Benny's Car Wash
Virgle Ward isn’t new to the automotive industry — in fact, he’s been in the business for more than 35 years. Starting his career in the commercial tire business, Ward spent most of his time handling business-to-business accounts and working on large retail orders. After feeling disconnected from the lack of customer service he desired, Ward began seeking out a more hands-on, customer-focused career. It was at that time Ward came into the fast lube industry and began working for Benny’s Car Wash.
“Working at Benny’s gave me a one-on-one relationship with my customers,” Ward said. “They needed my service, and I’ve developed long-term relationships with them, helping with anything they come to me with.”
Since it opened in 1951, Benny’s has evolved into a multi-faceted business, consisting of six carwashes, five oil change locations and three convenience stores. With the expansion of the company and 17 service bays under his belt, Ward decided it was time to seek out opportunities that could enhance and sustain both the Benny’s brand and the reputation he had built, so he evolved the business into a Mobil 1 Lube Express.
“We were looking for a program that had national recognition, yet still allowed us to have control, of our business,” Ward said.
Ward’s customers have always been loyal to brands they recognize and trust, and the relationship allows Benny’s to appeal to them through a series of national promotions and campaigns in their own town without losing his local flavor.
Now, Ward is in the process of expanding the carwash side of the business, adding even more oil bays, and revamping the look of the shops to enhance the customer’s experience even more.
“When you’re selling a house, they talk about the importance of curb appeal,” Ward said. “You have to have that same appeal when it comes to your business — you have to be attractive as well as efficient. You need anything to make the atmosphere and locations more presentable.”
With the support of a new global brand but with the freedom and home-grown reputation as an established shop, Ward continued to see his success grow by doing his research in keeping up with trends in the industry and consumer-driven habits. For instance, Ward has witnessed a shift in consumer preference from conventional to synthetic oils. Benny’s overall synthetic sales have seen a tremendous increase — up more than 40 percent in the past few years. He has noticed other emerging trends as well on the local level.
“Now our sales are about 50 percent synthetic, and that’s growing every quarter. We’re starting to have to dust off the conventional tanks,” Ward said. “And today’s car designs are so much different than the ’69 Dodge Charger I had as a teenager. There are more composite materials going into the design of the motors, body styles are closer to the ground and more aerodynamic. They’re designed to squeeze every bit of fuel economy they can.”
After four years, Ward attributes the true success of his business to trust.
“We work really hard to develop the trust of our customers. It’s not always about a sale for today; it’s about the long-time service for tomorrow. We live off these customers, clients and friends coming to us and that’s what we look forward to day after day,” Ward said.
Even after 35 years in the business, Ward said he doesn’t want to retire anytime soon. And while much has changed, he noted customer service expectations and the importance of adaptability are always constant.
“In this business you have to always be open to change, and that’s been true every year since I got out of college,” Ward said. “I’ve seen fax machines introduced, followed by the first IBM Winchester hard-drives — which helped immensely. You have to embrace change and always be open to innovation.”
For questions or comments regarding the Mobil 1 Lube Express program, call 1-800-ASK MOBIL.