The June issue of Auto Laundry News featured the following article by EverWash’s Chief Revenue Officer Scott Pashley on mobilizing and monetizing a wash membership program:

In the past two decades — and especially in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic — loyalty, rewards, and membership programs, such as Starbucks, Amazon Prime, Blue Apron, Class Pass, have grown in popularity as mobile phone applications have flourished.

While the car wash industry adopted loyalty programs, beginning with printed reward cards and daily specials such as Seniors Day and Ladies Day, wash operators were light years behind when it came to true-blue membership programs.

Even as unlimited wash clubs caught on in the industry in the past decade, mainly in the form of barcode scanners and RFID tags, these technologies offered no intelligence to help drive wash growth, and added more time and resources to the wash’s operation. Not to mention that many of these systems are expensive to install and maintain.

To further complicate things, wash operators have little or no in-house support for managing and promoting a membership program. Even worse, many of today’s programs offer no way to measure a program’s contribution to a wash’s growth and profits. Program promotion, payment and billing, staff training are all left to the already-busy, already-thin profit wash operation.

Empire Wash Group’s Experience

John Grefe and his managing partners operate Empire Car Wash Group, a collection of four tunnel washes in Long Island, NY. They have built successful car wash operations over the past 10 years. Yet, none had much luck with running membership programs.

“We tried doing things on our own, but it was an utter failure,” John said. “We couldn’t wrap our heads around what to charge for each plan, and how to manage the program on the backend. It was a ton of work, even for the 50 or so members we had. We always thought, ‘If managing 50 members is this difficult, how is it even possible to get to 500 members, let alone 1000?’”

When the Empire owners purchased their fourth wash at Hampton Bays, it was already using turnkey membership program provider, EverWash. After watching the operation for a month or two, “It became obvious to us that the benefits from the program could deliver the recurring revenue model that we wanted,” admitted John.

Turnkey Membership Approach

The good news is that progressive wash membership service providers have created a new paradigm for unlimited wash clubs. They are mobilizing and monetizing membership with turnkey solutions that includes every aspect of the car wash relationship and continuously engages both operators and members.

While still providing the customer with the means to access unlimited washes through a mobile app, today’s holistic programs finally address the wash operator’s need for professional help with value-added services such as promotion, sales training, performance tracking, collecting actionable data, 24/7 customer help, payment handling, and overall membership management. This new membership model has already helped early adopters washes realize sizable membership growth, increased revenue per customer, and greater profitability.

The Elements of Today’s Turnkey Membership Program

The items that define a successful wash membership program include:

  • A mobile-powered membership enrollment, billing & payment platform
  • An app for attendants and operators that includes membership enrollment, customer loyalty, billing and quick-pay capability
  • An electronic portal or app for washes or a local network of washes to promote and manage high-value, high-profit subscription-based monthly wash membership
  • Wash staff training that imparts knowledge of both the car wash operation, its offerings, and proven sales techniques followed by an incentive program
  • Digital marketing that integrates mobile, a customer relationship management software, or CRM, and the use of digital outreach technologies like email campaigns, social media, website, search engine optimization, and more
  • A 360° membership management partnership that includes implementation, performance metrics, performance monitoring, and regular reviews with corrective actions to take advantage of new opportunities or resolve problems.

Today’s Full-Service Membership Mobile App

Since the advent of mobile apps, technology has reshaped the functionality of car wash membership from a “key” to access the car wash and identify the vehicle, to a full-fledged subscription management tool. A car owner can sign up from the comfort of home, find the location of car washes that offer the membership program, review a wash’s menu and prices, add or change vehicles, change payment methods, enjoy a contactless visit to the car wash, and more. This full functionality for members relieves the burden of day-to-day membership management for the operator.

Of special importance in this age of pandemic precautions, the risk of viruses and the spread of infection can be minimized through the use of a contactless smartphone app that initiates a wash without leaving the safety of the vehicle and even drawing down the car window. Payment information is securely stored within the mobile app to eliminate the exchange of cash or credit cards.

Fewer Headaches, Less Cost; More Support and Profits

While past membership programs, including those using mobile apps, centered on member wash access, today’s turnkey programs bring much greater value for the wash owner. From the very start of setting up a membership program, providers can side-step the costs associated with new RFID hardware or software systems.

It’s even possible for a wash to avoid any upfront cost for equipment through service providers that offer pay-for-performance business models. That is, the provider covers the upfront cost while earning a commission on the additional revenue stream generated from signed members.

Continuous Training That Goes Beyond Sales

One of the keys to a successful wash membership program is training a wash’s sales attendants. A training program includes items that incorporates both sales and operational training to instill attendant confidence in the services and the value inherent in the membership program.

Necessarily, membership provider training for wash operators must cover a multitude of logistical situations, and they will offer both onsite and online training programs. Their professional trainers will look at every facet of a wash and develop an action plan comprising identification of any issues that inhibit sales, an implementation plan and training for success, and a roadmap to revenue growth.

From a sales perspective, training — in the form of a manual, classroom, video or all of these options — will help employees become comfortable engaging customers.

According to Empire’s Grefe, “EverWash put together an effective training program that really taught the less experienced team members, especially those who did not know as much as they should about car washing. The training gave them a basic knowledge as to what is included in each wash and what the terms really meant.”

“These days when somebody asks a team member a question about hot wax, ceramic, wheel cleaner, arm roller, or types of services we offer, they have confidence,” claims John. “They’re reminded of their training and remember, ‘Okay, this is what I say, and this is my pitch.’”

Collaboration between the wash operator and membership provider is continuous and features ongoing activities that can help boost membership, such as program launches, onsite visits, digital webinars, and online resources. Although driven and sponsored by the provider, an effective membership program is a true collaboration in order to meet the needs of that specific car wash.

Integrated Membership Marketing Matters

Membership program providers are employing integrated, multi-channel marketing plans to build brand awareness and differentiate a wash program as well as to increase wash memberships and generate more revenue.

These customized program initiatives might include any or all of the the following:

● Onsite signage & experiential marketing

● Digital marketing campaign management

● On-site signage and document management

● Social media resources, materials and coaching marketing

● Lead generation, CRM and list marketing

● Website creation and hosting and digital presence

● Attendant commission program

National membership program providers can leverage size, too, and offer wash operators access to advanced digital marketing, SMS & email drip campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO) and other innovative, smart marketing tactics.

Effective Digital Marketing Derived from Actionable Data

New technology finally allows washes to do more than count the number of new members. For example, a membership provider’s vehicle analytics capability, derived from a wash operator’s existing security cameras, can capture actionable marketing data points. Operators are then well-positioned to make informed operational decisions.

Based on early adopters, this information can help wash’s adapt payroll, monitor car count and visit duration, reduce loss and fraud, predict future demand, and of course, grow membership, revenue and profits.

Recently, membership providers are stepping up marketing on behalf of participating wash owners by collaborating with affinity groups and other consortiums to drive large numbers of members to wash owners.

A 360° 24/7/365 Membership Partnership

As every wash owner knows, a successful business is a 24/7/365 concern! Membership service providers must be true partners with wash owners. From signage to systems integration, from training to daily operations, together the provider and wash owner succeed. That support involves any resources outside the realm of a wash operation.

Technology, training and marketing have been addressed, but a 24/7 member call center that provides members with a great experience with membership issues is another. Finally, strategic support from the provider’s leadership team is an important consideration.

Summing up the relationship with EverWash, Grefe, “I am glad to say that our team has direct contact with their team on a daily basis these many months later. I can guarantee that our sales people probably call once or twice a week because they just feel very connected.”