Cars looked very different back in 1959. Whereas today’s cars aim for sleek, aerodynamic curves, the cars of the ’50s sported long, boxy frames with sharp edges and fins. Also, white walls were a trend, and they were a pain to clean.
Professional carwashing also looked different back then. Automated washing was scarcely a decade old, and even then, it required manual labor (operating brushes by hand or pulling a car through a tunnel with chains or ropes). The process was assuredly more hands-on and, for that reason, often more dangerous for the car as well. But the people factor made going to the carwash more of a social event than it is today, where customers fly in and out because they have other things to do.
Certainly, carwashes need to keep up with the times, but according to Jim Coates, owner and president of Coates Car Care, headquartered in Niles, Ohio, having the long-standing experience that comes with running a decades-old business can give you insight into how to make your wash stand apart from the competition in today’s world.
62 years of that personal touch
In 1959, Coates’ father, Jim Coates Sr., opened a single full-serve carwash in Niles. Two generations later, Coates Car Care has grown into five locations with four express washes as well as the original full service one. Now, Coates works with his own sons, James and Jacob, to keep the family business going.
“We have been washing vehicles for over 62 years. It is our passion. It is what we love to do. Taking care of our guests’ vehicles is what drives us to be better every single day,” Coates says.
The full-serve also boasts an oil change department as well as a detailing department. Coates Car Care prides itself on having a fast and efficient oil change facility, where no appointments are necessary. With carwashes often being impulse purchases, the ability to also get an oil change on the fly is a boon to customers.
The detailing department offers three packages: interior, exterior and complete detail; however, additional services (such as odor removal, wash and wax, ceramic coating and an interior poly shine) are also available.
Coates Car Care offers its wash club members promotions and discounts on these other auto services, which makes them valuable additional profit centers, since said customers would otherwise likely get this type of work completed elsewhere.
“We like to be as much of a one-stop shop as we can, and having those departments allows us to do that,” Coates states.
As mentioned earlier, professional carwashing was a lot more hands-on back when Coates Car Care first came into being, which inevitably means that it had more of a personal touch. However, in today’s world where express operations are prized not only for customer satisfaction but also profits, Coates laments the loss of that feeling. Rather than being seen simply as a machine cranking out clean cars, the company aims to recapture that nostalgic personality in order to help it stand out.
“Something that I feel the industry is getting away from slightly is the personal touch that we try to add for our guests’ experience. Myself and my sons work at our locations every single day; our team members greet each person who enters our tunnels, and if there is ever an issue, we do our best to take care of it as quickly as possible,” Coates explains.
Enhancing the experience
“Now more than ever before, customers want to see added value to their wash. Not only do they want a clean car, but they also want an experience to go along with it. Because of this, we have adapted our process to make getting a carwash at Coates Car Care an experience that is enjoyable,” Coates states.
The carwash company has enhanced the experience on two fronts: digitally and physically.
Over the last couple years, Coates Car Care has aimed to implement as much new technology as possible. As Coates notes, technology will only continue to advance, so the wash should use it to make a more seamless experience for guests.
For instance, in 2020, Coates Car Care released an app to allow customers to purchase washes ahead of time, sign up for club memberships and purchase gift cards. The company also just launched a text club, allowing customers to stay up-to-date on operations as well as receive discounts and promotions for being members.
As for the actual wash experience, Coates Car Care has taken to lighting the tunnels, putting in a variety of foam applications, giving complimentary dash wipes to wash club members, providing complimentary microfiber towels and window cleaner for all customers to use, offering free vacuums (with brand-new equipment) and many other perks to help make the wash a destination location.
“We want our guests to know that we care about them and their vehicles,” Coates proclaims. “Being hands-on allows us to get to know both our team members and our guests and gives us the opportunity to build relationships. Quality is our main priority, and I think our guests can see that.”
For Coates, creating a positive customer experience means not only having a quality product but also providing outstanding service.
“It is our job to make sure everyone who comes into our business wants to come back again when they leave. Allowing them to feel as though they are not a number but a valued guest and a part of our family is what I believe generates loyalty in this business and in any business,” Coates affirms.
Of course, a superior final product will go a long way towards earning that loyal following over six decades, but without the Coates Car Care team members who work to give cars that personal touch and leave patrons with friendly impressions of the company, it would be nigh impossible.
“We are very fortunate to be in the position we are because of all the hard work of our team. We would not be where we are, and we could not do what we do every day without them. It is because of them and our loyal patrons that we have been fortunate enough to be in business for over six decades. I am extremely excited about the growth that lies ahead for Coates Car Care, and I look forward to continuing to bring value to everyone who stops in to see us,” Coates concludes.