Wash Club - Keys to Building Unlimited Monthly Memberships
By Patrick Gesuele
Change is hard. It is uncomfortable, uneasy, and downright daunting at times. Change can sometimes cripple both human beings and their businesses.
Having at least one person at the pay station every hour of every day will go a long way in building your memberships.
Change can be unforgiving if it is not adapted to quickly and effectively. You can fight change all you want, but, like death and taxes, change is inevitable. How you embrace that change and incorporate it into your business model can be the difference between being open for business and being closed permanently.
Change has come to the car wash industry in the form of unlimited monthly wash club memberships. For those who have quickly taken advantage of this enormous opportunity, their business has never been better. For those who have not jumped at this chance, I have one question for you: What are you waiting for? While competitors around you fortify their customer base by signing up members by the thousands, you are still counting on “one and done” customers. While you are still watching the Weather Channel hoping for good weather, other operators are not nearly as concerned. Why, you ask? They have 5,000 monthly club members whose credit cards are being automatically charged every month. There’s no need to worry about the rain.
Change is difficult, but it also presents tremendous opportunity. I work with operators around the country every day helping them increase their monthly memberships and grow their bottom line and overall value of their car washes. Let me help you.
Take a look at your current staffing and ask yourself, do I have enough people on site to effectively implement a successful monthly membership program? In order to really drive this message, you must have at least one (sometimes two, depending on volume) at the pay station. You can’t recommend passes if you don’t talk to anyone. Having at least one person at the pay station every hour of every day will go a long way in building your memberships. The amount of money you spend on additional employees will be well worth it when those guaranteed credit card charges on the first of every month roll in.
A question you have to ask yourself if you are serious about increasing your monthly memberships to 5,000 per location is, “What is my presentation to my customers?” Another question to ask is, “What message do I have my employees on site convey to trigger the customer’s buying impulse?” No matter how many locations you may have, ideally, you want one consistent message at every wash. If you can formulate answers for those two important questions while dedicating someone at the pay station, 90 percent of the battle is already won.
The presentation needs to be short and succinct. Remember, the majority of washes out there are telling customers they can wash their car in three minutes or less. You cannot take that valuable time explaining the monthly plans. When formulating a presentation, try to make it no less than 15 seconds and no more than 25 seconds. Your message will be more effective and clear. Remember that you only have the customer’s attention for so long — 15-25 seconds is what you have to work with. Maximize that time efficiently.
Whatever your message is, you need to make sure that every employee who comes in contact with a customer says the exact same thing. One consistent message across the organization needs to be sent. Many of you have locations in geographic clusters. Your customers will use the membership at different locations if you allow it. You want to make sure that, no matter what location of yours they go to, they receive the exact same experience. By having one message, you gain consistency and you start to build a culture that supports that consistent behavior.
It helps to think about the monthly memberships as more of a recommendation than a sale. If presented the right way, customers will see the value in this product and there will be no need to overcome objections. Along with these recommendations, your employees must have an expert level of product knowledge. Customers will ask questions and it makes a strong statement when your employees can answer those questions without having to run and get help or refer to a brochure. Product knowledge is key in being able to effectively sign up members. You can’t recommend a customer purchase a membership if you don’t know what you are recommending.
The product knowledge contains two different types of knowledge. The first is getting your employees to understand what each chemical is and what it does. What is tri-color conditioner? What does it do? What about rain repellent or clear coat? A clear understanding of the names of the chemicals and the reason they are used at your wash will give your employees a big advantage when a customer asks them what’s in the wash they are purchasing. Training your employees on this will pay significant dividends in the overall performance of the wash.
The second piece of the product knowledge that must be learned is the exact monthly membership cost of each wash package, what the wash is, and what it does. Understanding the difference between each package and being able to speak intelligently about it will go a long way in establishing your wash’s reputation and credibility.
Think about when you go shopping for yourself. When you ask a question of an employee, are you more likely to buy from and be more impressed by an individual who gave you the right answer right there on the spot or one that has to think about it and then has to find a manager for the right answer. If you are anything like me, the answer is the former. Customers are exactly the same way at your wash. They are coming there for speed and quality. When they ask a question, they want the answer quickly. Train your team to give it to them.
It’s important to have a goal in mind. Once you have employees assigned to the pay station and trained them with a consistent message and product knowledge, the next task that needs to be completed is setting clear goals. How many membership sign-ups does it take per day to get to 5,000 members in a 12-month period? Make sure when you calculate this you are subtracting bad weather days from the 365 total days to give you a true number.
Do not assign the goals to your employees yourself. Allow them to give themselves a goal. Allowing employees to give themselves a goal will make it a goal instead of a quota. For example, an employee tells you he is going to sign up 20 members this week. Mark it down and follow up. Every few days, check in on the goal and coach accordingly. If employee A is struggling to reach his or her goal, find out what the struggle is about. Is it the message? Is it their confidence? Does the employee not have the right product knowledge? There are many variables that could come into play. Only through asking questions and getting to the core of the problem will you be able to help that employee reach the levels of success you are expecting.
The last managerial skill you will need, and in this writer’s opinion the most important, is follow-up. Follow-up is a skill that is not easy to learn. It’s a skill that is acquired by conducting actual follow-up. Following up on tasks that you have assigned is not important just for the unlimited membership sales. Follow-up is important for all aspects of the business. If you don’t follow up with an employee after you have assigned a task, how do you know it was done? If it was done, was it done properly, and completed to the specific instructions you gave?
When it comes to the unlimited club follow-ups, there are some pieces of information you will need to determine whether or not your message and actions on site are working. If followed step-by-step, you will get to 5,000 members much quicker and much more effectively:
1. Gather Previous Weeks’ Memberships Gather your general sales reports (GSR) for three weeks, two weeks, and one week prior to implementation. This is a great way to start tracking where you started.
2. Calculate the Capture Rates Take the total wash sales, minus the club member sales (redeemed), then divide the number of passes sold that week by that number. That will give you your total capture rate for that specific week.
3. Compare Week Over Week Results The only way you will be able to accurately see if what you have implemented is working is to compare real results week in and week out. If this is done properly, it will set a culture of accountability that we are all striving for.
There are two different directions this can go. Both must be handled differently if this process is going to be effective:
4. What if the Capture Rates have not Increased? If capture rates don’t increase, this can usually be traced back to on-site managers and customer-service attendants simply not doing as instructed. This needs to be handled quickly and effectively. Below are some questions you should ask: • Are on-site managers out at the pay station? If you want everyone to buy in, the leadership on site needs to set the example. By the manager spending time at the pay station, it conveys the importance about this program to everyone at the wash. • Was any coaching done at the pay station?
5. What if the Capture Rates Have Increased? • Convey your enthusiasm and ask questions about their success. • Make sure to point out that sticking to what was assigned and following instructions allowed them to achieve this success.
Incorporating these steps into your everyday activities at the wash is a big change. Most readers have never tried to manage any type of membership program before. It’s change, and change is frightening. The only question you should ask yourself is this: “If I’m not successful with building my unlimited club memberships to 5,000, where will I be when my competition does?”
Patrick Gesuele is a training consultant with Brink Results LLC, and has helped over 30 car washes significantly increase their unlimited monthly wash club memberships in the past year. He can be reached at Patrick.Gesuele@BrinkResults.com.