The creation of the Unlimited Wash Club concept and its gradual implementation throughout the industry over the last 10 years has changed the entire face of the car wash industry. The benefits to operators are obvious: higher car counts, more revenue, and less dependence on the weather. Below are nine keys to creating a better experience and increasing your unlimited wash club membership.
1. Understand What Is Occurring with Car Wash Customers
What is not discussed very often is how astounding the change in customer behavior these subscriptions have created. Instead of visiting a conveyor car wash three times a year (the number according to several industry surveys taken 20 years ago), UWC customers, on average, visit three times a month. That is an increase in frequency from three to 36 car wash visits a year. Why did this change occur?
The belief that I and my colleagues, who have participated in thousands of interactions with customers when training people on the driveway, is that customers buy the subscriptions first because of the convenience of the whole program. Convenience to customers is not waiting in line for long, not having to get off their cell phones and talk to anybody, and, overall, a much quicker, hassle-free experience.
The second biggest reason is the perception that it is much less expensive to be a club member than not. The reality is that how much money is saved depends on how frequently they visit.
After studying the numbers of hundreds of car washes, what is clear is two realizations: UWC members do save money on average from buying one at a time. The second realization is that although they are coming a lot more frequently, they are not coming as often as they think. And that is okay because they are saving some money, just not as much as they perceive.
2. Obtain Management Buy-In
Believe it or not, the biggest challenge to growing a UWC program is that operational management does not see this growth in membership as central to their job responsibilities. It is perceived as a new add-on duty that they do not have time for, as well as bringing a new set of activities and skills that are now required. So, the first challenge is to spell out why the company is now emphasizing this growth and the benefits of building the UWC.
The first and most important benefit is survival. The car wash that has the most members and delivers the best service will be successful in the market and survive whatever competitive situation they face. Some markets in the U.S. are becoming overbuilt, but really it is the sub-market that a car wash is in that is critical to that car wash company.
The second biggest benefit is the pay increase for employees and management because of the rewards program. Positive interaction with customers results in more job satisfaction and lower turnover. For operational management, this is a huge benefit and can make a difference in their level of support right from the start.
3. Increase the Number of Interactions with Non-Members
Increase the number of new customers that hear about your UWC. The way to do this is to invest the time and costs to have people out at the pay station to interact with customers and tell them about the UWC program. Whoever talks to more new customers tends to win the sign-up battle.
Increasing the percentage of non-members spoken to will take an upfront investment to have someone at the pay station at all times. However, if the other keys are followed, this investment will pay for itself quickly.
The two most common methods of training on what to do at the pay station are for a new employee to “Go watch Joe for a couple of days and see how he does it” or “Here’s a script you can use that might help you.” Neither method passes for very effective training.
What is needed procedurally is to create a workbook, sit down for a few hours of classroom and role-play training, and then spend several hours coaching at the pay station with the trainees. With the right tools and skills, a manager should be able to get a new employee up and running successfully in about eight hours.
Conceptually, managers must understand that exterior express car wash customers do not want a sales pitch about the UWC. The approach must be more of a customer service-oriented experience.
A customer service attendant (CSA) has about 10 seconds to engage a customer or not before they decide whether they are interested. Not only does a CSA have to be succinct in their initial presentation, but answers to questions also need to be short and precise. Also, CSAs were not hired to become professional salespeople, which leads me to my next point.
A manager’s job is not finished after the initial training is completed. Training must continue a couple of times a week for the first 30 days at a minimum until they get comfortable talking to customers.
CSAs are not salespeople and need to understand that interacting positively with customers is part of their job and a reason to come to you versus the competition. Without follow-up, this buy-in to their role will never occur.
After we conduct training, for example, we have weekly follow-up calls for periods of time that are specific to the client, depending upon their organizational structure. The follow-up is needed to create a habit at the CSA level and a positive expectation for all levels of management.
6. Financial Rewards
If a new CSA is going to be asked to do something that is not that easy for them to do, three results must be achieved. They must understand the importance of interacting with the customer, get comfortable with the process, and be rewarded for their effort. Notice I did not say incentivized.
However, reinforcing the behaviors you want with a financial reward is a different approach conceptually that can connect with entry-level employees. Some principles to keep in mind are:
• Reward all monthly packages at the same level. Customers pick the level of the plan, and the CSA gets rewarded no matter which one it is. Upselling is not part of the process.
• People get paid per subscription from the first one — no quotas.
• A car wash can have levels of subscription numbers in a pay period so that the bonuses are higher per subscription based on the volume of subscriptions — not the average per plan. Make it a non-sales environment to get the best results.
Most car washes can do better in marketing, especially as it relates to increasing the sales of monthly subscriptions. The on-site signage must be easy to understand, monthly plans should stand out, and choices should be limited.
The speed and ease of the transaction involves marketing as well as operations. Off-site marketing, like geo-fencing, can make a big difference. Utilizing billboards can be very effective if they are designed well. Several agencies now specialize in the car wash industry, and utilizing one of them makes a lot of sense. Most of these marketing firms can also assist a car wash company in membership retention, which leads to our next key.
8. Reduce The Churn Rate
Many of the losses in subscriptions can be greatly impacted positively with a comprehensive strategy to reduce cancellations. Results are mostly achieved by increasing the interaction between the customer and the car wash company after the customer has signed up. How this interaction occurs and how well it is done is what firms specializing in car wash marketing are tasked to achieve.
As important as monthly subscriptions are to the car wash industry, it is amazing that this game-changing marketing approach is still not focused on to the level it could or should be. Some chains average more than 10,000 members per location. There is a large number which is more than 5,000 per location. That said, most car washes struggle to get above the 3,000 level.
This is so important because someone might be in a market where it gets overbuilt. In an overbuilt market, the wash that will win is the one that achieves three goals: (1) produce the best customer experience, (2) stay competitive on pricing, and (3) get every location over 5,000 members. No one is bullet-proof, but achieving these results will make a wash very difficult to defeat in any market.
If you’d like to learn more about how to grow your Unlimited Wash Club program, contact Steve Gaudreau at firstname.lastname@example.org or Patrick Gesuele at email@example.com. You can also call Brink Results, LLC at (239) 334-1050 to discuss your car wash training needs.