Carwashes and detailers provide reliable, straightforward services, which means customers can easily find the same service elsewhere. This fact of the industry makes customer retention a difficult task — if the carwash doesn’t make an effort to stand out.
There are many ways your carwash or detailing business can set itself apart from the competition, both in the micro and the macro. Here are 10 ways to increase your customer lifetime value, starting with the fundamentals.
1. Offer maintenance packages
Are you tired of serving customers once and never seeing them again? Maintenance packages give them a reason to come back to your carwash or detailer after their first experience and will create a solid loyal customer base in the long run.
Think of it as a subscription service, like Netflix or Hulu. Customers sign up to receive a service with special features or discounts for a predetermined amount of time. If the service is exceptional, they earn loyal customers. If not, they still get business from those people for a while and receive valuable info about their target audience. It’s a low-risk, high-reward business plan.
The most common maintenance package is a 12-month agreement that provides customers with special discounts and services, but you need to be flexible. Customers’ vehicles come in all kinds of shapes and sizes1, so they should have multiple service packages to choose from.
But what happens when the packages expire? That’s where loyalty incentives come into play.
2. Loyalty incentive programs
Along with stellar service, a good loyalty incentive program will allow you to retain customers after the time for their maintenance packages has expired. Businesses across all industries have clubs or point systems2 in place to reward customers for their loyalty.
Customers who earn a certain number of points from your carwash can receive a free wash, discounts, coupons redeemable at the time of their choosing, gift packages — anything that makes the customer feel appreciated for their continued loyalty.
Maintenance packages and loyalty incentives will keep your customers happy with your prices and services, but you will need to do more than that to stand out.
3. Find your identity
Every successful brand has an identifiable theme. But how do you determine what will draw the most attention? Study your customer base.
If you get a lot of car enthusiasts, consider adopting a racing or vintage car theme. If you get a good number of truckers, center your theme around your truck-friendly features. No matter the specifics, a strong identity is anything that makes you stand out from the crowd and wows your customers.
4. Make renovations
If you’re undergoing a brand overhaul, you probably need to make renovations. Your carwash’s signs and outside decorations are often the first things customers see3, so make sure those features are eye-catching and match your new identity. First impressions count.
You will need to redesign the inside of your building as well. Refurbish your lobby or waiting area with comfortable chairs, Wi-Fi, TVs, music and other forms of leisure to keep your patrons entertained while they wait. And again, update the signs and decorations to make them fit your theme.
5. Get involved in the community
A major contributing factor to customer retention4 is your business’s involvement in the local area. Consumers recognize which companies are in it for themselves and which companies are genuinely invested in the well-being of their communities.
You can sponsor a local event, charity or sports team — anything that allows you to become a familiar face in your community. You can also host your own event, like a car meet or a cookout, and invite other businesses to participate.
6. Offer unique products or services
Your car maintenance skills might be enough to bring customers in, but to keep them satisfied over a long period of time, you need to offer something they can’t get anywhere else. This “something” can be a gift shop, mini-restaurant, food truck, coffee shop or something else entirely.
Gift shops are a popular choice because businesses can sell various goods that fit their brand identity. The car industry has a variety of merchandise5, including clothing, decorations, small trinkets and much more.
What do gift shops, food trucks and coffee shops have in common? They’re fast and easy. The time it takes for your customers to buy those products should equal the amount of time it takes to service their cars. An in-and-out, multifaceted customer experience will help you attract new customers and keep the loyal ones.
7. Use social media
Social media is a fantastic way for your business to engage with your customers and get a sense of their behaviors and attitudes6. You can also use it to promote upcoming events, contests, and rewards.
The best quality of social media is opportunity. Every tweet or Facebook post is an opportunity to learn something new about your customers, announce a new service or generate traffic to your website. Follow these critical steps for social media management and your online presence will grow in no time:
- Research your market. Find out what your customers want and what they’re talking about online.
- Connect with your market. Simply being active on Twitter and Facebook won’t set you apart. If you’re going to build brand awareness, you have to show investment in the community (more on that later).
- Make your content relevant. All your social media content should address a problem, answer a question or generate a call to action.
- Read and respond to feedback. If you’re active on social media, you know that customers won’t hesitate to tell you how they feel. Read the comments on your posts, along with your online reviews, and respond to all feedback promptly.
8. Become more family friendly
If a large part of your loyal customer base is families, your business should become more accommodating to that audience. Many carwashes have two popular features: in-tunnel water guns and a tunnel light show.
Outside of the service itself, you can partner up with a local sports team at any level, from little league to semi-professional. You can also host family events that feature your own mascot or a character from a popular kids’ movie or TV show.
9. Personalized messaging
Whether via email or text, personalized messaging is a great way to connect directly7 with your customers and establish relationships with them. In the early stages of bonding with a potential lifetime customer, you should send them messages frequently to remind them of the features and benefits available to them.
As the relationship improves, send them updates and periodically check in to ensure they’re still satisfied with your business. Birthdays and holidays are great times for those check-ins.
As with social media, personalized messaging will only be effective if you know your audience. So, take the time to research your customers’ trends, attitudes, behaviors and any other insights that you could use to make the messaging more effective.
10. Prioritize your unsatisfied customers
No matter how prosperous your business is, you still have to address the problems of your unhappy customers. If you get a phone call, listen to everything they say8 and don’t get defensive. Those calls are blessings in disguise. They provide a look directly into the customer’s mind that you won’t find anywhere else.
After phone calls, online reviews are the next best resources to understand your customers’ complaints. If you see a negative review, respond to it on the review platform (Google Reviews, Yelp, etc.) or contact the customer via phone or email. Whichever you choose, do it on time before the customer loses interest in your business for good.
When you make an effort to solve an angry customer’s problem, your satisfied customers will take notice and remember why they chose your business in the first place. They will appreciate your commitment and return the favor.
Customer happiness leads to customer retention
While different in practice, each of these strategies answers the same question that businesses around the world struggle to answer: How can I keep my customers happy? A maintenance program, brand identity, in-house customer experience and community involvement all have their places in increasing customer lifetime value.
The details of each strategy are up to you, but every step of the way, make sure you’re working to answer that same question. If your customers are happy, they have no reason to leave and every reason to stay.
Oscar Collins is the founder and editor-in-chief of Modded, where he writes about cars, car trends and auto news. Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates on his work.