The majority of carwashes that have an unlimited wash club (UWC) never get above 2,000 members. A growing minority are starting to reach the 3,000 members per location. As an example, Mister Car Wash, before it went public, celebrated over a million members at over 350 of its locations, which is just under a 3,000 member per site average.
There are still, however, very few carwash companies that are averaging over 5,000 members per location. Most of these washes, after reaching 5,000 members, are on their way to 10,000 members, because what it takes to get to 5,000 is very instructive on how to reach 10,000. And, believe it or not, there are actually some carwash chains that have gone over the 10,000 member per location mark already.
What follows is what my associates and I at Brink Results have found in working with our clients to be the key areas to pay attention to if you want to get over 10,000 members per location.
It’s all in the mindset
The first change — and the hardest for many carwash owners — is the mindset. After many years of evaluating the effectiveness of dollars per car strategies, and more recently the dollars per subscription plan results, the mindset needs to be on the number of UWC memberships.
The more focus on charging more per subscription an owner is, the less evidence there is of the change in mindset. Do you want 5,000 members at $20 for $100,000 in monthly revenue? Or, do you want 3,000 members at $25 for $75,000 in monthly revenue?
Seems obvious, but it is not. Why? Because people focus on ticket average and not on total members. As a result, a menu is created that focuses on plan average, instead of maximum members.
A look at pricing
The first place that the mindset is tested is when it comes to pricing out individual items, as well as the subscription plans. There are a couple of parameters in pricing that are known that can maximize membership sign-up.
First, the monthly cost should be from one and a half to two times the price of each individual wash. So, for example, if the single wash prices were $7, $10, $14 and $18, the UWC plans might be $15, $20, $25 and $30.
Second, the top two washes can be higher, both individually and in the club. An example might be $8, $15, $20 and $25 for the singles and $15, $22, $29 and $36 for the subscriptions.
Third, the place to be aggressive in the low pricing is in the bottom two packages. Some washes start their subscriptions as low as $10. One chain with over 50 locations starts at $12.99.
Although the most common base subscription price today is $19.99, the $15 base is starting to grow in popularity. The reason most operators don’t start that low is because — you guessed it — it will lower the plan average. Instead of how many more members and higher revenue can be achieved, the fear is that the ticket average will be so low that it would not be “worthwhile.”
This has turned out to be a false fear. The objective is to be all-inclusive and appeal to all levels of consumers. And, with a low base price and high-top prices, the average almost always is in the low 20s, but with a lot more members.
However, one caution: Pricing alone will not make this happen. There are other factors as well.
There are four aspects of marketing that can positively affect the sale of unlimited wash club subscriptions if done well. First, on-site signage is the most important issue to be addressed. The objective here is to display the monthly plans across from the individual wash packages in such a way that the subscription value is clear, and the unlimited wash club is spelled out. Gate arm signage and multiple signs on-site can all help to promote the UWC.
Second, a sign-up card is needed that has the application for the UWC on one side and elsewhere spells out the choice of plan and answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions.
Third, promotions are not only great to launch a UWC subscription, but they are also good to shake up sales and get a program moving. An example might be $10 for the first month for any level of subscription.
Fourth, most washes do not do much off-site marketing, but it can be extremely effective if the right media is chosen and the advertising message is well crafted. For example, a billboard in the right place and with a well-designed call to action can have tremendous impact on car counts.
Selling power of your people
If the pay stations are not staffed, the results for most carwashes will be very limited. This is a huge change from the original exterior express concept that had no one at the pay stations and there is a substantial up-front cost to always having at least one person out there. Also, it helps to have smiling, positive people interacting with your customers.
This cost is worth it for the amount of sign-ups that occur with this staffing in place. That success requires some other aspects that must be addressed as you will see below.
Financial rewards have usually proven very helpful to improve performance. Paying those rewards every pay period also helps reinforce those results. An example of an incentive program would be to pay a customer service attendant (CSA) weekly $2 per plan for the first 15 sales, $4 for 16 to 24 and $6 for 25 or more in a week. Obviously, the current volume of car counts is how you set the levels. The objective is to add $1 to $2 per hour for good performance.
For site and assistant managers, the bonuses should be monthly and based on net membership increases. This accounts for churn rates as well as capture rates.
Managers’ incentives are larger and must be balanced against their other incentives. For successful performance in UWC sales, the objective is for a site manager to make $400 to $500 a month in bonuses.
Ideally, employees should be trained in the office, on-site outside and on the pay stations. In the office or “classroom,” employees first learn the UWC plans available, frequently asked questions by the customer, how the sign-up process is handled and then, most importantly, the script that is used in front of the customers.
Once the inside work is completed, then practice occurs outside until the role plays have created a process comfortable with the employee. Last, the manager or trainer goes out on the pay station and coaches the employee on his or her performance. It usually takes between four and six hours to get an employee performing effectively with a good UWC process.
Asking CSAs to set goals on how many customers they want to sign up each pay period and supporting them on whatever their goals are is one of the keys to a positive environment at the location. Not setting quotas or focusing on sales is helpful because carwash CSAs are not professional salespeople.
Service attendants need to see themselves as recommending to customers to consider a UWC plan, as opposed to putting pressure on customers to buy.
The keys for site management to be successful is follow-up. After training follow-up is especially needed in the first 30 days. Getting people to a point that they are making money will help lock-in the right behaviors. Every day a manager should spend some time at the pay stations listening in to the transactions with customers. And, it is critical that there is positive acknowledgment of successful sign-ups. Accentuate success and provide coaching and mentoring when people are struggling.
The number of conveyor carwashes being built exceeds 1,000 a year for the last few years. The most effective defense against other carwashes is having the largest membership totals per location. In addition to being good for business, the success of the UWC program is becoming a necessity for survival. We have started to see some markets overbuilt and the ones that are still doing fine have the most members. It is exciting to know how your business can be protected going forward.
The most exciting change that UWC subscriptions has brought to the carwash industry is that consumers are washing their vehicles more often than ever before. As a result, there is more opportunity for everyone in the carwash business to build their company into a financially powerful subscription business.
Steve Gaudreau is the President of BRINK RESULTS INC., a 25-year carwash industry veteran, author of the books “Creating Exceptional Managers” and “So You Want to Own a Car Wash,” and he can be reached at [email protected].
Check out our follow up video interview to this article below.