Monthly Wash Programs Make Sense for In-Bays & Self-Serves

Bobby Willis Comments
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Once again, I am pushing the in-bay automatic carwash world to new frontiers. After speaking with several top tunnel carwash operators around the nation and hearing their success stories with unlimited washing, I have decided to implement an unlimited carwash program at my carwashes. I have laid out the marketing plan and am in the process of installing radio frequency identification (RFID) readers in two in-bay automatic bays, two self-service bays and two vacuums.

Here is an overview of the unlimited wash program concept and our implementation strategy:

What is an unlimited wash program?

With an “unlimited” wash program, customers are offered unlimited washes at a set price for a 30-day period. At the end of the 30 days, customer credit cards are billed automatically for the next 30-day period. I like the automatic billing feature because it creates a steady stream of revenue as long as customers remain in the program.

I have set a target goal of 500 customers for the unlimited wash program. A few of the top tunnel operators I spoke with have several thousand customers enrolled in their unlimited programs.

Of course, “unlimited” doesn’t really mean limitless. There has to be reasonable caps, and my definition of “unlimited” for this program is one wash per day in the automatics, 20 minutes per day in the self-service bays and 10 minutes per day at the vacuums. I have outlined these details in the contract my customers will sign when they enroll in the program. In speaking with some of them about the program, many are excited to sign up.

How the system works

As mentioned earlier, my unlimited wash program will utilize RFID technology. Once the customer signs and agrees to the terms of the unlimited wash contract, we will place a tamperproof RFID tag at the top driver’s side corner of the windshield. In order to read the tags, we are installing RFID antennas at the activation units of the automatic bays, on the ceiling of two self-service bays and on the vacuum canopies over two vacuums. There will be signage in the bays and at the vacuums where the antennas are installed to identify the bays as “unlimited” washing bays.

Once customers have signed up for one of the wash packages in the unlimited program, they will simply drive up to an automatic bay or into one of the self-service bays to activate the wash. The system will know which wash package to enable by reading the customer’s windshield tag.

There are a few fail-safe measures built into the system for when unusual circumstances occur, such as when a customer’s card is declined on the monthly renewal date. For example, a customer waiting in line for a wash may not realize the card on file was declined. The system will flash a yellow light alerting her to call to check on the account status. It also will allow her to wash one time until the issue is resolved.

Wash packages and pricing

I will offer two different unlimited wash packages for my in-bay automatics, one package for the self-service bays and one combination self-service/automatic package. All packages include unlimited vacuuming. I took advice from several tunnel operators when I established my unlimited wash package pricing. Most tunnel operators structure their pricing as a multiple of two-and-a-half to three times the price of the wash offered in the program. For example, a $10 Super Wash would be $25 to $30 per month in an unlimited program.

Establish goals

My goal is simple. I want to grow my existing customer base and create a consistent revenue stream, which is not dependent on the weather. Last year, the Hampton Roads, Va., area was 18 inches above normal for rainfall. I want to take the weatherman out of my customers’ carwash decision-making process. If they know they can wash at anytime for a fixed cost, the weather forecast is unimportant.

Ticket effect

Will the unlimited wash program lower my revenue per car? No. Each tunnel operator I spoke with said they experienced increases in monthly sales, as well as increases in monthly throughput. Most operators reported sales increases of 5 percent to 7 percent, with some reporting as much as 15 percent.

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