Leveraging Technology to Cultivate Lasting Loyalty at Your Car Wash

December 06, 2023

Customer loyalty is essential for any business but is particularly significant in the car wash industry. Car owners want their vehicles to be sparkling clean and well-maintained, but they have many ways to achieve that goal. They could choose another wash, or they could simply choose to wash it themselves. 

With inflation, increasing interest rates, etc., the latter seems to be becoming a more attractive option. The ICA’s October 2023 Consumer Pulse Report found that while customers still prefer automatic car washes, the number of people who have hand washed their vehicle at least once in the past year has risen by 17% between February and August 2023.  

That means cultivating consumer loyalty is more important – and more challenging, than ever. Fortunately, there are also more strategies and technological solutions than ever to help you establish your wash as THE choice for maintaining a clean vehicle. 

Combat Churn 

Monthly wash plans are a great way to lock in loyalty, but sooner or later, members will leave. While churn is inevitable, there are many ways your car wash point-of-sale can help you reduce it. 

  • Automatic retry period. To reduce customer churn, your point-of-sale system should include an option to retry declined credit cards for monthly renewal payments for a certain amount of time – usually 14 days. 
  • Automatic credit card updater. Some credit card processors offer a service in which they automatically check for and apply credit card changes monthly. 
  • Customer communications. You can use email, text messaging and other marketing vehicles to help prevent both voluntary and involuntary churn. Remind members to use their plans or alert them when their credit cards are about to expire. Offer canceling members a discount or a lower-tiered plan to maintain their membership.  

If you have Patheon® Insights, you have even more tools at your disposal. With the Plan Churn Dashboard, for example, you could identify that a certain plan has a disproportionally high churn rate or that members tend to cancel after the first month. This kind of data can inform your marketing, pricing and plan structure strategies. 

Ramp Up Retail Loyalty 

In your quest for loyalty, don’t forget about those single-wash, retail customers. Car washes can earn 40-50% of their revenue from retail customers. Ignoring this customer segment means disregarding a substantial revenue stream that can help sustain your operations and drive growth. Plus having a healthy pipeline of loyal retail customers gives you a reliable source from which to find more plan members. 

Retail customers who are willing to pay full price and visit your car wash multiple times a month are already demonstrating a strong level of loyalty. Make sure you are capitalizing on that loyalty by consistently delivering an excellent customer experience that starts with a quick, frictionless transaction and ends with a clean, shiny and dry vehicle. 

Technology is providing more innovative ways to keep retail members coming back. One glowing example is the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) feature in Patheon’s Essential Web App (EWA). With PAYG, a customer can store their credit card and designate their preferred wash. When they arrive at the wash, their vehicle is identified by RFID or license plate recognition (LPR). They are then automatically charged for their preferred wash and let through the gate. This allows them to enjoy the plan member experience without a plan membership, an experience that will certainly make yours the wash of choice. 

Loyalty Programs 

Loyalty programs have been around forever. Think about those old punch cards at the record store – every time you spent $10, you got a punch, and after 10 punches, you got something for free. Now, of course, these programs are more sophisticated and are usually managed through a website or app, but the concept is the same – customers accumulate points to get free products or services.  

This is a great retail strategy and one that works great for car washes. Your goal is to get people to choose your wash and get them to come back often. A loyalty program helps you achieve those goals. Better yet, it’s easy to administer with a mobile app like Beacon Mobile, which includes loyalty programs as a native feature. 

Referral Programs 

You can also use a mobile app like Beacon Mobile to encourage loyalty with a referral program. The app user can simply click a button to send their unique referral code to someone via email, text or social media. Both of them then get an automatic reward when the person referred makes a purchase. Not only are you rewarding your loyal customers, but you’re also expanding your customer base. 

Occasional Customer to Lifelong Advocates 

By implementing the right technology and continuing to deliver top-notch service, you can boost retention, maximize lifetime value and make your wash the definitive choice for car care in your community. These solutions can help turn occasional customers into lifelong advocates. Don't leave this revenue on the table - take steps to lock in loyalty today. 

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