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In the past, customers who wanted to clean their floor mats at the carwash have been left with few options. Beat it against the carwash’s wall or spray it with a pressure washer, scrub with shampoo and let it air dry. Only one of these options offered a way for the operator to secure profits, and even then, the customer wasn’t very satisfied.
Enter the automatic mat cleaner. These machines beat against the mat to product a dry, clean floor mat in around 30 seconds. All the customer has to do is push a button and feed the mat through the machine and the end result is much better than the beat down or spray-and-scrub methods.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing tracked down Shawn Lee, the sales and marketing manager for Clean World Distribution, Inc., manufacturer of Rhino Mat, a mat cleaning machine, to learn how operators can take advantage of this technology and increase customer loyalty and build ticket averages in the process.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What are some ideas for improving customer acceptance of mat cleaning technology at a self-serve carwash? Are there any secrets to placement, signage, price points, etc.?
Shawn Lee: There are many ways to increase customer awareness of new mat cleaning technology/services. Key ways to get customers to accept a new mat cleaning service at a self-serve carwash include:
Education is first and foremost. Let your customers know there is an effective and better way to clean their mats. They no longer have to bang them on the sides of the buildings or spray them and wait for them to dry. You can educate customers through signage and marketing.
Several signs will be needed to introduce your equipment. One or two signs should call attention to the new equipment in big, bold letters and coloring. Additional signs should explain what the new equipment is and how it works. List the benefits of a mat cleaning machine and offer a pricing structure. These signs can be placed in the self-serve bays and near the IBA menu.
Placement of the mat cleaning equipment is also very important. Locate the equipment in a highly visible and accessible area, such as near the vacuum station. This will keep good flow, and the more obvious the equipment is, the more likely the customer’s curiosity will be pique.
Pricing of your services can make or break the deal. On average most of our clients charge $2-$4 for a set amount of time. A typical mat cleaning machine might take about two minutes for four large floor mats, so $3 for two minutes would be a good start. Keep the price reasonably low but still high enough to bring in a good profit.
Easy-to-use instructions will help attract customers. Remember, many first time users will be intimidated of the equipment their first time. Display a sign that has simple to read instructions to attract customers and inform them of how the machine is to be properly used.
Many machines work at the push of a button; you simply feed the mat through. However, the customer does not usually expect it to be this simple. Having a sign that explains operation will make it easier for your customer to realize the machine is not so complicated to operate. Instruction signs will allow your customer to feel comfortable and not worry about complicated details of operating a mat cleaning machine, they just insert the mat and let it do the work.
PC&D: For operators with existing mat cleaning machines, how can they better market these to their customers?
SL: Signage and marketing are key. In addition to placing numerous instructional signs around the property, one idea is to use pictures of dirty mats alongside photos of clean mats. Display these along with signs which indicate the location of the mat cleaning equipment, and also near the equipment itself.
Another idea is to move your machine if it’s not making money. Mat cleaning equipment makes the most sense when it is near the vacuum units. As the customer is performing the rest of their interior detailing, they can take advantage of the convenient mat cleaner.
Last but not least, offering a free trial for the machine can be very helpful. Customers who might have been apprehensive at first will take a gamble, and a trial lets the customer experience the benefits without having to second guess themselves on using the service. It also generates some of that most important type of marketing: Word of mouth!
PC&D: What type of revenues should an operator expect from a mat cleaning machine?
SL: Operators can expect a quick return on investment in most cases. There still aren’t many self-serve carwashes who are using this type of machine, so you’ll be able to capitalize on its uniqueness and build business in your self-serve bays at the same type you’re generating mat cleaning revenues. Your mat cleaners can become a reason for them to stay loyal to your carwash.
Our clients have an average ROI of four to five months. In locations with a lot of traffic, some of our clients have made their investment back in two to three months.
PC&D: Can you share with us any success stories about carwashes who are currently offering mat cleaning services at their carwashes and making good revenues?
SL: We have a client in Englewood, CO (Brett Meinberg, Car Wash Express) who purchased a unit just after the ’09 ICA show for his self-serve/express wash. The machine has been there for a few months and it is already a huge success.
While watching his security footage he noticed a big boom in customers and most of them were drawn to the new mat cleaning machine. This was an unfamiliar service to his customers so they jumped on it and loved the new machine. He was so satisfied with his purchase he bought two more units.
Meinberg’s customers are amazed by how fast the machine works and how dry and clean the floor mats come out. This new type of machine/service is what brings return customers.