, and you’ll grow your average ticket and club plan memberships.

            However, you can’t get to that level without having the basics in order at every location you operate: Sufficient type and quantity of equipment that is properly maintained. Coordinated chemistry applications that keep the wash media lubricated and prepare the vehicle for maximum shine. Proper water quality to eliminate foam and spotting.

            You must get the fundamentals down before your service level and ticket average can rise.

Define your Finished Product

            Take a minute to really dissect your menu and the value delivered in your top package. Most menus start with a basic wash. The following package usually adds special attention to the wheels with a tire dressing application. Next is a wax bundle of some sort that also applies a water repellant to the glass. Last is the top package. This is where things get tricky, and opportunity really exists!

            When someone considers the top package, you’ve already sold them on the car wash, the tire dressing, the spot-free rinse, the shiny surface wax, and the water beading off the glass. How do you deliver a top-finished product that’s so much better that customers will pay an extra $5 to $10 to get it?

            Everyone knows the feel of a professionally hand-detailed car. The paint feels smoother to your hand. There’s a glossy thickness to the coating. Water explodes from the surface. The shine is more brilliant, and the depth of color is enhanced. It’s a service that customers are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for. Today’s modern chemistry can deliver similar results inside your tunnel.

Belief Matters as Much as Results

            Depth of shine can be subjective and change with ambient lighting. Claims of protection are hard to measure. No matter how incredible the finished product you deliver is, it will always demand a level of trust in the service that can’t be seen. Value, and the price you can command, are the sum of the service, how it’s delivered, and the marketing surrounding it.

            Always remember why Rolex costs more and is more valuable than Timex, even though both keep accurate time. Craft your signage, application, and experience to distinguish the service. Distribute printed and online materials explaining how your premium application works and what differentiates it. This, too, is hard work and, in some ways, more complex than the delivery of the service itself. If it’s not your line of expertise, hire professional help. 

            No amount of marketing can overcome an inadequate service. You must deliver results. Multiple coatings are necessary to create this in a tunnel. It’s a more thoughtful process than just applying more chemistry; a layering process is necessary to achieve the full effect. My point here isn’t the process or supplier you choose but the necessity for you to define your finished product’s top package standard before promoting it.

            Make sure that every team member understands what your standard looks like. Inspect the finished product daily to ensure your standards are met and stay on top of the standards you set with crucial key performance indicators. Include factors like chemical consumption and average tickets. Take time to talk to your customers and ask them how they feel about the quality of your product.

Create a Memorable Experience

            Visual confirmation signage of your top package is essential, but why not go one step further? Use LED lighting to color foamed applications coordinated with fragrances only available with your top package. For example, if you add a green apple fragrance to the top package, why not install green LED lights when applied? And hand out a printed card explaining its benefits with a green apple lollipop stapled to it. In other words, get creative.

            Separate signage, lighting, and fragrances are only good if noticed. Try to separate your final application on an arch or series of arches that only activate for the top package. Explore different material types and configurations to reduce noise throughout the tunnel. It’s difficult for a customer to fully appreciate the fantastic application happening on their windshield if they’re still listening to material hitting the back of the car.

            Train your staff to be ambassadors capable of explaining the service. Get with your marketing provider to create in-depth materials detailing the benefits of the service in handouts and on your website. Once everything is in place, promote online via social media and explainer videos to drive business.

Slow Down to Move Fast

            Everywhere you turn these days, there’s an innovation, a new opportunity to upgrade the profit potential of your car wash. Before pulling out your checkbook, ensure you know how it will impact what matters most — a finished product your customers are willing to pay more for.

            Consider the total cost of your new service. Small bumps in your average ticket and subscriber base can net large and exciting dollar amounts, but you won’t see the results if you’re not committed to the upgrade.

            Graphene-infused products with their more durable shine are here to stay. I am grateful to have learned from the efforts of early adopters who have demonstrated its place used in conjunction with ceramic coatings to net a higher average ticket. You need the right marketing. The right training. The right equipment. And, of course, the right chemistry.

            In other words, like most things in life, if you’re prepared to work your fanny off, you too can earn a sustained boost to your per-car average and increase your customer satisfaction.

Good luck and good washing.

Joining the company in 2000, Anthony Analetto serves as the president of Sonny’s CarWash Equipment Division. In this role, Anthony leads the innovation of new products to drive client success and oversees all operations, engineering, and supply chain management. Washing cars for more than 30 years, Anthony was the director of operations for a 74-location national car wash chain prior to joining the company.