In any business the main objective is to make money. The car wash business is no different. Whether you operate a full service wash, flex-serve, or express, the philosophy is simple, increase your revenue and reduce your expenses. How? There are several ways to increase revenue by adding services, raising your price, increase volume, training and motivating managers and greeters, and adding fleet accounts just to name a few. Increasing revenue without increasing expenses is the tricky part. After all, we are in this business to make money.
The simplest and easiest way in increase revenue is to raise prices. However, it has been proven that an increase in price may significantly reduce the wash volume and therefore costs more money in the long run. Several ways that revenue can be increased without raising prices include adding Express Detailing, adding Extra Services, increasing Dollar per Car, Exterior Only option, Fleet Accounts and Wash Books, Maximizing Site Potential and Marketing.
There is a significant difference between a Professional Detail and an Express Detail. Where a professional detail can take several hours and requires extensive training an express detail can be completed in 20 minutes or less and is easily trainable. The goal of express detailing is to provide a customer the opportunity to maintain and protect their second largest investment without having to spend a large amount of money and scheduling their day around cleaning their vehicle.
To complete the addition of an express detail center you must first create a designated work area with separate supplies as well as a designated staff and management. Even though training for express detail services may be simple it would be most efficient to put together a manual that will inform the technician of what supplies to use, a step by step process for each service, an approximate time of completion and even photographs of someone performing the service.
Simply offering services is not enough; they need to be promoted in a big way. To have a successful express detail center, it will take more then just hanging a few signs. In every service industry, success relies on the people in place and their training. The labor force, including managers, greeters, detailers and even cashiers, must all work together to accomplish this goal. The greeter can play a critical role in a successful full-serve car wash. The greeter will be in contact with every customer and can often dictate the amount of express detailing services sold. Even if you have the best greeter in the industry, you will not be successful unless you can provide the services promised within the allotted time and meet the customer’s expectations.
Obviously the more services that you can provide to each customer, you will be able increase your average sale. There are many simple services that can be added online in your tunnel that will not add to your labor cost and will not adversely affect your time of service. Sealer Waxes and TriColor Conditioners and Protectants, Wheel Cleaning, and Undercarriage Wash with Rust Inhibitor have been very successful online extra services for several years, now there’s more. Try adding one of the new total surface conditioners or online tire dressing. The chemical cost associated with these services range from $0.12 to $1.00 per car and you can charge up to $5.00 per service.
In additional to adding online extra services, there are additional services that can be added to your Express Detailing center. Your basic express detail services consists of an express wax, carpet shampoo, interior superclean (dash and doors), and leather conditioning. Try adding services such as; fabric protectant, windshield repellant, and deodorizer (ozone treatment). These additional services will still allow you to complete your express detail services within 20 minutes and will add dollars to your bottom line.
3.Increasing Dollar per Car
Now that we have added these services, how do we sell it? A well trained and qualified greeter can be difference between mediocre and astounding sales. Your greeter makes the first impression to every customer that enters your lot. It is vital that you train your greeters and keep them motivated.
There are several proven training techniques that can help provide maximum dollar per car while only educating customers with out pressure selling. Ever car that enters your wash must be observed by your greeter. It is their responsibility to make a recommendation on what service would be the best option for that specific vehicle. Vehicles with a nice finish should first be compliment by the greeter and then they should recommend an express wax to help maintain that showroom shine. The greeter’s recommendation should be casual and never threatening. It is important that the customer feels comfortable with the decision they made to purchase the extra service.
In addition to your greeter recommending services, you can also generate extra service sales on the exit end of your car wash. It is essential that every customer is provided with a proper send off after their wash. With the presentation of clean vehicle to a customer, there is an additional opportunity to increase sales. During the presentation of the vehicle to the customer, you may want to point out that their leather seats looks good and the best way to protect their leather seats and prevent them from drying and cracking we offer a leather conditioning service that takes less then 20 minutes for this time or maybe for their next visit. It is important to educate the customers on what services you provide.
Keeping greeters motivated may be a difficult task. A greeter’s pay should be commission based, but what’s the best way? Some operators believe that greeters should be paid a straight percentage on extra service sales, so the more they sell the more they make. The down side to that philosophy is that the greeters would not be as motivated on slower days and may not put forth their best effort. Another option is to pay the greeters on a per car basis. Example: If a greeter greets 100 cars and sells $425 in online extra services and $550 in express detail services then there average dollar per car would be $4.25 per car online and $5.50 per car in express detail. Add those numbers to their base pay of $5.00 per hour and their hourly wage would be $14.75 per hour. This method of commission will encourage greeters to make recommendations to every car on both busy days and slower day. That will help you salvage a slower day with extra service sales being that your greeter may have more time to spend with each customer.
Communication is essential. Greeters are on commission and are extremely interested in their numbers. Communicating with them throughout the day to show them where they stand in comparison to their daily goals will only benefit the overall sales of the wash and it is a daily activity that often goes overlooked.
4. Exterior Only Option
Adding and Express Exterior lane to your existing full service can help increase your wash volume and productivity without increasing labor. Each site is different and not all locations can successfully add a new lane of service without sacrificing your full service business. However if an exterior only lane can be added there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Do the customers stay in their car? How do I collect the money? How do I control traffic? What about prepping and drying?
In an ideal situation, customers will pull to an existing lane that is now dedicated to exterior only, get greeted by an automated cashier that will accept cash or credit. Customer will then pull their own vehicle on to the car wash conveyor with one employee guiding them on. The customer will put their vehicle in neutral, ride through the wash and in under 3 minutes leave the property with a clean, dry and shiny car with no employees every touching the vehicle. Can this be accomplished? The answer is yes, but there is a catch.
An investment may need to be made to your tunnel equipment package to reduce labor such as automatic wheel cleaning, automatic tire shine applicator, upgraded air drying system, and enough equipment to thoroughly clean every square inch of that vehicle, in addition adding an automated cashier to collect money and speed up service. That’s got to be expensive, is it worth it? It could cost $30k to $60k to upgrade your tunnel and an additional $20k for the automated cashier. In order to recoup your $80,000 investment, you need to increase your volume and not add additional labor. Offering three express exterior packages, for example $5 Basic Wash, $8 Deluxe Wash, $10 SuperWash, and you average $7.50 per wash and chemical cost averages $1.25 per car, your return on investment is 12,800 cars. If you can average just 100 exterior only cars per day, you can recoup your investment in about four months. In addition, because you do not need additional labor to run your exterior only lane, you can wash cars later at night and even in the rain.
5. Fleet Accounts and Wash Books
Guaranteed Money. Adding fleet accounts and pre-selling wash books can help pay the bills during the slower months and be gravy any other time. Fleet accounts, such as police departments and company vehicles, will not only add those vehicles to your wash volume, but you have the opportunity to gain those customer’s personal vehicles as well. Wash books are very strong promotions especially around the holidays (Christmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day). Typical wash book promotions; buy 4 get 1 more and buy 3 get one free.
6. Maximize Site Potential
If building a new wash or buying an existing wash, consider all your options. If you decided that you want to open a full service car wash, plan for express detail and express only lanes in the very beginning. It is much easier and less expensive to preplan for the future then trying to add it later. If you decided on building an express exterior and have the ability to have three auto cashiers and a 165 foot tunnel, but feel that it may take some time to reach the volume that would require a third auto cashier and 165 feet of equipment, then just plan for it. It is possible to start with two auto cashiers and just run the communication cables to the third gate if you need to add it later you can. As far as the tunnel equipment goes, leave space to add additional pieces of equipment as volume dictates it. Nothing is more frustrating then not being able to handle high volume because you cut corners in the beginning.
The single biggest way to increase your car wash volume is marketing, but what marketing works best? The answer is the same in any business, word of mouth. But how do I get them to my wash the first time?
Street Signage: The sign on the street must be clear and easy to read. The color contrast between light and dark must be clean without fancy text and vivid artwork. Take example from the world’s largest retailer, two colors – dark blue and white.
Billboards: If available, locate a billboard near your site, (preferable on the same road) take advantage of it. A majority of cars washed are at your site through impulse. Designing a billboard that matches the sign on your property, being clear and easy to read will bring traffic to your site.
Direct Mail: Coupons are a good tool for increasing your extra services. You want to try avoiding discounting your basic wash. By discounting car wash packages and express details will entice customers who would normally purchase the basic wash in to a wash package. As long as you provide good service and quality you can turn the regular $10 customer into a regular $15 customer.
Menus: Greeters should always carry a hand held menu to show the customer as they make their recommendation. Hand-Out Menus are just as important for customer to understand what services the car wash offers and help educate them as to the details of each package.
Maximizing bottom line profit is not an easy task and there is no one right answer. Planning and executing is the key to be successful.
Marc Taglienti represents over 10 years of experience in the car wash industry. Starting as a full-serve greeter while completing his B.S. in Business Administration, Marc’s career in the industry grew quickly to include multi-location management and most recently the construction of his first express-exterior. Marc can be reached at 800-327-8723 x 141 or at email@example.com