Car Washing is a Relationship Game – Here’s How to Win!

June 28, 2022

We always hear how important it is to build relationships with customers. But imagine having a friend whose name you don’t know. You have no idea where they live and you have no way to contact them. Do you truly have a relationship with that person?

Of course not! Yet often in the car wash business, we think we have a relationship with customers just because they have come in a few times or have purchased a membership. But to truly cultivate meaningful relationships that lead to brand loyalty and growth, you need to collect, store and use customer information.

“Obtaining customer information allows you to move from more of a functional and transactional posture to a relationship posture, which is where we all want to be as we continue to see membership as the backbone of our business,” said Soapy Joe’s Car Wash's VP of Marketing Anne Mauler.

Often, operators don’t know where to start. So let’s take a look at what you should be collecting and the easiest way to do so.

What Information Do You Need

Like the hypothetical friend in the intro, you just need enough information to connect with your customer. That information includes:


Don’t treat your members as just a number. Collect each member’s name when they sign up and use it when you can. Your point-of-sale solution may even allow you to display members’ names when they drive up to the pay station! This can be a small but impactful difference between the experience at your wash versus a competitor’s.

Additionally, having customers' names allows you to send them personalized marketing messages (email, text messaging, etc.). According to McKinsey & Company, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when they don’t.

Email Address

To understand the importance of collecting email addresses, consider these statistics from a SUDS analysis of 30,000 unlimited car wash plan members:

  • Members with emails had an average tenure of 2.81 months longer than those without
  • Members with emails were 43% more likely to pick the top package
  • Emails are nine times more likely to lead to enrollment than traffic alone

With a simple email address, you can send pay-as-you-go customers coupons and special offers and educate them on the value of unlimited plan members. You can inform all customers of important information, such as holiday hours and special events. You can even reduce churn by reminding unlimited members of the value of their plan. It’s not even critical they read every message. Just seeing your wash’s name in their inbox can remind them their car needs a wash.

Mauler loves email addresses for another reason: Facebook advertising. If you upload a customer list to your Ads Manager account, Facebook will match the email addresses to users in its database, allowing you to serve ads to existing customers. Better yet, Facebook can create a “lookalike audience” of users who have similar characteristics to those on your uploaded list. This allows you to find and advertise to new people who are most likely to be receptive to your message.

Mauler points out that you can segment this as well. You may choose to just upload a list of your highest tier customers and run a lookalike off that list. You might then send those users an ad that touts the latest high-end service, such as ceramic coating.

Phone Number

Obtaining customers phone numbers through SMS Text Marketing enrollment allows you to open the door to new ways of marketing. It’s a great way to send simple messages, such as discount codes and other special offers.text_messaging_soapy_joe_s_promo_(1).jpg

Mauler prefers using email, not just for the above-mentioned Facebook advertising opportunities, but also because SMS is generally charged per message, per person. However, she has found that customers are more willing to give phone numbers than email addresses.

“That really is a moment where, as marketers, we need to be listening and understanding our audience and their communication preferences and then building our tools, communication plans and even our budgets to support that,” Mauler said. “Part of the buzz around omnichannel marketing is communicating with the person at the right time and how they want to be communicated to, and my population is saying text.”


Even if you’re not planning on doing direct mail, consumer addresses can be a powerful piece of information. If you had every customer’s address and plotted them on a map, you could see at a glance exactly where people come from. Are you attracting commuters on the way to or from a major employer, or is the subdivision a mile down the road your main source? You can easily see how this can help you more efficiently use your marketing spend.

The fun part is when you find that person who is 35-45 minutes away. You might think it’s no big deal, that they are probably just commuting from work, but then think about how many other options they had on that drive. What made them choose you? There’s a brand story there!

Getting to Know You

Just as in personal life, building relationships with customers starts with learning the basics. Business growth happens one customer at a time. By collecting critical information from the start, you can turn a one-time visitor into a long-term brand enthusiast.

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