Classic Auto Wash, Allen Park, MI

One full-service car wash and two express washes

SiteWatch® Automatic Recharge Module® (ARM) Helps Increase Gross Revenues By 15% For Detroit Wash Despite Auto Industry Meltdown

Challenge: To lock in a steady revenue stream in a down market

Solution: Use SiteWatch ARM to sell a variety of unlimited monthly pass plans with the goal of "appealing to every customer."

OK, so maybe you can’t be “all things to all people,” but it’s worth a shot – at least when it comes to marketing monthly passes. That’s one lesson that can be drawn from the success of Classic Auto Wash, a busy exterior-only site, in Allen Park, Michigan outside Detroit. Despite the Motor City’s well-publicized economic woes, Classic enjoyed a robust 15% increase in gross sales in 2008, a year when many washes in its market saw volume drop by double digits.

Todd Christopher, a well-known car wash equipment distributor and the owner of Classic Auto Wash, attributes his wash’s good fortune to its diverse monthly pass program. “When people ask me how we’ve been able to go against the downward direction of our market, I tell them that the pass program has been the single biggest factor,” he said. “The regular revenue that we get from automatically recharging pass customer credit cards has kept us growing. Pass customers don’t cut back on visits to our wash because of the weather or because they get anxious about bad economic news; for the most part they just keep going with the program month after month, because it offers them real convenience and real value.”

Operating in an economically depressed market, Christopher says that he can’t afford to miss any opportunities when selling monthly passes. This is why he offers a very broad menu of unlimited monthly pass options. Instead of marketing one or two types of passes as many car washes do, Christopher sells six different packages ranging in price from $24.99 to $59.99 depending on the options. (Just over half of all pass customers buy the basic option.) Regardless of their price, all of Christopher’s monthly passes are unlimited because he feels that putting restrictions on them limits their impact as marketing tools.

For customers who want more restricted options, Christopher recently began selling automatically recharged Family Plans in addition to his monthly passes. The Family Plans, which are loaded with six prepaid washes (for the price of five), are automatically renewed by recharging the customer’s credit card when the number of remaining visits reaches zero. Unlike monthly passes, Family Plans can be shared by more than one vehicle.

Christopher sees the Family Plans as an ideal way to reach customers who may be reluctant to commit to a monthly pass. “The Family Plan doesn’t lock customers in to being billed every month, and since it can be used on more than one vehicle, it’s easier for people who don’t plan to visit very often to justify the purchase. My philosophy is that regardless of the customer’s level of car washing, I want to get him locked in and committed to visiting my site. This loyalty is always important, but especially when you’re in a down market.”

SiteWatch ARM is essential to Christopher’s marketing strategy, since it allows him to run and control a wide variety of automatically recharged monthly passes and prepaid plans. His unlimited pass and Family Plan customers have SiteWatch FastPass® Tags placed on their windshields. These tags are read in less than three seconds at his SiteWatch Xpress Pay Terminal® (XPT) to process pass customers.

The same FastPass tags can be used with all of Christopher’s unlimited Family Plan options. FastPass automatically recognizes the specific plan associated with each vehicle as it approaches the XPT. Christopher doubts that it would even be possible to offer his variety of six different plans if his employees had to enter each customer’s plan manually into the system, because the process would take too long and be far too complicated and error prone. Thanks to the ability of FastPass to recognize different plans automatically, without depending on the actions of employees, it’s as quick and simple for Christopher to offer six different options as it would be to offer one or two.

“The SiteWatch ARM, FastPass and XPT set-up have been easy to work with and very effective,” said Christopher. “SiteWatch automatically keeps track of all pass transactions and automatically recharges customer credit cards, so there are no paperwork issues. And the whole set-up has been very convenient for customers; they just drive up, have their tags read by FastPass, and they’re on their way.”

In fact, says Christopher, convenience has been a key reason why monthly passes are popular with his customers. He points out that people like to be able to drive through the wash without having to stop to pay. They also like the fact that passes simplify their purchase decisions by making car washing a regular part of their monthly budget. With passes, buying a car wash becomes one less thing for busy customers to have to remember to do.

The value of Christopher’s monthly passes also appeals to customers. The pass plans are priced to provide customers who come to Classic Auto Wash with any kind of regularity a better deal on car washing. “We’re a very service driven business, so we always want to deliver a good value to our customers,” he said.

At the same time, Christopher doesn’t want his passes to be abused by customers who come in too frequently. This has not been an issue. Although some customers will over-use the plan during the first five or six weeks, most settle into visiting two or three times a month.

Aside from some attractive signage and handouts at his wash, Christopher hasn’t promoted his monthly pass plans aggressively. “We don’t advertise the passes to the general public,” he said. “Our thinking is that we can sell passes very successfully to all of our customers, provided we offer each of them an option that fits their needs.” Thanks to the broad menu of pass options Christopher has created, the chances of customers finding such a fit are very good indeed.

Bottom line: By broadening the traditional menu of pass options, Todd Christopher has sold monthly passes to a diverse mix of customers, allowing him to grow his dollar volume — even in a down market.