Can your carwash service large vehicles? Should you market your business to small- and medium-sized recreational vehicles? Is it practical to align your business with fleet vehicles, such as rental trucks or buses?
In this special Q&A, Group Assistant Editor Maria Woodie chats with Sylvain Blouin, founder and owner of Rock-N-Wash®, to find the answers to these critical questions and more.
Blouin shares insight into how and why expanding your service potential to clean oversized and recreational vehicles can help increase your bottom line.
MW: If they aren’t currently doing so already, why should carwashes consider expanding their business to offer services to larger vehicles, such as trucks, semitrailers and RVs?
SB: Quite frankly, this is a no brainer; the benefits of working with larger vehicles and fleet accounts are significant. Not only can you establish a relationship with the company and its employees, I frequently see the employees return with their personal vehicles and toys.
Establishing fleet accounts and relationships add to the bottom line with reoccurring revenue, each and every month. The more fleet clients you can secure, the better.
MW: What considerations should car care businesses keep in mind when deciding to service larger vehicles? For example, how do factors such as location, nearby demographics, market radius, site and tunnel size, etc., play a role?
SB: I selected an industrial lot adjacent to residential and high drive-by traffic volume. When deciding to service larger vehicles, car care businesses should keep in mind: the turning radius, access to and from the lot, traffic light(s), local bylaws for big rigs and road driving and services available inside the big bays — for example, a foam cannon, fire hose, pressure, heavy-duty degreaser, etc.).
Visibility is also important. I often hear from drivers, “I can see the line up at the truck and RV bays as I was driving up the road, and I decided to come back later on in the day,” or “I could see that the bays were available, so I turned into the lot to get in right away.”
MW: How can large and recreational service offerings impact a carwash’s profit margins? How can owners and operators ensure an optimal ROI?
SB: They both impact profit margins. Think about it: A B-Train could be in the wash bay for three consecutive hours and generate $200 to $350. It could take 20 to 40 cars, depending on your pricing, to generate the same revenue in a self-wash bay or going through a tunnel wash. The bigger and dirtier the trucks, the bigger the profit margins.
Moreover, Rock-N-Wash®, for instance, has a program specifically for our RV clients. If they wash with us, they can use our Sani-Dump station for free — a great convenient combo service which also adds to the bottom line.
MW: Can you offer any wash/service tips and best practices owners and operators should follow when servicing larger and recreational vehicles? How do these vehicle types compare/differ from servicing standard-sized vehicles?
SB: Make sure you have big sumps to capture all of the mud, oil and grease separators for any diesel/oil fallout. Additionally, make sure your foam cannon degreaser, if you have one, is strong and latches well onto the surface. Likewise, make sure to provide great water temperature and pressure, and use good quality foam brushes. Highway drivers care for their big investment(s), so they look for quality.
Create a loyalty program. Do cross-marketing with local RV businesses. Keep the bays clean — I can’t stress this enough. There’s nothing worse than a nice, expensive motor home or limousine coming to your wash only to find the bay full of mud and grease. If you plan on offering services to larger vehicles, be prepared to deal with lots of dirt and lots of grease; it’s just part of the fun. You have to constantly balance your time among gravel trucks, highway haulers, RV clients on vacation, limousines, toy haulers, local delivery trucks — each one brings different volume and types of grime, and revenue potential.
MW: In addition to servicing larger/recreational vehicles, can you please share insight into the pros and cons of offering fleet services and programs? And, what should carwashes keep in mind when choosing to service and partner with fleet operations?
SB: Honestly, I can only see one con in working with fleet accounts: receivables. Make sure you know a company’s credibility before welcoming the business to your fleet program; and, keep a credit card on file.
Other than the receivables, as long as your kiosks/software can handle the tracking and reporting, working with fleet customers is fantastic. As the fleet clients grow their respective business(es), you automatically benefit by default by having more vehicles, more customers and more revenue.
If I could double my fleet client base tomorrow, I would do it without any hesitation.