The carwash industry’s reputation for conserving water while being environmentally friendly has improved greatly in recent years; this is thanks in large part to owners and operators who have made eco-friendly improvements and campaigns by the carwash industry to spread the message of water conservation.
Around five years ago, Prime Shine Car Wash President Evan Porges said his wash chain “took an aggressive stance” on water issues, and developed a campaign to spread the word. The carwash launched a website, and created a slogan with the same name: “Save Money. Save Time. Save Water.” The site explains why professional carwashing is the more eco-friendly way for a customer to wash their vehicle, and also has information on how Prime Shine’s water filtration system works. Being proactive in spreading the message that carwashes are more environmentally friendly and conserve far more water than at-home washing, has helped keep the California carwash successful during the recent stretch of drought, he said.
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Claire Moore, chief operating officer at the International Carwash Association™ (ICA), said it’s particularly important for washes to get the message out about water savings during drought conditions. “When community members are being asked to conserve water, it’s critically important to educate not only your current customers, but also your prospective customers,” she said. Otherwise “when consumers are being asked not to water their lawns, or to take shorter showers, they don’t understand how car washes are allowed to stay open,” she continued.
Spreading the word at the wash
When a customer visits Prime Shine, they’re sure to be educated on the advantages of professional carwashing. A flyer the wash gives out explains the water reclaim system they use, and the measures Prime Shine has taken since the drought to take water savings a step further. Just in case a customer doesn’t see the flyer before leaving the wash, while blowers dry off their vehicle, a digital monitor that also provides marketing information displays this message: “Thanks for choosing Prime Shine. Your wash used 75% less water compared to washing at home!”
Prime Shine has also done a lot of little things that improve the public perception about water usage at a professional carwash. Since the drought has intensified, employees are no longer cleaning off the tunnel and self-serve area with a hose, but rather using electrical blowers; squeegees are being used to clean the tunnel windows. Steps like this go a long way in sending the message that Prime Shine takes water savings seriously, Porges said.
Battling misconceptions with public relations and outreach
“The best thing any operator can do is to educate their community by starting local,” Moore said. “Talk to the organizations that are having fundraisers in church or school parking lots and invite them to hold a fundraiser in your wash.” Youth can be particularly interested in environmental concerns and Moore said educating them can be a way of teaching the whole community about the advantages of professional carwashing.
Prime Shine works with a public relations team to spread the message of professional carwashing at community and environmental events, where the wash hands out information and eco-friendly goodies, Porges said. The PR team has also put together a media kit for Prime Shine so the carwash team is prepared for any media inquiries that come their way. By communicating with the decision makers, Porges said he’s able to make Prime Shine part of the decision process.
While the negative perceptions about the carwash industry are continually improving, Porges has taken additional steps to spread the virtues of professional carwashing. He’s penned opinion pieces that have been featured in The Modesto Bee and other publications, and also written to politicians and explained the value of a business that conserves water in drought-stricken California.
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Working with community members, Moore said, is an effective way to politely explain how at-home style carwash fundraisers are damaging to the environment. “Not only does it recognize your carwash as a community partner, it also helps to spread the word about professional carwashing in general.” Offering charity groups the alternative of doing their wash at your business can be one solution, she continued. To make the process easier for them, Moore recommends providing the organizations with coupons to sell for your wash, or creating a designated event time where supporters can visit your wash, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to their organization.
One way to get the word out about the value of professional carwashing is the ICA’s WaterSavers program. “WaterSavers is the industry’s voice to the consumer,” said Moore. “It is a tool for operators to promote and educate the consumer about their business,” she continued. The program provides a number of resources to carwash owners, including signage, videos, social media support and various marketing materials that make it easier to show prospective customers the value of professional carwashing.
The ICA began conducting a study on Consumer Habits and Attitudes in 1998, and Moore said the organization has found a “significant shift” away from at-home carwashing in that time. “As the ‘green movement’ has advanced over the last few years, we’ve also seen consumers becoming more environmentally conscious.” The 2014 study has yet to be released, but Moore is happy to report that consumer use of professional carwashing has increased again. Porges said the recent support California Governor Jerry Brown has given for carwashes that recycle water shows how far the industry has come with public support.
Making things fun
Every summer, the Prime Shine employees get to shed their uniforms, and wear t-shirts. There’s an employee contest each year to come up with a slogan for the shirt they wear. This year’s theme is water savings. Getting employees to buy into conserving water is a grassroots way to spread the message about professional carwashing, Porges said. Creating a company culture where people believe in water savings, and are happy to be at work, doesn’t just improve your company’s customer service, he said, it improves the reputation of professional carwashing.
The carwash industry is continuing to gain support in its efforts to help conserve water and spread the message about being eco-friendly. By being part of the conversation, Porges said, carwashes can keep improving their reputation and save water at the same time.
Becoming a community partner
Many municipalities work with carwashes to spread the word that professional carwashing is the most eco-friendly way to wash a vehicle, said San Antonio Water System Communications Manager Anne Hayden. In San Antonio, professional carwashes and charities have been united over a common desire to help.
San Antonio has its own WaterSavers program, which affords numerous benefits to carwashes that meet specified criteria. Being qualified for WaterSavers gets carwashes free advertising with a placement on the San Antonio Water Systems website, and helps bring charity groups and carwashes together to raise funds with environmentally friendly car cleaning.
The partnership, said Hayden, was an opportunity for San Antonio to conserve water, without hurting local organizations. The way Hayden sees it, “every problem is an opportunity," for improvement.