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Multi-profit Centers

You want an oil change with that?

October 11, 2010
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In a world where the questions “Do you want fries with that?” or “Can I interest you in a ‘fill-in-the-blank’” follow nearly every other business transaction, it might seem like the perfect time to introduce a carwash/lube combo service; but tread carefully. You don’t want to annoy customers with pushy up-sales. Instead, learn to offer an additional convenience in a friendly, accommodating manner which assures the customer of your integrity and professionalism.

One + one = more business
One stop shopping is big with consumers today, according to David Kunkel a manager with the Lubricants Division of CITGO Petroleum Corporation. “With a quick lube and a carwash; they’re quick, they’re easy and competitively priced and they both have to get done anyway. They match the same motivation,” he explained.

Quick lubes and carwashes really only have two major common denominators: They both involve cars and they involve quick and not-too-expensive services. But, that’s about it. In order to get customers to come in for both, they have to think of it as a trip that’s worth their while and their money.

Harvey M. Miller of Car Wash / Oil Lube Consultants said, “I believe the majority comes in for one of the services (mostly carwashes) and could be motivated to use the other service when required.”

The key in combining these services is understanding your consumer base. The customer who seeks a combined oil change/carwash service is typically most concerned with convenience — so don’t waste their time. “They see a real value and want to combine as many reasonable purchases in one stop,” explained Kunkel. But this only works if the service is completed correctly and on-time. This customer is also hoping to snag a deal, so price your services in a competitive manner relative to your marketplace.

The two businesses also work because people are not getting their oil changed as often as the requirement has gone up to 7,500 mile increments on some models. Therefore, smaller car counts means the difference has to be made up somewhere, so why not with carwashes.

“Oil change operators are only seeing cars maybe once or twice a year, instead of three or four times a year,” Kunkel said, “which leads to lower vehicle counts. Operators have to bundle more services in order to generate a comparable income. You’re only going to service so many cars, so you have to bring in more money. Carwashes and detailing all create new revenue opportunities for quick lubes.

Downplay the upsell
There are several effective tactics when it comes to cross-promoting carwash and fast lube services, and most revolve around a highly-trained employee. For instance, if a customer is in for an oil change, your technician should be able to note if the interior or exterior of the vehicle is clean, including small details like the dash or floor mats.

“You typically don’t go to a fast lube and also go there for a carwash as well,” Kunkel noted. “You need to tie them both together to increase value.”

Employees should be able to suggest services based upon their observations, but be careful to emphasize that the sale be done in a casual and helpful manner — don’t allow it to go over the top.

“Employees need to be trained to not do a forced sale, but to present customers with what they might need instead,” said Kunkel. “Keep it specific so it doesn’t sound rehearsed and custom tailor the ‘value’ message to each customer. They tend to think they’re being sold something they don’t need. That’s why you have to develop a relationship and a trust and a bond.”

Mike Brunetti, vice president for Grease Monkey Franchising and Monkey Shine Franchising, said to keep it simple and to ask employees to remind customers they can get a carwash while they’re there for an oil change. “It’s the one-stop shopping aspect,” he said.

How others do it
The Monkey Shine/Grease Monkey franchise uses the carwash as a complimentary service for being a Grease Monkey customer, but “eventually,” said Brunetti, “we hope to make it a single purchase decision.”

Miller, who has been in the carwash industry for over 50 years, said, “A quick lube customer should be given a free basic carwash with a lube purchase.” And, he added that carwash customers should be given flyers on the different oil lube services informing them that their carwash purchase (at a basic wash price) will be deducted from an oil change purchase.

Kunkel suggests getting word out that both services are offered on the Internet, through emails and by using point-of-service (POS) devices. He said with today’s POS systems, a customer can be sent a reminder email or letter, stating that it’s about time to have their oil changed or it’s been a while since their car was washed, etc. He said most people will be coming in for an oil change anyway, so before that it would be a good time to send out a reminder that a carwash is probably due, too.

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