It just feels good to drive a clean car. What if you could give deeper meaning to that feel-good sentiment? As a business in your community, whether you’re a single-site operator or part of a larger platform, we’ll discuss how you can engage with your local community through fundraisers and other relationship-building initiatives to foster greater customer loyalty.
The car wash business is based on some of the same tenets as the hospitality industry, and the intangibles — how it feels to go there — often mean just as much as the quality of product delivered. No matter how unique owners may strive to be or think they are, most customers still view a car wash as a commodity that is largely interchangeable amongst brands. So how can you set your business apart and keep customers coming back? How do you differentiate as many markets are experiencing a period of intense growth in car washes, no doubt in part from the interest the industry has attracted from institutional investors?
Start with your customers, you may already know them. Pay attention to what matters to them. It’s a good guess you are both members of the same community since most customers prefer a wash that is convenient and close to home.
Consider getting involved with local schools, libraries, food banks, churches, and other organizations. Sometimes, this begins organically when an owner has kids in local schools. But it can also grow by intentionally engaging with staff to see what organizations they belong to and care about. Opening this dialogue on whom to select for local sponsorships and fundraisers can be very empowering to your staff, and, as a bonus, make them feel more connected to your company culture.
If you choose to sponsor a print ad in a school sports team program, ask your staff member(s) who are on the team to be included in a photo for the ad and take it at the car wash. Highlight that you are proud to support the organization, but more specifically you are proud to support your staff. Showing you care about your community and your staff is a two-for-one win.
Timely holiday-giving campaigns benefiting local non-profits are another great option to connect with the community. With some planning and a few marketing materials, these can be easy to implement and highly effective. For example, Driven Car Wash®, located in the Chicagoland market, partners with a local food bank to help create sustainable short-term food sourcing for families fighting hunger. They offer a free top-tier wash for customers who donate to the food drive every Tuesday for a month leading up to Thanksgiving.
A quick reminder that your chamber of commerce members, mayor, city officials, along with local media organizations like your city newspaper or neighborhood lifestyle magazine are part of your community. Invite them to your events and let them know about your upcoming fundraisers. After the event, send a follow-up with photos and a short recap; having all the information they need in one place with visuals increases your chance of being included in a local news brief or write-up.
PARTNERING WITH A NATIONAL CHARITY
Another way to connect with your community is through involvement with a larger charitable organization. According to the 2018 Cone Communications Purpose Study, 78 percent of Americans believe companies should positively impact society. Showcasing your support of an organization with national brand recognition can resonate with a wide audience. As an added benefit, often larger organizations will offer fundraising marketing support and additional resources available for you to use so you and your team aren’t trying to create a program from the ground up.
An example of a great national organization to consider is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® (“St. Jude”), which is leading the way the world understands, treats, and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. While St. Jude is based in Memphis, TN, the organization treats children from across the United States and works towards the goal of ending childhood cancer for all kids everywhere and has been named the “No.1 Most Trusted Nonprofit” in the Most Trusted Brands of 2022 report by decision intelligence company Morning Consult. Uniquely, St. Jude is also engaged with leaders in the car wash industry to continue creating more plug-and-play fundraising options for car wash owners, including activations that tie into car wash point-of-sale systems and other car-wash-specific initiatives. For more information about supporting St. Jude visit stjude.org/inspire.
CREATING A POSITIVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
No matter what fundraising or community involvement efforts you engage in, remember those are only a supplement to the customer service you provide day in and day out onsite at your car wash. Hiring friendly, service-minded staff who love to smile goes a long way! Creating a positive customer experience at your wash opens the door for continued engagement with your customers. But to communicate with them beyond your physical property, you must capture their contact information. Prioritize customer data capture as part of your larger marketing and customer engagement strategy. Even if you don’t have an e-mail or text campaign ready to deploy today, start getting your customer’s information now so you will have it when you need it.
Customers also want to be able to easily communicate with you, especially if they have a concern or issue. This often involves the management of monthly plan memberships. As the car wash industry continues to evolve and embrace new technology services,
companies focused on CX (customer experience) solutions are also emerging. For example, Retention Express offers car wash owners a dedicated, white-labeled, customer contact support solution combining human interaction with appropriate automation across all customer communication touchpoints. With so many ways your customer may want to communicate with you (phone, e-mail, website submissions, social media), having trained customer support agents represent your brand to help process monthly plans and collection of data for valuable insights across all channels can be a huge benefit in improving your overall customer experience and generating support ROI.
Consumers today are savvy when it comes to traditional advertising and self-promotion. They want to feel good about the businesses they support with their hard-earned dollars. Consistent involvement with local or national non-profit organizations is a great way to show you care about giving back and being part of your community, not just about the bottom line.
While demonstrating public-spiritedness is a beneficial part of the mix, successful community engagement starts with the individual customer. Building a relationship with your customer through active communication, both on the giving and receiving end, along with excellent service, fosters a greater sense of connection and brand loyalty that keeps customers coming back time and time again.
Lanese Barnett is senior vice president of business development at Amplify Car Wash Advisors, the number one advisor of car wash chains nationwide. With a mission of creating wealth for clients, Amplify helps car wash owners sell, partner, or grow using practical industry experience as operators coupled with expertise in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and capital advisory. Hear more from Lanese each month as she hosts Car Wash M&A, The Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and other major podcast platforms. Learn more at AmplifyWash.com, or reach Lanese at LBarnett@AmplifyWash.com