Listening To Self-Pay Customers “Pays Off”
Learning New Ways Of Communicating With Self-Pay Customers Can Be Critical To Your Carwash’s Future
The number of self-pay kiosks in the world is expected to rise from one million today to 2.5 million in 2014.
When it comes to conducting basic, everyday transactions, a growing number of customers like to do things for themselves. This is evidenced by the fact that most of us prefer to place orders at a drive-thru window from the comfort of our own car, rather than wade through a quick serve restaurant; and why we’re increasingly turning to self-pay terminals when we do anything from checking out books at the library to checking into a hotel.
If you have any doubts, consider this: the number of self-pay kiosks in the world is expected to rise from one million today to 2.5 million in 2014, according to NexGen Research. About two thirds of those kiosks are in the United States, thanks to self-pay success stories like Red Box. Red Box installed a new DVD rental kiosk every hour of every day in 2009, a year that saw rival Blockbuster, which operates under a traditional non-self-pay model, lose over $558 million. Another example of our affection for self-direction: eight out of ten Hertz Rental Car customers now use self-serve kiosks.
Well aware of this trend, many carwash operators have added the SiteWatch® Xpress Pay Terminal® (XPT) to their sites. There are many good reasons why self-pay terminals like the SiteWatch XPT have become so popular with customers:
- Convenience and Reliability – Self-pay terminals always deliver the same consistent experience to customers.
- Control and Self Direction – Self-pay terminals also allow the customers to control the flow and pace of the transaction without depending on carwash employees.
- Speed – Transactions are typically completed in less time at self-pay terminals. This is especially true when terminals include a feature like SiteWatch FastPass®, a wireless acceptance system that approves transactions in under 3 seconds using Radio Frequency Identification.
Customers Want Control, Not Isolation
Self-directed customers prefer using terminals and drive-thru windows because they want to control their retail transactions. However, although many of these customers want to be “left alone” to complete transactions at their own pace, they do not want to be isolated. As a retailer, you should consider taking steps that will help you stay in touch with self-pay customers. Aside from making these customers feel more connected to your business, taking these steps will also help you stay in touch with their changing needs.
Savvy marketers have recognized the danger posed by isolating customers at the drive-thru window or self-pay terminal. In response, they’ve taken steps to engage self-directed customers through interactive signage, receipt messaging, surveys and social media. SiteWatch features a variety of tools that will help you communicate with the customers who use your Xpress Pay Terminal, without diminishing the speed, efficiency and control benefits that make the self-pay option so attractive to you and them.
A Lesson From Taco Bell
Taco Bell conducted America’s Drive-Thru Survey, an exhaustive examination of “consumer’s drive-thru attitudes, behaviors and beliefs" to learn more about dining preferences.
The 5,600 site Taco Bell chain does 70% of its volume through its drive-thru windows. Although this is great for efficiency, it limits the opportunities that Taco Bell managers and employees have to interact with customers and learn about their dining preferences. This prompted the company to conduct America’s Drive-Thru Survey, an exhaustive examination of “consumer’s drive-thru attitudes, behaviors and beliefs.”
Taco Bell found that although most customers place a premium on using the drive-thru lane because it saves time and allows them to remain in the comfort of their vehicles; they’re also interested in having healthier menu choices. According to the survey:
- Almost 9 in 10 customers (89%) said they would like to try healthier foods.
- Just under 70% said that having better menu choices at the drive-thru would encourage them to eat better.
- Half of all customers said they could stick to a low-calorie diet while ordering through a Quick Service Restaurant drive-thru.
In response to its customers’ interest in weight loss, Taco Bell unveiled a new Drive Thru Diet campaign featuring seven different Fresco menu offerings, each 340 calories or less. Since its campaign was aimed at drive-thru customers, Taco Bell tailored the menu to fit their needs, avoiding salads (a common diet fare) in favor of items that could be held in one hand for eating in a car.
By its menu choices and use of the term “Drive Thru” in its campaign’s name, Taco Bell left no doubt about who the new offerings were aimed at. The restaurant chain also sent a reassuring message to customers that they would not be sacrificing the time-saving benefits of the drive-thru when they took advantage of the healthier menu. Within a month of the December 2009 introduction of the Drive Thru Diet, marketing studies showed that Taco Bell was 27% more likely to be recommended by the critical 18-year and older female customer group.
Borrowing a page from Taco Bell’s book, a carwash that found its XPT customers wanted the option of purchasing a particular off-line service on occasion would do well to do two things:
- Make it easy for customers to pay for this service at the XPT
- Give the service a name that evoked images of speed and convenience
SiteWatch offers a variety of tools that make it simple for you to survey XPT customers. For example, using the SiteWatch Intelligent Receipt Messaging feature, you can invite customers to visit your website to complete an online survey. Using SiteWatch Website Connect™, you can email customers when they complete a survey a printable barcode coupon good for a generous discount on their next carwash. Customers can scan this coupon into the XPT’s built-in barcode reader to receive their discount. If you want to limit your polling only to VIP customers, use SiteWatch Intelligent Receipt Messaging to print the survey invitation to club members only.
Listening Builds Loyalty
Offering a discount to customers who complete your survey will not only increase your response rate, it will also encourage people to return to your carwash sooner. However, the more significant benefit of surveying customers is the loyalty that it builds. People like to feel that their opinions matter. Showing your customers that you care about their views is sometimes a more effective way to reward their loyalty than offering discounts.
According to research by professors Utpal M. Dholakia and Vicki G. Morwitz published in the Harvard Business Review, sometimes just asking customers questions is enough to create valuable long term loyalty. Dholakia and Morwitz looked at the behavior of two groups of customers of a financial institution. Each group was made up of 1,000 customers. Members of the first group were asked for their opinions in a phone survey, while those in the other group were not surveyed at all. Neither group was exposed to any of the financial institution’s direct marketing activities during the study.
Dholakia and Vicki G. Morwitz followed the two groups for one year. What they discovered was astounding. Customers who were surveyed by phone were more than three times more likely to open new accounts with the institution, less than half as likely to defect to a competitor and were generally more profitable. According to Dholakia, this increase in loyalty was long lasting. Writing about the study, he noted, “these differences in behavior toward the firm persisted – survey participants continued to open new accounts at a faster rate and defect at a slower rate than nonparticipants, even a year afterward.”
The phenomenal rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social media provide all businesses, including carwashes, with unprecedented opportunity to engage customers, not only by surveying them, but also by directly communicating with them and following their comments about your carwash and its services.
With newspapers, radio and television becoming less influential by the day, creating this social media presence may be the most effective way to get your message about new services and promotions out to consumers. At the same time, it will also provide a relaxed platform for your customers to share their views with you in an honest and open fashion.
Putting links to your Twitter, Facebook and Blog on your website home page is simple to do with SiteWatch Website Connect.
According to social media experts, the key to communicating through this brave new medium is to be:
- Accurate – As always, honesty is the best policy so avoid exaggerated claims.
- Positive – Negative comments about a competitor or anyone else will do nothing but detract from your credibility.
- Frequent – If you are going to commit to engaging in social media, it’s wise to do so every day with daily Tweets and updates to your blog and Facebook pages. These updates don’t have to be elaborate –even just a brief comment on the weather will do. The point to remember is that “Frequency begets fans and followers,” while inactivity loses them.
- Outgoing – As part of your social media strategy you should reach out to new people on Facebook and Twitter every day. This will create a positive feedback cycle as they then respond and start following you.
- Photographic – Social media is driven by images, so be sure to include photos of your wash, the cars it turns out, your equipment, your employees or anything else of interest.
Is social media worth the effort for your carwash? Of course, no one can answer this question with absolute certainty, but consider this: a 2009 study by the Wetpaint and Altimeter Group found that companies with the highest level of social media activities increased sales by 18% in 12 months.
Another study by Rice University focused on the value of Facebook in building customer loyalty. The study looked at the Dessert Gallery, a Houston bakery and café chain. The Rice researchers looked at the behavior of over 13,000 customers who had signed up for the chain’s mailing list and compared it to the group (roughly 5% of the total) who were Facebook fans of the Dessert Gallery.
According to the researchers, customers who became Facebook fans spent about the same per visit as regular mailing list customers, but they visited one of the chain’s locations about 20% more often than their non-fan counterparts. Fans were also about 14% more likely to recommend the Dessert Gallery to their friends.
The venerable toy maker, Lego also learned first hand about the power of social media. In 2004, the company’s products seemed outdated, and it was losing $300 million a year. But by 2008, the company was posting double digit sales increases. In 2009, Lego enjoyed a 31% US sales increase, gaining a full market share point to 3.9%, making it the fastest growing of the top 10 toy makers in this country.
What happened? Lego began a comprehensive customer listening program that relied increasingly more on social media as a market research tool. Delving into Facebook, Twitter and carefully monitoring consumer toy blogs, it took serious samples of popular culture, and processed it thoughtfully to make its product line more relevant to consumer tastes. For example, Lego placed much greater emphasis on movie-themed toys like its Star Wars and Indiana Jones offerings. Now these licensed products make up more than half of the company’s sales.
At one time, it was thought that Lego toys were just for kids. Monitoring blogs and Tweats soon convinced Lego executives otherwise. By being attuned to social media they discovered an extensive network of adult fans that remained passionate about the toys and spent a good amount of money on them.
Once they became aware of this large adult market, Lego executives actively reached out to it, getting involved in the AFOL (Adult Fans Of Lego) community. Lego has sponsored adult oriented events and created a network of ambassadors who spread the word about Lego through the social media and share their input with the company about new products.
All of this networking has created even more momentum for Lego’s growth machine, but of course none of this might have happened had not the company made a concerted effort to learn more about its customers. There’s a lesson in this toy for carwash operators who are looking for new ways to build customer loyalty in this age of self-pay stations. In today’s market, when the impact of traditional advertising is limited and technology has changed the dynamics of the consumer-business relationship, the smart marketer will look for new ways to communicate with customers.
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- Making Your Car wash "Part Of The Conversation" In A Facebook Driven Market
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- Peak Performance: Managing Your Carwash During Its Busiest Periods
- Time To Rethink Your Ideas About Customer Service
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- Listening To Self-Pay Customers "Pays Off"
- Marketing From Within
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- Reaching the "Car-Cooning" Customer
- Bridging The Digital Divide
- The New Pricing Paradigm
- The Future Isn't What It Used To Be
- Growth Strategy For Challenging Times: What Price Loyalty?
- Growth Strategy For Challenging Times: Invest