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Carwash chemicals à la carte

October 11, 2010
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Customers like options and feeling as if they are in control. They also like not having to buy services they don’t need because they come in a pre-packaged offering. Especially with today’s economy, a customer certainly doesn’t want to have to pay to have their brand new, clean as a whistle tires cleaned. That’s why it’s a good idea to give customers cleaning options à la carte in today’s market.

Douglas A. Marquis, vice president of sales and marketing for Lustra™ Car Care Products, said up-selling said up-selling comes in two forms: The immediate and short-term approach which offer new products or packages based on the season or weather. For example, why not offer a special love bug package if you’re in the South? Or a pollen solution during the spring?

“The fastest way to up-sell is to offer a new product application either as à la carte or as part of a new package.”

Adding product offerings such as super-sealants, additional applications of detergents, or even the seasonal bug-pass or undercarriage flush to existing packages for an additional $1, $2, or $3 is a staple that can have an immediate impact,” Marquis added.

The unobvious up-sell strategy
The key to the up-sell is building trust between yourself and the customer by providing a good service. Customers need to believe that the new package or chemical application is either convenient or necessary. In other words, make sure there is proof in the pudding.

“If consumers have a good first experience they will come back for a second,” Marquis explained. “If they continue to have good experiences they build a trust in the business they are dealing with and they’re more comfortable trying upgraded packages that have higher prices. The greater the level of comfort and trust, the higher the likelihood of making larger purchases.”

For the second form of up-selling, and for when you want to grow your profits, Marquis suggested creating a complete chemical package that can drive consumer satisfaction. “[This approach] creates longtime customers who understand and appreciate the values available from that carwash operation,” said Marquis, who also recommended finding a chemical provider in the area with the expertise and products that can create a unique, high-performance chemical experience for the right cost.

Marquis suggested offering additional product offerings to boost sales on a short-term basis. But, he noted, make sure to partner with a professional chemical company to create a more complete menu that can grow and maintain higher revenues and profitability going forward.

Self-serve chemistry
Self serves may have an easier time with the up-sell, according to Marquis, because the customers are directly involved with the sights, smells, and even feel of the cleaning and protection products.

“Operators have the best chance to create the ‘wow’ impact that leaves a lasting impression,” Marquis said. “Like with in-bays, self-serve sites can use the same two techniques for driving up-sells and keeping them going forward, but they also have another important opportunity. They can increase time.”

By recognizing the impact that sensory stimuli has on human behavior, self-serve operators can design site-specific chemical experiences that keep consumers in the bay longer. “If the fragrances are more enjoyable and the colors are truly pleasing to the eye, human nature kicks-in,” he said.

“In addition to new product sales and repeat business due to greater customer satisfaction, self-serve carwash operations can improve revenue-per-customer by designing a chemical application that keeps customers in the bay. It is a win-win scenario for everyone involved.”

The green-based up-sell
As for the environmental factor, there is an opportunity here to rope in eco-minded customers. Your success will depend on the chemicals you choose and their qualifications, as well as the steps you take to market and educate those services to customers.

Mike McKillip, chemical program manager at RYKO Manufacturing Company, said that each manufacturer may have a different definition of how “green” is classified, but no matter what criteria are used to define “green,” the chemical manufacturer should offer products that are environmentally responsible, meaning the products are:

• Readily biodegradable;
• Meet discharge requirements for the sanitation system;
• Are safe for the user, vehicles, and carwash equipment; and
• Use packaging that is 100 percent recyclable.

William Gorra, president of Simoniz USA, Inc. which offers a line of Green Scene Car Wash Products, said a carwash should definitely promote its green products to attract more customers as they’re probably being told about the dangers of at-home washing or the threat of water shortages.

“The green movement has traction among customers and is being mandated everywhere,” said Gorra. “Using the populous movement to promote the environmental correctness of your carwash will further enhance your image in the community and to your customers, many of which now face water restrictions and driveway carwashing restrictions in their communities.”

The role of the chemical supplier
Of course, in order to provide good chemicals to the customers while still making a good profit, operators need to make sure they have a good relationship with their chemical supplier. Anything from environmental concerns, to additional shipping charges, to underperforming soaps can hurt a carwash and impact a customer’s loyalty.

“If the operator has any difficulty with any chemical, a different line, brand, or type of chemical should be tried until one is found that is acceptable in performance and price,” said McKillip. “With the wide range of chemicals available on the market, an operator should not settle for less-than-acceptable chemical performance.”

According to Marquis, a supplier needs to look at shipping and space savings, inventory control, improved safety and ergonomics, and of course cost controls.

“I would urge all operators to evaluate their current supplier, find out what products and programs they offer to address these issues, and then implement them in their businesses,” he suggested. “If they are partnering with a true industry professional these benefits should be available to them. In the difficult times that have defined our industry the past few years there is no excuse for leaving these vital issues unattended. It could be the difference between failure and success.”

With wash volumes suffering nationally due to the economy, a reality that has gone on for several years now, Marquis added, its important to look at the chemical side of the business to address these important areas and begin to rebuild a wash’s volume and profitability.

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