Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Quick lube, slick profits

October 11, 2010

“Quick” is a tempting word to customers nowadays. Some are working two jobs. Some are working and raising kids. And some are simply frazzled just looking for work. So the “quick lube” sign out in front of your carwash may be as much of a selling point as you need in this economy.

But a quick lube isn’t just a way to guarantee profits on rainy days; it’s also becoming a more simplified profit center thanks to software dedicated to the industry. With today’s systems you can monitor your profits, organize your stock, and compile customer data with a few clicks of the computer mouse.

It’s not just for adding and storing data
Quick lube software doesn’t just store sales numbers or keep a database of available oil products. It can also be used to store specific car information that is unique to each customer — from what kind of oil they want and how often they come in, to recording a faulty or troublesome oil pan. For this reason alone it is important that the operator chooses a program specific to the fast oil change industry.

Software programs that are created for the oil change business can also simplify the marketing process. For example, Mike Brunetti, vice president of Grease Monkey Franchising and Monkey Shine Franchising, a chain that specializes in carwash and oil change franchises, said that because both facilities serve the needs of the driving public, the quick lube and the carwash provide a lot of cross-promotion opportunities that benefit the consumer.

“The carwash can be packaged with other maintenance services, for a savings to the customer who visits the quick lube,” Brunetti explained. “The carwash may also be used as a traffic driver through promotion and advertising for the quick lube.”

In turn, he said, because the carwash is usually a higher volume business in terms of car counts, there is a continual pool of potential new quick lube customers who can be given special offers which foster customer loyalty.

According to Harvey M. Miller of Car Wash/Oil Lube Consultants, most carwashes with quick lubes have compatible software for both departments. If a carwash is adding a quick lube, he said, they should search for lube software with their existing computer system company.

Choosing a system
When shopping for a software program, operators will want to consider a few basic features. For instance, can it track birthdays, visit dates and purchases?

Brunetti suggested selecting a company which has been “tried and tested” in the quick lube industry first. Also, he said, “it should store customer data for use in maintaining customer service histories, serve as an effective point-of-sale (POS) system, and provide clear and concise reporting for performance analysis as well as financial purposes.” Your system should also be able to track the effectiveness of the center’s marketing efforts.

According to Brunetti, a POS system should be used to capture as much information as possible, without overloading the customer with too many questions. The more a POS system is used, “the better the center will be able to maintain service histories for that customer and their vehicles, which means a more informed and effective customer interface,” he said.

According to David Klingman, director of marketing at Computel Inc., a company that makes software for the quick lube industry, the lube software accommodates and simplifies the process of collecting customer address information. He said a good software program stores a detailed copy of each customer’s invoice which is automatically available to the technician when the returning customer’s license plate or vehicle identification number is entered.

“A smart carwash operator,” he said, “will look for an integrated software that will allow for one POS to cover both the carwash and the quick lube and then any future add-on profit centers, such as a convenience store.”

Computer sleek or weak?
Ease of use should also be considered when you are purchasing or updating a system. According to Klingman, most software is self contained and easy to use, but operators should be somewhat knowledgeable about computer systems.

“The most important items in the software (i.e. reports, inventory and designing lube packages) are easy to learn, but to truly take advantage of the software it helps to be a little computer savvy,” he suggested. This means that operators who are less familiar with computers might want to ask for a more involved training program or assistance from the manufacturer.

The idea is to always make it as easy to learn as possible, Klingman said. “Many locations experience high technician turnover rates. Computer programs are best when they are intuitively designed, and simple logic in processing a vehicle will make learning the software easy and quick.”

Or, according to Miller, if an owner/operator can run a carwash’s computer and software programs, they should certainly be able to learn and run quick lube computer systems and its specific software.

Remind and cross-market at the same time
Software programs are ideal for cross-promotions, according to Brunetti and Miller. There are slick ways to let customers know that both services are being offered. Not-so slick ways involve a pushy upsell, or an almost guilt-inducing plea. The best ways are to send a message; clear, precise, and haggle free. Reminders are an excellent method because they do not require an employee to sell either service. This will reduce the training requirements of your cashiers and sales staff, as well as give your customer a more relaxed atmosphere at the counter.

Like any customer communication piece, reminders are a great tool for cross-promoting the businesses for the benefit of the car owner, contributing to increased customer loyalty for the business, Brunetti said.

Miller said he also recommends sending out reminders in the form of a card.

“The oil lube software that is being used should be capable of processing reminders that can be mailed out,” Miller said. “It’s a good way to cross-market and tell the customer that a free basic carwash will be given when the customer comes in for an oil/lube change within a certain date given.”

Miller admitted that the most proven way to cross-market is to give a free basic full service or, exterior carwash with a quick lube. “Discounting a carwash price with the lube is not nearly as attractive as just giving a free wash,” he explained.

Klingman said it is standard in the industry to offer a free wash with an oil change. His company allows for free carwash cut-out tickets to be printed at the bottom of an invoice, or the free wash ticket can be printed from a thermal paper printer to discourage copying.

“This marketing method can also be reversed with a discounted oil change with a carwash in the same way.” He also recommended offering a special discount or service on a mailer, but said to make sure the customer knows the mailer has to be brought in to receive the special offering. This method also helps in tracking customer demographics.