Loaded for Profits
Teach employees to tout the benefits of carwashing
By Terry McKenna
A while ago, I read an article that touted the benefits of carwashing. According to American Woman Road & Travel magazine, more than $24 billion a year is spent battling car corrosion damage from things like sun, salt, road grime, smog, tree sap, dead bugs and bird waste, not to mention acid rain. That is an absolutely staggering amount—$24 billion.
The article went on to quote the Environmental Protection Agency, which has reported that acid rain damages car paint when the moisture evaporates, leaving the acid which can form a blemish that looks like a splattered raindrop, etching a permanent mark on the car’s finish. Needless to say, this information caused me a certain degree of anxiety due to the fact that one of my cars is always parked outside.
I also read the results of an International Carwash Association survey that said 62 percent of car owners believe car appearance is essential, yet only 53 percent of them wash their cars less than once a month, with 16 percent never washing their cars. That’s a lot of acid rain buildup, and while that’s bad news for car owners, it’s a great opportunity for carwash operators.
Prior to reading these statistics, I never thought about the financial impact of not keeping your vehicle’s exterior clean. Sure, I knew it was good common sense to keep your vehicle’s interior clean, because who enjoys driving around in a car with a dirty interior? But I never viewed washing my cars as a routine maintenance item, like I do oil changes, tire-rotations and tune-ups. I thought carwashes were more or less a “nice-to-have” vs. “gotta-have,” which is the category that oil changes, tune-ups, and tire-rotations fall into.
When it came to protecting my investment, I guess I was thinking solely under the hood. Well, no longer.
I currently take my two cars to a drive through, high-pressure, touchfree carwash at my local service station. I usually purchase the carwash right at the pump island when I fill up my car, but on occasion I do go inside the store to make my carwash purchase. Over the years in the various states where I have lived, I would go to full-service tunnel carwashes. I wonder how I never heard anything from carwash employees about the potential negative effects of not getting my car washed. Why did I have to read about it instead of being told firsthand by front-line employees who manage the carwash business every day? My advice to operators is, don’t assume customers know about these things. I certainly didn’t, and I think it’s safe to say that I probably represent the majority of the population of car owners, which currently number in the neighborhood of 138 million.
How many more carwashes do you think you could sell if your front-line employees were out there communicating this type of information? If a regular customer who comes to get his car washed from you once a month started coming twice a month—just one more wash—the impact on your bottom line would be huge.
Obviously, obtaining new business is important since you lose a certain amount of customers every year due to relocation, dissatisfaction, developing new relationships and death. However, the most efficient and cost-effective approach to growing your business is to secure more business from your existing customers. One additional carwash per customer, per month, is not unrealistic when you think about it. Start by educating your workforce with the information I mentioned above. There’s a saying that goes, “Knowledge is power.” I completely disagree with that statement. Why? Because I know a lot of people who are loaded with knowledge but don’t know how to apply it. Putting knowledge to use is power, not simply possessing it.
Benefits vs. features
The average carwash employee today is prepared to talk to customers about the different types of carwashes they offer—the Grand Slam vs. Homerun vs. Triple, for example. Employees can explain the differences between the various carwashes offered in terms of features: undercarriage wash, double-pass, foam and wax, drying, etc. In most cases, customers read for themselves on the menu board the differences in carwash packages. The connection that customers don’t automatically make is the benefits, aside from the most obvious one; my car is clean.
Benefits sell, not features. The benefits are avoiding the substances that negatively impact your car in terms of appearance, resale value and overall investment protection. What do you think would have a greater impact of convincing a customer to purchase a carwash from you: new state-of-the-art equipment (feature), or acid-rain damage protection (benefit)? Features may attract customers, but benefits close the deal and secure long-term loyalty, provided of course you offer a competitive price and treat your customers well.
So, how do you prepare your front-line employees to communicate and sell the $24 billion dollar carwash benefits to your customers?
Here’s a five-point strategy:
1. Educate. Expose your front-line employees to every type of carwash industry data available—trade magazines, Web sites and newsletters. Make every employee accountable for accessing this information. You may even want to develop a quick and easy test that they can take summarizing key information that has an impact on your business. Does this sound silly? It’s not silly if the end result is more carwash revenue via an educated workforce.
It may also help reduce your employee turnover, since your employees will feel they are learning and growing while working for you, not to mention becoming more confident in their jobs. Customer loyalty would be enhanced via a higher level of confidence with the person they interface with most.
2. Develop a guide. Capture vital data that would help your employees explain and sell the benefits (vs. features) of your carwashes, including selling phrases, into a small pocket guide that they can refer to until it becomes second nature to them.
3. Communicate. Continually talk about the benefits of carwashing to your employees until these benefits completely sink into their heads. It will become more natural for them to then talk about and convey these same benefits to your customers. Post a bulletin board that is visible for all your employees to see, with key carwash data that they can use to their advantage when talking with customers.
4. Coaching. Coach your employees through the learning process, helping them in any way you can to raise both their level of knowledge and confidence in understanding and communicating the benefits of carwashing to your customers.
5. Recognize and reward. Simply stated: recognize and reward what you want to see more of.
Time to bring this article to an end. The sun is out, and I need to get the acid rain washed off my car.
Terry McKenna is principal and co-founder of Employee Performance Strategies, Inc. (EPS), based in Chantilly, VA. He can be e-mailed at perform@eps-.com.