I think it comes as no small surprise that participation in PC&D’s annual benchmark surveys has been dwindling over the past few years. True, there are still several hundred willing owner/operators who help give the rest of the industry an edge by contributing to these annual analyses of the carwash industry — and I truly appreciate the time these individuals take to help better the industry — but, unfortunately, it’s not enough.
I try not to take the declining numbers personally. There are several reasons why carwash owner/operators have elected to stop participating or have passively ignored our e-mailed requests.
First, there is the increase in spam and marketing e-mails on a daily basis. Aside from our annual survey e-mails, your inbox is filled to the brim with coupon offers from Lowe’s, marketing promotions from Walgreen’s and junk e-mail from who knows where.
Then there is the increase in demand for surveys themselves. Every time I go to Wal-Mart, the back of my reciept offers me a chance to be entered into a drawing for a $1,000 gift card — if I’ll answer their consumer survey online. It’s not just Wal-Mart; last week I had an offer from The Olive Garden, and a few weeks before that, Ruby Tuesday’s wanted my appraisal. It seems grocery shoping or going out to eat has become a survey opportunity just waiting to happen.
Third, owner/operators seem to be more tight-lipped than ever regarding the performance of their carwashes. Chalk it up to concerns about market over-saturation, or maybe to the new type of investor being drawn to the carwash industry. It seems our veteran operators want to guard their secrets more carefully than ever.
And lastly, I think our surveys have become a bit archaic. Perhaps we’re not asking the right questions, or perhaps today’s carwash owner/operator is less reliant on our survey information — after all, manufacturers and distributors have their own numbers.
Straight up and tell me
Whatever your reason for not participating in this year’s survey, I want to know it. Give it to me straight. I want to know what would prompt you to respond to our surveys. Gift cards? A drawing for free equipment or chemicals? Coupons? Early or more advanced versions of the survey report? Fewer questions?
And don’t stop there. I also want to know how to improve our surveys. Tell me what questions are missing and what questions are redundant. Tell me what information you most look forward to learning. Tell me the statistics that most surprised you in our 2007 surveys and what supporting questions could answer your lingering doubts.
This is your magazine. I want it to be the best possible resource for you. All I need is a few more answers.