The low-down on loyalty
When it comes to carwash wishes, self-serve and in-bay automatic carwash owners often wish their bays were full and their business was booming. But, in this trying economy, that is a difficult wish to grant. One way many owners are making their big business wishes come true is by creating a customer loyalty program.
The programs are gaining momentum and increasing in popularity because customers are attracted to the idea of getting carwashes at a discounted price. The programs are popular with owners because the right program, promoted correctly, can cultivate a loyal crowd of repeat customers.
Let’s get started
When starting a loyalty program, the first step is selecting the correct program to implement at your carwash. “There are many kinds of loyalty programs available,” said Jennifer Pedrizzetti, president of AutoPilot Carwash Control Systems. “First, choose the program that is the best fit for your wash to accomplish your goals. Then, make a plan of all the steps to fully implement the program.”
Once you’ve selected the best program and have created a plan to implement it, there are three steps for making sure the program is a success:
- Keep the program simple;
- Fully train employees about the program; and
- Market the program to your community.
Simple is best
“The best way to implement a loyalty program is to make it easy,” said George Pawlik, national sales representative with XpresSystems, Inc. “If someone does not know the workings, (the program) just becomes work.”
If a customer has an easy time using the loyalty program, it can lead to them purchasing pre-paid services in the future. “If you are able to explain that, for example, the unlimited program is great, but (the customer) might want to look at a prepay plan that automatically recharges. Then they will only pay for what they use,” Pawlik said. “People might stay in the program because it is easy.”
Pedrizzetti said one way to keep it simple is to choose one program and stick with it. “I see many washes trying to start many different programs all at the same time,” she said. “What happens is that none of them are truly successful because each program ends up only being partially implemented.”
“Even the best loyalty program won’t be truly successful if your employees don’t know how it works,” Pedrizzetti said. “Invest the time in training your entire staff on how the program works. A potential customer who sees an advertisement may come to the wash, but if they are given the wrong information or misdirected by staff, they will not be back.”
Pedrizzetti explained that the most important aspects of training your staff about a loyalty program are making sure they know the program’s benefits and making sure they are offering the program to every customer.
To this end, Pawlik recommended having a key employee learn the program thoroughly so that he or she can train the other employees. “The best way to maintain a program is to have a key person,” he said. “That person must train employees to sell and promote the system. Knowing the program will help when people express a need, and you are able to fulfill that need.”
“I would monitor the interaction of my staff with customers to ensure program quality,” Pedrizzetti added. “This would include spot checking my staff to inquire about my program details to make sure they know the information about the program.” And if any changes or updates are made to the program, the entire staff should be notified so that every employee is offering the same information and service to your customers.
Taking it to market
The program is selected, it’s in place and all your employees are trained and ready. Now it’s time to market the program.
“I would accomplish this through multiple channels to include advertising, business to business networking and personal interaction with clients,” Pedrizzetti said.
“Advertising is a very effective means to educate customers on the program and its benefits. This can be as simple as signage at the wash or include magazine, newspaper and online advertisements,” Pedrizzetti said. “Networking with local businesses and schools is also a very effective means to get the word out about your program. You can easily offer a special promotion for parents with children at a local school who sign up for your program.”