While it’s wrestling with a series of challenges that are becoming increasingly common, the car wash industry still boasts great customer experience examples.
The industry is booming, so with plenty of competitors down the street offering nearly identical services at similar prices, customer experience becomes more imperative than ever.
The fact that a car is a uniquely prized possession, often with emotional connections, raises the stakes even higher.
So what can war wash owners do to stand out in an over-saturated, ever-growing marketplace?
Car Washes Lean Into “Dirty” Humor
For some car washes, the answer is just to have fun.
The owners of Quick Quack Car Wash, for one, dressed a mascot in a large yellow duck costume, sunglasses, and a tee-shirt bearing the web address Don’tDriveDirty.com
The motto of the chain, based in the western United States, is clear and inviting: “We make car washing fun.” So is another slogan: “When your car shines on the outside, we smile on the inside.”
- “Drive in dirty, drive out flirty.”
- “Dirty car? We’re here to raise the bar!”
- “Got dirt? We’ll make it squirt!”
All jokes aside, car washes are grappling with some of the same challenges faced by others in the car care industry, such as auto repair and oil change shops. For all, someone down the street will provide a nearly identical service, likely at a similar price.
Cars Are Everywhere, So Car Washes Follow
Forbes estimates that there were more than 278 million personal and commercial vehicles registered to drivers in the U.S. alone as of 2021. Other research shows that 91 percent of U.S. adults commute to work in personal vehicles.
And one study even found that 45 percent of vehicle owners have cried when parting ways with a car (this author’s daughter was one of them, but to be fair she was only four years old at the time).
That’s a strong emotional attachment, which makes it imperative for car wash owners to separate themselves from the crowd.
The best way to do that, as ever: a remarkable customer experience.
The Car Wash Industry Is Growing
The need for captivating customer experience is especially paramount in the car wash industry, which dates back to 1914 when the first car wash opened in – naturally – Detroit.
Today, with a host of service options ranging from automatic to self-service and hand wash, the industry has grown exponentially: there are more than 60,000 car wash locations in the United States.
Revealingly, statistics show that as recently as 1994, less than half of drivers reported last washing their vehicle at a professional car wash. By 2019, that number ballooned to 77%.
And the industry is only becoming more competitive: one study forecasted that the global car wash market, valued at $29.3 billion in 2021, would grow at a compound annual rate of 3.1% until at least 2030.
Customer Experience Examples For Car Washes
An important customer experience tenet is that brands should try to make each communication a little more fun, a little more human. A quick search of “funny carwash signs” on Google reveals these gems, illustrating that car wash owners are taking that notion to heart:
- “Salt’s great on your French fries, not on your car.”
- “Umm… yeah, I’m gonna need you to wash your car, that would be great.”
- “All employees trained by Mr. Miagi.”
Wouldn’t you be more likely to stop at a carwash with a sign like that versus one with simply a name on the sign?
On top of the amusing signage and slogans, some car washes are focusing on two things close to many people’s hearts: kids and pets.
Midwest-based Crew Carwash puts stuffed animals in the blower room so children don’t get anxious. One customer wrote in a review: “My children actually enjoy going through the carwash (as opposed to being scared of it) because they get to see Elmo and Cookie Monster and Curious George.”
As for furry friends, Mr. Sharky’s Car Wash in Texas offers a self-service dog & pet wash, the idea being to give dogs “a good scrub” as their owners’ cars are cleaned.
Other Customer Experience Suggestions For The Car Wash Industry
Some car washes enhance the human experience with everything from LED lights and themed décor to colored soaps and massage chairs. Others have even discovered that putting a food truck on the property will bring in business.
Experts also suggest a range of perhaps less fun but important ideas, such as music, entertainment and free WiFi; chauffeur services; club memberships and reward programs; and subscription services such as unlimited wash clubs.
Car washes should continue to figure out what else they can do to personalize the customer experience.
Subscription services tend to be a good value proposition for customers, with Amazon Prime being a good example. So do the “rain guarantees” that some car washes offer, which allow customers to come back for free if it rains in a certain number of days.
Another step that proprietors can take is fewer pricing options. Too many choices can be overwhelming for customers, and reducing customer effort is the #1 factor in customer loyalty across industries.
As DRB, a company that helps entrepreneurs own and operate car washes, notes, the key in the end is finding that special way to stand out. “Car washes all do essentially the same things,” DRB wrote, “but it’s HOW you do them that can give your wash that wow factor.”
“We had/have a problem of people taking our complimentary spray bottles of Windex. Previously, we put them out on the cart and they magically disappeared over a couple of days. We simply wrote “please return to cart” on the bottles.Heard your presentation. Designed these in my hotel room that night and sent to our local printer. Proudly, we have not lost one yet and they are generating a ton of conversation at the wash. Thought you might get a kick out of this.”
This is part of a series of industry articles featuring customer experience examples that any company can use.