Once you have successfully established your business and a steady flow of vehicles are starting to roll through your carwash, it is essential that you don’t become focussed exclusively on simply adding more new customers. It is a fundamental error in business to overlook the customers you already have and not to acknowledge the loyalty they are showing you. An unappreciated customer will soon get the message and go elsewhere to a carwash that demonstrates that they value their regular customers.
In order to feel valued, a customer needs to feel that the service being provided is personalised and recognises each customer’s individual needs. A personalised service will usually involve some kind of loyalty program, and technology is now making it possible for carwashes to scale up personalisation. The challenge facing carwash managers is not just launching a program but generating enrolment and then keeping it fixed in the minds of customers.
Research has shown that carwashes willing to invest in providing a more personalised service through effective loyalty programs and deals are likely to achieve a sustained competitive advantage, especially if they leapfrog competitors technologically.
What Deals work?
Loyal customers provide regular sales, but how do you gain the loyalty of your customers? There are many deal options that you can use to generate and retain extra business:
- With car wash loyalty cards, you usually offer regular customers a wash card on which they can load credit, allowing them to receive discounts and special deals. Regular customers with top-up cards pay less for each programme and receive a discount if they load above a particular amount onto their card. Additionally, you could reward all customers who top up a large amount by enrolling them into a “Gold Customer Club” where members receive additional special deals and offers. To provide a particularly personal touch you could give regular customers a special discount on their birthday in the form of a bonus such as a free underbody wash.
- Seasonal programmes are another way of keeping your customers loyal. For example, in the run-up to Christmas, you could rent a stand in a shopping centre and sell gift vouchers or give people who have just bought a new car a discounted or free wash to test out your service.
- Another offer could be to give away something like a window cleaning cloth every time a customer books a premium wash. However, in order for such a service to cost no more than it brings in, you should first check with the customer that they would like to take advantage of this option.
- Volume discounts for companies with fleets, car hire companies or car dealers are particularly important as these customers are not influenced by the seasons or the weather. By maintaining a file of these key customers, you can target your promotions, ensuring that the customers notice that they are valued individually and will remain loyal to you.
How to Successfully Launch Deals & Promotions
When you launch your deal, it is important to ensure that it is technically feasible. You will need to determine whether a loyalty card, for example, can be integrated into your existing point-of-sale (POS) system. Pay particular attention to mobile-enabled solutions. Savvy car washes will invest in systems that provide offers via mobile (SMS, mobile emails and digital ads) to encourage customers to make purchase decisions that they might otherwise delay or give to another car wash.
Loyalty programs often involve customers initially signing up and provide an ongoing means of tracking that individual’s interactions with the car wash (often through the ubiquitous plastic key card). Customers will generally want to provide the minimum amount of information necessary to access the program’s benefits, while the carwash wants to extract as much information as possible during this initial sign-up.
Redeeming deals should be effortless, and here mobile-centric loyalty programs, for example, can be particularly successful, because anybody can download an app. Essentially, the easier it is for people to redeem rewards, the more likely they are to sign up in the first place.
Managing Car Wash Deals & Promotions
It is very important to keep track of the profitability of loyalty programmes or other promotions. Companies reward loyalty in the belief that it leads to profits. By tracking profits directly, a car wash company can better target its rewards. You especially need to consider the ongoing costs of the promotion in relation to its benefits when considering if it’s advisable to continue in a particular promotional direction.
Loyalty programs can fail or underperform due to a lack of awareness. A properly implemented and managed loyalty program will use a variety of promotional campaigns, designed to keep customers connected to your carwash. Channels such as social media can also be helpful in prompting user feedback, which is essential to the success of your program.
The point-of-sale is an essential tool in building customer loyalty, and showing value is a critical component of successful loyalty programs. Customers need to feel that they’re saving money or getting something out of the membership, or they simply won’t join. Advanced POS systems can help translate the overall value statement of your program for the customer as well as processing payments and memberships.
Modern POS systems incorporate mobile payment options allowing the operator to take on unlimited programs, pre-paid programs or pay-as-you-go programs within their wash, regardless of whether it is a tunnel, in-bay automatic or self-serve location. POS systems are being designed to be more user-friendly with app-based platforms, as well as more security.
When a customer signs up for a loyalty programme, the credit card should be processed through the POS, and all-important data about that plan should be securely stored and encrypted in the system.
As monthly plans require renewing, new POSs should handle the renewal automatically, without any need for interaction from staff. The POS should also make managing the monthly plan easy for the customer, allowing them to change their plan, cancel their plan, update credit card information, or simply check through a website or mobile app connection to see if your car wash is open.
In addition to the monthly unlimited plans, there are a number of other loyalty promotion options that can also be tracked through the POS. The system will need to offer flexible promotion options designed to generate return visits. You can choose a promotion model that best suits you, be it license plate tracking, frequency discounts, or custom plans for your key customers. With a flexible POS system, you should be able to adjust your loyalty promotions to account for seasonal changes in car wash volume or competition in the neighbourhood.
At PSD Codax, we offer the latest in car was technology to help support and grow your business. Our WASHCONNECT software, for example, can manage multiple promotions at one time. It also features a plan ahead feature that enables a car wash businesses to put a future promotion on the system calendar, which will then automatically start and end on the dates entered.