There’s no question that Phoenix is a carwash-heavy market. After all, five of the top 50 conveyor carwash chains alone have their headquarters in the greater metro area of Arizona’s capital, and that doesn’t even account for the other chains that have locations there or the mom-and-pop stores littered throughout the city. More than one industry expert has indicated that if there’s a metropolis on the cusp of saturation, it would be Phoenix.
So, how do you stand out in such a competition-rich city? According to Tuck Bettin, CEO and general manager of Cobblestone Auto Spa, you have to create a “wow” factor.
Flexing its service muscles
According to Bettin, “Cobblestone was founded from the passion to provide exceptional customer service, quality and value.” So, in 1997, the company opened its doors at two newly-constructed car care centers in the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas. As the “spa” part of its name suggests, the idea at the time was to provide any sort of care a vehicle might need, from washing and detailing to gas or an oil change. As such, all of the early Cobblestone locations were full service centers that provided all of these amenities — and continue to do so.
Today, however, the company has switched over from 100% full service to 100% flex service in response to changing consumer habits. Roughly half of the company’s current 36 locations in operation are express exteriors. This new model accounts for all of Cobblestone Auto Spa’s recent and future growth.
“Our customers have a variety of needs we deliver on,” Bettin explains. “While consumer habits are migrating toward express carwashing, this evolution still includes a very strong affinity to full service and detailing.”
However, despite this split in focus, Cobblestone remains dedicated to all of its vehicle service customers — oil change and fleet included. For instance, its fleet maintenance program isn’t just limited to carwashes — it covers the quick lube aspect as well. In fact, Cobblestone is even rolling out a new plan for its fleet customers.
“We are expanding our fleet services to not just include carwashing, detailing and oil changes but to deliver fleet services anywhere and everywhere across the greater Phoenix metropolitan area,” Bettin says.
Convenience, after all, is the name of the game Cobblestone’s been playing from the beginning by having all of a car’s needs serviced in just one location. Yet, with consumer habits changing, the company is evolving as well to meet those needs.
Welcome to the Mile High City
Seventy-two miles separate the eastern- and westernmost Cobblestone locations, and while that’s a lot of land area in between to conquer, as mentioned, Phoenix is reaching a saturation point. So, while Cobblestone has grown conservatively and kept to this metro area since its inception, that changed just last year. Despite the pandemic ravaging most of 2020, the company expanded its footprint into Denver, where it now has five locations — with plans for more.
“Phoenix and Denver have dramatically different weather, traffic, existing carwash offerings and competition, but both have identical Cobblestone service and quality,” Bettin notes.
According to Bettin, there’s a void to fill in the Denver market, and Cobblestone plans to go in strong. However, while Phoenix will continue to boast locations with the various car-care services available, the company’s Denver sites will only serve the express market.
Cobblestone has officially initiated a period of planned, accelerated growth — all of which will be in the express format — and it aims to nearly double its footprint to 65 locations within three years. However, for the time being, Cobblestone plans to focus only on these two cities. Bettin feels that focusing on one market in the past served the company well, so instead of being scattered across several markets, he wants to dedicate the company’s time and resources to just these two.
The ‘wow’ factor
Cobblestone Auto Spa takes its motto of “leader in quality, service and value” very seriously.
“Cobblestone team members focus to create ‘wow’ factors with customers through service and especially when we have the opportunity to create an awesome first impression — only one chance at those. We know our customers are more loyal than to our competitors, because we do consistently outperform in key areas that matter most to our customers. One example is our over-500,000 active, loyal email and text club members,” Bettin explains. “Cobblestone successfully supports almost 1,000 team members and their families, even through last year’s dramatic challenges. In return, our team members work extremely hard to deliver quality and value on a consistent basis and with great attitudes, often noticed and pointed out by our customers.”
This emphasis on quality and value directs how Cobblestone services its customers. One of the company’s major tenets is paying close attention to the specific needs and wants of both the vehicle and the customer. Every employee has an assigned position and specific tasks to perform on each vehicle. Thus, Cobblestone’s crews can perform a full service carwash in less than 15 to 25 minutes. And, while Cobblestone is an “auto” spa, as far as its detailing operations go, the company doesn’t just accept automobiles — it welcomes RVs, boats and motorcycles too.
Regardless of the vehicle, Cobblestone offers state-of-the-art packages for both its washes and details. For instance, Cobblestone recently developed and implemented system-wide a new, four-step package that incorporates an accelerated cleaning formula and ceramic glaze technology for both its top full-serve and express wash packages. As for detailing, the company’s exterior packages range from a “Ceramic Sport Coating” at $89 to a “Diamond Plate” package that starts at $500; for the interior, services range from a leather treatment at $89 to a complete interior detail at $179. À la carte services are also available for additional fees.
Focus on the customer
When Cobblestone launched its Denver operations in the midst of the pandemic, it needed a hands-off way for customers to be able to join its wash club. So, the company developed an app, allowing customers to join the club from the comfort of their homes; thereafter, they could simply show up to get their washes with no tags required, thanks to Cobblestone’s use of license plate readers.
Of course, even before the pandemic, Cobblestone aimed to give its customers more value. In addition to posting coupons on its website and offering gift cards and wash books, the company also maintains a blog there that it updates every couple of months. These blogs are informative for customers, explaining everything from the benefits of monthly plans to summer car care tips to the differences between an express and full service wash.
“Cobblestone’s best-kept secret really isn’t one,” Bettin concludes. “We’ve achieved fantastic success for nearly 25 years through persistence and exceptional execution of the business. While these seem obvious, not many competitors are truly able to deliver the ‘wow’ factor to customers without specific qualities and culture.”
Check out the below video interview we recently did with Cobblestone Auto Spa’s CEO and general manager Tuck Bettin.