Many operators in the carwash industry enjoy enormous success with unlimited wash programs, which offer numerous benefits.
The automatic recurring revenue is an attractive advantage; and, it gives the carwash operator a chance to “lock in” a customer’s loyalty, increases customer satisfaction and eases the financial pain of slow times at the carwash or during a bad stretch of weather.
So, why isn’t every operator reaping the benefits of an unlimited program? If you ask this question to operators who do not offer unlimited programs you might hear several different responses, such as “My volume is already at capacity at my wash,” “I already have a loyalty program that I’m happy with,” and/or “People are going to abuse the program.” You might also hear an operator say he or she doesn’t want to deal with the administrative headache of managing an unlimited program.
Managing an unlimited program has a perspective of being very cumbersome. Some people feel strongly that it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to keep up with customers’ credit cards as they expire or are canceled. Some people also imagine that keeping track of and managing customer data is time consuming, and that entering new member data and canceling people who want to opt out of the program require a lot of work and often result in aggravation.
While these are all realities of offering an unlimited program, implementing and maintaining this customer service tool at your carwash doesn’t have to be difficult.
Maintaining up-to-date credit cards
Retaining current credit card data is one of the major drawbacks to offering an unlimited program. The majority of credit cards typically expire every three to five years, so the expiration of a customer’s credit card is just a matter of time.
Carwashes with a significant number of members may dedicate an employee to spend a vast amount of time calling and emailing members to acquire and maintain new credit card data. However, it is more practical to just have the customers update their own information.
Some carwash point-of-sale (POS) systems permit the customer to manage his or her unlimited membership account. Since the expiration of a credit card is inevitable, a customer who has every intention of maintaining his or her membership may end up not being recharged.
Part of the problem is people have lots of services charged automatically on their credit cards and autopay their bills. When their credit cards expire, they have to remember all the vendors and services automatically charged to that card and then provide the new credit card information, which isn’t something many people probably look forward to doing.
Once a membership has been canceled, some POS systems will immediately send an automated email to the customer to let him or her know the monthly charge did not go through successfully. A link in that email is also included which takes that customer to a secure website to update his or her credit card information.
This feature provides great convenience to consumers, especially those who use a particular credit card to pay for multiple subscriptions or memberships. All they have to do is click on a link and update their information in seconds.
Having a POS system with these types of capabilities is not only a huge time-saver for the customer, but it is also an optimal process for the carwash employees who maintain this sensitive customer information.
Most importantly, these capabilities prevent lost revenue for the carwash and make it easier to experience continued growth toward a successful and profitable unlimited program.
If you can easily provide unlimited program customers with the tools needed to help make managing unlimited programs easier, why wouldn’t you?
To take this ease of use a step further, credit card processors with an account updater service seamlessly and automatically update credit cards.
The great thing about this service is it completely happens behind the scenes. The processor actually acquires the new data from the credit card company, so the carwash operator won’t even know those members’ credit cards have expired.
Multiple vehicle accounts
Another great way to increase memberships is through unlimited “family plans.” If a customer is already a member, why not try to get his or her entire family — if they have cars, of course — to also become members? Offering discounted pricing for additional vehicles is fairly common among carwashes with family plans.
This promotion works great for fleet accounts as well. Likewise, offering special pricing based on the size of the fleet gives the carwash operator greater flexibility. An unlimited program adds a nice level of convenience for businesses with a fleet of company vehicles they want to keep clean as well as for carwash operators.
For instance, the operator doesn’t have to tally up what to bill the customer, print off or email invoices, etc. And the fleet owner has the assurance of knowing exactly what he or she is going to pay every month for carwashes and that his or her employees will be able to easily keep their cars clean.
Moreover, having an RFID (radio frequency identification) tag that is automatically detected on the vehicle is also another convenient feature for customers and carwashes alike. RFID tags do not require separate transactions or payments to occur; it’s a completely automated process.
Offering a family and/or fleet plan is something many operators have success with because these accounts can represent substantial automatic, recurring revenue.
However, several operators don’t offer these types of programs because they feel managing the program(s) are even more cumbersome. Many operators might perceive keeping track of various vehicles and accounts with different prices as unorganized and/or challenging, especially if they are multisite operators without integrated systems.
Cloud-based technology is available, and it helps to streamline the management of the program(s) with all data being saved to one single database; so it’s accessible anywhere with an internet connection.
Looking ahead with unlimited wash programs
The subscription-based membership model is not just becoming popular in the carwash industry. The model of paying for goods and services automatically on a monthly basis is now covering a vast range of categories. From entertainment to food service, many vendors offer their products/services through this model with tremendous success.
Fortunately, technology is available to the carwash industry which allows the operator to easily and simply offer unlimited programs so they are no longer daunting and time consuming to manage.
Some operators with profitable carwashes might not want to change how they are doing things and may not be interested in offering something new, which is fine. And, those operators will most likely continue to be successful. However, we all know technology is always changing, so you must decide if you are going to jump on board or fall behind.
Kevin McLoughlin is the vice president of sales for Washify LLC. Washify is a cloud-based carwash POS system built with leading-edge technologies and extensive marketing capabilities. McLoughlin is a 14-year industry veteran who also owns and operates an exterior carwash with detailing. He can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 1-855-WASHIFY.