Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Fleet accounts: How to land and keep them

October 11, 2010

Good news travels fast, but fleet news travels even faster. Satisfied fleet customers are the new advertising wave of the future and their networking currents travel not only to other fleet customers, but the entire community.

That’s why landing a fleet account can be a beneficial partnership for a carwash owner.

You have to seek them out

With the right proposal and tactics, any carwash can land a fleet account. A company with a fleet of vehicles will not typically be out searching to set up an account, so it’s the carwash owner’s responsibility to recognize fleet opportunities and seek them out.

Greg Byler, president of Pit Stop Consulting located in Springfield, MO, said that landing a fleet account usually involves a lot of cold calling and salesmanship.

He knows some carwashes that have a person or two specifically dedicated to contacting and bringing in new fleet accounts. It’s important to spend some time recruiting new accounts because they won’t just fall into your lap, Byler said.

Clearly explain the advantages

Any business with a fleet of vehicles has more than enough to worry about without concerning themselves with a complicated service account.

If you make it clear how the account will actually alleviate stress rather than add to it, a company will be more likely to consider your offer.

Explain the benefits of your carwash that will make your particular business more appealing than others including:

  • Site location;
  • Prices;
  • Services and special cleanings; and
  • Speed and consistency.

By tailoring your proposal to the specific fleet and showing how the utilization of your services will make their job less complicated, you are leaving no excuse as to why they would choose not to set up an account with you.

Sell the image idea

Mark Ellis, owner of Southland Auto Wash in Grand Rapids, MI, has numerous local fleet accounts and said that getting the accounts usually isn’t difficult, as long as a carwash owner puts in some effort and approaches the companies the right way.

He recommends approaching any fleet where the business’ name is on the vehicles. Ellis said that after seeing a dirty van or car pass by with a business’ name on the side, he might call the business and discuss the prospect of opening a fleet account.

When pitching an account, it’s important to remember that:

  • Anything with a company’s name on it represents the image of a business;
  • Most smart business owners don’t want anything negative to embody the image of their company; and
  • Discussing how a clean, attractive vehicle improves a company’s reputation is a sure-fire way to land an account.

Ellis said that people in the catering business or any other type of food service industry are very conscious of what impression their vehicles make. Some companies even have corporate policies that state that every time a car comes off the road it has to be washed.

Offer a billing service

A common fear carwash owners have about taking on large fleet accounts is ensuring the receipt of correct, on-time payments from the companies. One way to ease this anxiety, if possible, is to provide a billing service for the company.

Byler says that sometimes, instead of a discount, the company may specifically request the billing service. If the company has a large fleet, this may be an especially attractive incentive for them.

Ellis agreed that having the carwash provide the billing statements for the fleet company eliminates unnecessary confusion and helps to sell the account.

Southland Auto Wash doesn’t offer discounts to its fleet account customers, but Ellis feels they benefit just by having the house account, which provides them with an easy way to pay for their car services once a month.

Discounts?

Lowering prices at a carwash can sometimes be a scary thing, but lowering prices for a large fleet of cars can be downright terrifying.

When discounting, carwash owners need to think about things such as:

  • If they’re comfortable with the discounted price;
  • If the carwash can afford the discount it offers;
  • A discount offer should be the same for every fleet customer; because
  • Uniform discounts will simplify the accounting; and
  • Uniform discounts ensure that no business or company becomes upset because of differing prices.

Southland Auto Wash used to offer discounts to its fleet customers based on the dollar amounts purchased at its adjoined gas station.

Currently, they do not offer any discounts, but Ellis said that he is considering implementing a discount program based on the day of the week or time of day that a fleet comes in.

Choosing a particularly slow day of the week or slow time of the day to request fleet account customers to visit is one way to offer a discount and fill slower time slots.

Alan Norris, owner of Happy Bays Car Wash in Sanford, FL, chooses to offer fleet account customers another discount option.

If a fleet account customer uses a prepaid card at any automatic carwash they will receive a 20 percent discount on a purchase of five washes. Essentially, the customer will receive one wash for free.

Help spread the word

What some carwash owners don’t realize is that becoming involved in the community is an excellent way to further the networking process and increase the visibility of your business.

Byler said just mentioning the fleet program your carwash offers to members of the community is bound to produce some results. And, if one fleet customer is pleased with the agreement and receives his first bill without any problems he will be excited and begin to spread the word.

Norris agreed that becoming an active member of the community helped his wash land new fleet accounts.

Happy Bays participated in a charity carwash with the local high school, and allowed the school to use their facilities. According to Norris, the kids sold anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 tickets and made upwards of $5,000 for the booster club.

Not only did Norris’ carwash receive some profits from the wash, but getting his name out in the community also drew the school board to approach him about setting up an account for its employees.

In fact, Ellis said that now almost half of Southland’s fleet accounts come from a company approaching them because they heard good things from another fleet customer.

Use the winning technology

New technological advances are something that can not only ease the burden of being a carwash owner but also promote carwash and fleet account options.

Norris said that the technology his wash uses can customize the account based on the fleet company’s stipulations.

If the company only wants its vehicles to be allowed to use the wash account during weekdays, that is a possibility. If, for instance, the company only wants to allot a certain amount of money to be spent on the account per week, Norris can arrange that as well.

Another benefit to this setup is the ability to ensure that the account is being used properly.

If the fleet customer doesn’t think the right person is using the account, or is using it for the wrong purposes, Norris’ facility can check the account to find out when a visit was made and then cross-reference it with the surveillance cameras to verify who used the account and for what function.

Fleet into the future

Carwash owners like Alan Norris already receive about 20-25 percent of their income from fleet accounts and expect that in the future that number could reach 30-40 percent.

Using the proper approach and management style it isn’t difficult for any carwash owner to land a fleet account and ride the profits all the way into the future.