By Chris Phillips
Romance may be blossoming among some customers visiting Mitchell Motor Group’s car wash sessions. “Two couples who met here now go on cruises together,” said managing director Mark Mitchell, “and with anything up to 300 people turning up at any one time, I suppose a romantic encounter is not out of the question.”
NEED TO KNOW
|♦ Good valeting can help increase customer retention|
|♦ Video walkarounds increase importance of clean cars|
|♦ Machine washers ‘pay for themselves in 2-3 years’|
Mitchell’s ‘wash and go’ is free to all customers on Saturday mornings, with hot drinks and doughnuts included in the 20-minute service. “We need to see customers more than once a year and this is a great way of engaging with them on a regular basis,” said Mitchell.
The Chester-based group – franchise-holder for Mazda, Lexus and Škoda – has three Wilcomatic drive-through washers at £30,000 apiece and four Kärcher 750 jet washers, along with 12 vehicle valeters on its five-acre site. The Wilcomatics are replaced after 200,000 washes and the jet washers are sold on eBay after four years.
“If someone calls on us for a vehicle valuation, our service department will clean it prior to inspection. It’s one of our points of differentiation – if that person visits other dealers, ours will be the most memorable,” said Mitchell.
With a £37million-a-year turnover and sales of 900 new and 600 used cars, Mitchell attributes the group’s 71% business retention to strong brands allied to customer service.
“We spend less than £10,000 a year on advertising – the customers are our ambassadors,” he said.
Like Mitchell, Riverdale Cars prefers to employ its own valeters. In this case it’s a team of four, washing and vacuuming cars after repair and service – typically 20 to 30 a day – and prepping newly arrived supplies of its franchised brands, Mazda, MG and Smart. The Brighton-based company is also an authorised repairer for Mercedes-Benz and Škoda.
“We believe that having valeters as part of the sales and service team makes for better care and a sense of pride in what they do,” said marketing manager Naomi Faughy.
Other dealerships may opt to outsource this service for pre-sale prepping and with prospective buyers now likely to view vehicles on websites, Autoclenz offers a video link to ‘add value’ to the sales process.
Using software developed by AutosOnShow.TV, company operatives shoot a one-minute walk-around video of the vehicle after it has been cleaned and valeted. It takes about 90 seconds for the video to be processed and uploaded to a dealership website, along with 10 still images. The software automatically recognises registration plates too, so the dealer doesn’t have to worry about naming or sorting the video and images before they go online. “The way people buy cars has changed enormously because of the internet,” said Rachel Price, marketing director at Autos-OnShow.TV. “Ten years ago, people would visit 10 dealerships before choosing a car, but now the average is 1.7 visits per purchase.