Auto Laundry News - April 2013

Ticket Average — Maximize Your Potential

By Jeff Coplin

The car wash menu.

If your goal as a car wash operator is to maximize your potential, what does it take to get it done?

The starting point is to identify the needs of your customers. The next step is to execute the delivery of your service to satisfy those needs. Be honest, and ask yourself if you have the skills to get this done? If your answer is yes, execute this strategy and steer your business to a higher level. If the answer is no, your starting point is to seek the necessary help.


Does your car wash menu of services address the needs of your customers?

Strive for relevance in creating your wash packages. The era of shag carpets, bellbottom pants, waterbeds, vinyl tops, and rubber bumpers ended in the 1970s. Sadly, many car wash operators never got the memo. Obsolete menus are way to common. It is not a “highlight” when exterior vinyl and rubber dressing is the feature distinguishing a wash package.

Speed in Understanding Picture your car wash washing 60 cars per hour. It is a hindrance to traffic flow if your non-starter menu is a confusing storybook format of multiple paragraphs. Adopt the check mark format pictured here and your customers will get your message in a fraction of the time.

Time/Labor Factor
Your mission is to construct wash packages that appeal to the most customers without bogging down the production line in the delivery of the service. Examples of common mistakes are including mat steam cleaning or interior dressing in a wash package. Customers will dismiss your packages if they don’t perceive a need to dress the interior or steam the mats. Conversely, design your packages to have universal appeal and reposition the other services to the a la carte menu where they then can be added to your popular wash packages.

What’s in a Name?
Branding matters. Your customer comes to your car wash and desires to purchase “the best” car wash package offered. Brand your best carwash package “The Best” and avoid the unwanted baggage of negative interpretations associated with names like “luxury wash” or “ultra-luxury wash.” Scrap the outdated menu in favor of terms that better relate to today’s consumer.

Sanitized Interiors
The market for extra-attention interior cleaning is huge. Visiting Australian car washes, I discovered that they had recognized consumers were willing to pay extra for extra attention to the interior. We immediately adjusted the menu at our California car wash. To meet the demand, we now offer a $12 “wet wipe” a la carte service, which is a 10-minute interior sponge bath with all-purpose cleaner. We also offer for $20 a 10-minute vapor-steam-technology service to help clean and sanitize interior surfaces.

New-car protection package.

Reality-Based Pricing
If seat cleaning and carpet cleaning is often more time-consuming to perform than hand waxing, should your pricing structure reflect this reality? The answer is absolutely yes. Imagine it is flu season and your car wash is the destination to clean-up vomit sprayed on countless seats and carpets. It is an act of pure charity to price performance of these services beneath the time required to deal with the problem. For this reason, it makes no sense pricing the performance of hand waxing, carpet cleaning, and seat cleaning at the same price point.

New Car Protection Package
You have washed your customers cars for many years and have earned their trust. Unfortunately, you may have neglected to educate your customers who intend to buy new cars that you now offer a “new car protection package”(fabric protectant, leather protectant, and paint sealant). Consequently, you default on filling your customers need and the new-car dealership provides the service for $500 to $1,200. At our car wash we tapped into this huge market by teaming up with Australia’s market-leading, beautifully packaged premium brand and gained instant credibility and market share.


Search far and wide for products best suited to your operation. It will help you better satisfy your customers needs.

Wow Factor
Customers want the wow factor. Notice that the top three items on the car wash menu depicted on page 78 share the highlight of being “New From Australia.” Since their introduction to the American market four years ago, growth in demand for these premium services has been sensational.

Best Shine, Least Time
Customers want the best possible shine in the least amount of time. I was impressed when I visited Australian car washes and witnessed a locally produced protectant being applied on line. The technology created both a brighter and dryer car. The Australians pioneered a companion product for off-line application, which requires almost no added labor. For the past four years, American car wash operators coast to coast have been pleasing their customers with these innovative Australian products.

Wheels that Shine
Customers want rims that shine and are protected. A visit to car washes in Australia revealed that this service captured 10 percent of the market. To meet demand, our car wash features both off-line and on-line wheel rim protection services.

Premium Choices
Customers want premium choices when it comes to hand waxing their car. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes: Your habit is always to pay a little more for what you identify as “premium products.” For example, when buying ice cream, you choose a pint of Haagen-Dazs. You pass on the 99-cent bottle of shampoo and buy the $15 bottle because your appearance is worth it. Your beer is imported and twice as expensive as Pabst Blue Ribbon. When
you purchased your car, you “loaded” it with all the options, and passed on the stripped-down model. Imagine your disappointment when you arrive at your local car wash intending to buy the premium hand wax and discover that the option does not exist. Pricing one-step express hand waxes at one low generic price misses the opportunity. Availability of premium-wax choices from Australia and Germany, offered for an extra $20, has proven that this premium appeals to 30 percent or more of the market.


Front End
You can’t satisfy your customers’ needs without proper staffing at the greeter position to discover the particular needs of each individual customer. Many car washes are doomed from the start because they simply under staff the greeter position. The best policy is to always staff a minimum of two greeters. A greeter engaged in a meaningful dialogue is now supported by a teammate who keeps the traffic flowing. Staff an additional greeter for every 80 cars (you need four or five greeters for a 400-car day). Your customer experience will be enhanced. It is a big mistake to view greeters as an expense to your business. Properly trained greeters will make your customers happy by suggesting the right answer to their needs. Greeters are the engine that fuels your business.

Performance End
Are you staffed to deliver the service your customer wants? In a nutshell, your car wash is guaranteed to underperform if you fail to staff and train the team members needed to execute at peak demand within the time frame desired by your customer.

Jeff Coplin is co-owner of Matt & Jeff’s Car Wash, winner of the Western Carwash Association’s 2011 Most Innovative Operator Award. Matt and Jeff extend an open invitation to car wash operators to visit their wash in Novato, CA. You can contact Jeff via e-mail at

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