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Business Operations

What Are You Telling Your Customers?

November 10, 2010
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I recently took a driving trip through the upper Midwest for the fall color display. After several hundred miles through side roads and construction sites, my car was due for a car wash. Being away from my home base and far from a large town, I had no idea where I could find one. My GPS came to my aid and I saw there was a wash 2 miles north of my current location. In a matter of minutes I pulled up to a free- standing wash called Sir Sudsy which had 1 in-bay automatic and 3 self-serve bays. I pulled up to the automatic bay and spotted the menu.

I need to backtrack a bit and explain that I am a marketing guy in the car wash industry. I know and understand how important it is to communicate clearly to customers. It’s important to define your offerings through descriptions of your features and benefits and to encourage up-sell through value added items. This day however, like a lot of consumers, I just wanted a quick wash that gave me a clean, shiny and dry car. I was intending to get a basic wash because, after all, in a few minutes I would be back on the road collecting more road grime and bug guts before arriving at my hotel for the night.

As I looked at the menu, I was struck by a few things that caught my eye. “Don’t Forget About our FREE Vacuum!” was printed boldly across the top of the menu. Free, I thought. I haven’t spent a thing and I’m getting free access to the vacuum. Looking further, I was able to clearly understand the differences offered by each of the 4 packages. By the arrangement of the features, I was able to compare the offerings and decide on the value of each package. The sign was attractive, easy to read and free of weathered and faded images. I picked the top wash because it offered a bug remover and if I was going to “freely “vacuum up the Kettle Corn and Cheez-Its crumbs from my interior, I needed the top wash.

Clearly the signage worked to encourage me to buy more than I had initially intended. As I pulled out of the bay and headed towards the vacuums, I noticed another sign. “We care. If you need assistance or have any concerns, call 1-800-SIR-SUDS.” Next to that a sign read, “Top Wash Tuesdays! Get a Dollar off Our Top Wash Package.” I was on vacation and had no idea what day it was but a quick look at my credit card receipt and I saw my $10 wash was $9, it must be Tuesday!

I was beginning to think someone was looking out for me. As I looked around the site, I noticed how clean and nicely maintained the lot was. All the signage looked like the menu sign. They were fresh looking, with neat, clean design that was easy to read and understand. Every sign was helpful and there was no doubt where I was, Sir Sudsy’s. The owner clearly knew how to build his brand. A poster touting their earth friendly products was placed above the trash and recycling bins. I went over to the vending machine to get an interior wipe. At this point, with a clean and shiny car and a freshly vacuumed interior, the drips on my center console from my morning latte needed some attention.

Next to me was a self serve customer at the change machine. “Best wash around,” he said. “The owner is really a caring guy.”

“A friend of yours?” I asked.

“Nope, never met ‘em”, he said scooping up his change.

Right then it was clear to me that both of us were getting the message loud and clear. The owner appreciated our business and took pride in providing a great service. With no employee in sight, I felt I was being taken care of. I pulled into a neat and clean environment, understood the offerings and their value, easily made an informed decision, enjoyed a free service, found a convenient way to finish the job with a little interior cleaning, and I learned a lot about an owner I’d never met… until I called 1-800-SIR-SUDS.

After I ended the call, I looked around to see how busy the wash had become. Charlie, the owner, had told me Tuesday mornings had typically been really slow and that his solutions rep had suggested a few promotional ideas and offered him marketing materials to help him communicate to his customers. It seemed to have worked. I drove off appreciating what a great car wash experience I had and how much Charlie had told me about his wash… and I’m not referring to the phone call!

Now if I can only find a Dairy Queen. Not to worry, I also bought a pack of absorbent towels.

By: Mark Brock, Vice President of Marketing for Lustra™

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