CAR WASH

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Connected Customers

Connected Customers

Technology has paved the way to help increase customer satisfaction at the wash, while also making it easier.
7 minute Read

“Alexa, pay for car wash.”

With this simple command, a customer can initiate a wash, choose a package and pay for the service all without leaving their car, speaking with a car wash employee or even downloading an app.

“Voice Wash is a new concept where you can actually speak to Amazon Alexa in your vehicle and activate certain types of car washes directly by voice, actually taking payment by voice, too,” said Alan Nawoj, founder and CEO of Beacon Mobile, a mobile app development company that works with car wash, C-store and automotive shop owners worldwide.

“It all happens by voice,” Nawoj said.. “You don't have to take out your phone, you don’t have to fumble around with anything. We think that over the coming years it’s going to really deliver some good value.”

Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed?

Voice Wash is just a single example of the new technology available to car wash owners and operators looking to wow their customers.

While it may seem like a lot of bells and whistles, today’s new technology is designed for something deeper: building value for customers that will translate to a healthier bottom line for car wash owners and operators.

In today’s increasingly digital world, keeping customers engaged often comes down to using the right tools – not only to meet customer expectations, but to delight customers during their experience with the brand.

That’s just what Wade Keith, the brand manager with Breeze Thru Car Wash, hopes to achieve with the use of Rinsed, a customer relationship management (CRM) platform built specifically for car washes.

Breeze Thru Car Wash has had success with its Wash Pass program, but like many businesses Keith and team realized they had a big problem with customer churn.

“If you can control churn – and I’ve done the numbers a thousand different ways – but if you can decrease churn by one percentage point overall, that’s $25 more that goes towards the lifetime value of that customer,” Keith said.  

At Breeze Thru, an email marketing program had been put in place to try to engage customers after their Wash Pass purchase, but connecting data meant a labor intensive process involving manual manipulation of the information as it was moved between the car wash’s point of sale system and the team’s marketing software, Keith said.

“Now we have the data, we can see the reports in the CRM and that helps us know what’s working and what’s not,” he said. 

The biggest benefit to both the customer and the car wash business is the ease of management, helping to minimize the dreaded member churn. According to Keith, previously, if a customer needed to change their form of payment, the car wash had to direct them to a website or the customer had to visit a car wash site in person to complete the process.

“The thing that we have to control with churn is involuntary churn, meaning that somebody’s credit card declines,” Keith said. “So now that we’ve taken this on, if a customer declines, they receive an automatic email with a link that has all their information prepopulated. They just enter their credit card information. It automatically goes into the system.”

Keith said that in the first six weeks of using Rinsed as their CRM system at Breeze Thru Car Wash they’ve had 628 customers update their credit cards through this more streamlined process – saving customers they likely would have lost to churn previously.  

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“The App Is Going to Work”

Making things easier and more streamlined is what many of these new technologies are all about.

Research from Deloitte shows that negative or frustrating experiences have a much larger impact on customers than a single positive interaction. In fact, customers are likely to mention a positive customer experience to an average of nine people, while they are likely to tell 16 people about negative experiences.

At Autowash, a high-growth car wash company with multiple locations, the solution to improving the customer experience is an app-based membership platform, developed together with Insiten, a mobile application developer.

While the project started to develop an app specifically for Autowash, Insiten CEO Adam Trien and Autowash founder and CEO Dennis Dreeszen quickly realized the value that an app facilitating easy self-service for car washes had far-reaching implications. 

“Just watching the results come in was pretty amazing,” Trien said. “So many people were able to sign up for these monthly memberships, we were able to reduce churn and really improve the fun factor. People started posting more about the app on all the social media sites.”

The resulting product, AMP, is a car wash membership program and customer engagement platform that can be used by any car wash company.

Dreezen is quick to point out that the real beauty of the platform is that when a customer initiates its use, “the app is going to work” thanks to its high up times. Uptimes are a metric that represent the percentage of time that hardware, an IT system or device is successfully operational.

“When customers come into the app, we’re able to modify the customer journey based on who they are, what type of user they are,” Trien said. “We could pop up different messages and different deals, do fun things on birthdays. We have games in the app and prizes and raffles and all sorts of cool things.”

Dreeszen said that experience has translated to huge gains in engagement with customers.

“They absolutely love the app,” Dreeszan said. “We’ve got these really cool features in the app that personalizes it to them and their vehicles and what they’re doing. They’ll screenshot those things and post them on Instagram Stories because they’re proud of that.”

Getting Personal

To be sure, a big part of the new technology for car washes includes new options for personalizing the car wash experience.
Research from McKinsey and Company shows that customers now view personalization as the default standard of engagement, with 71 percent of customers expecting businesses to deliver personalized interactions. On the flipside, 76 percent of customers reported becoming frustrated when that personalization doesn’t happen.

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Dreeszen said developing AMP and the Autowash customer app has been a huge boost to the customer experience.

“Being able to actually know who our customers are has been super powerful,” Dreeszen said. “We know who they are when they call in, we can look up their information. Being able to identify them when they do contact us has been super, super important for building our brand with Autowash.”

Meanwhile, AMP’s chief customer officer Elizabeth Meyers points out that when using technology, the customer experience doesn’t need to be limited to the period of time a customer is actually using the car wash.

“It’s really crafting that customer journey,” Meyers said. “You’re able to segment the users, both members and non-members within the app. We capture so much data and are able to send messages, show popups and really just interact with people as they’re at your car wash or not even at your car wash.”

While so many personalized touches – from digital signage that says a guest’s name, to upsell suggestions based on previous purchase activity – are driven by data, not all personalized touches are fueled by a CRM.

Nawoj at Beacon Mobile said in addition to the Voice Wash feature, another fun development in car wash technology is a personalized light show during the wash itself.

“The idea here is making it fun for the customer, where they can pull into the car wash and not only are they going to get their vehicle washed, but they can also choose the light show when they go through the tunnel,” Nawoj said.

He explained that car washes with this personalized light show setting will have a preset preconfigured selection of light shows based on interests in the area. For example, a car wash in Dallas might want to incorporate a light show in blue and white for Dallas Cowboys fans to enjoy.

“The customer is basically getting the ability to personalize their experience a bit more which is always a good thing because it makes the customer feel like they have a little bit more control,” Nawoj said. “It’s not just going in for a car wash, but in a way it’s almost like an entertainment experience, too.”

A Big Brand Experience

Car wash industry pros point to brands like Starbucks and Chick-fil-A as the gold standard for providing experiences with personalized technology.

In fact, at Breeze Thru, Keith said his experiences with brands outside the car wash industry influenced his desire to implement a CRM system to improve the customer experience.

“When I signed up for a membership somewhere else, I received a lot of different touch points afterwards, and that does enhance my experience a lot,” Keith said. “There may be something about the membership that I signed up for that I did not know, but I see it in the email communication and say, ‘Hey, I didn't realize that was a benefit.’”

At Beacon Mobile, Nawoj also pointed to experiences with apps like the one customers might already be familiar with as the type of experiences customers have come to expect.

“Over the years, we’ve built a lot of features into the platform to not only allow the car wash owner to better sell to their customers, but also to better market to them,” Nawoj said. “So there’s a lot of gamification in there, basically making it fun for the customer to use the app and earn points and badges at the wash so that they can become a more loyal customer.”

In fact, Deloitte has reported that gamification can help a company increase customer interactions by up to 40%.

Knowing Where to Start

The future of car wash technology is here, and admittedly, it can be a little overwhelming.

“It's like drinking from a fire hose,” Nawoj said. “There are so many options available.”

If you’re looking to get started with technology to improve your customer experience, Nawoj advises to start small and start by identifying your goals. Once you know what your goals for growth actually are, you can choose the solutions that will work best for your business.

“We’re a champion for our customers and we’re there to educate them. We spend a lot of time just on educating and explaining,” Nawoj said. “If we were to pick one thing to do really well, what would we want to do?”

An easy starting point is a monthly membership program run through an app that can serve as a self-service platform, letting customers manage their account, Nawoj said.

At AMP, Dreeszen and Trien agreed that the execution of new technology should be seen as an extension of the individual business itself.

“If upselling is a huge part of your car wash, then we can set that up so that there are those upselling opportunities automatically in the app versus a brand that says, ‘we don't want to do any upsells at the transaction, we want to send messages later,” Dreeszen said. That’s totally designable.”

“These car washes are beautiful and it's incredible what’s happening with this industry – how much time they put on their signage and the buildings and machinery inside,” Trein added. “These companies have spent a lot of time and effort building these beautiful brands and we wanted to make sure the app carried that forward. So when you come into the app, it’s an extension of the brand.”


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