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In-bay Automatic

Upselling made easy

December 01, 2011
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In the carwash industry, companies toil away, day after day, working to create the most effective carwash products possible. While carwash owners are always interested in new ways to improve efficiency, customers are on constant lookout for more convenient ways to clean their car. Today, these latest and greatest products paired with improving technology are the linchpins of the car care market.

When a new product or process becomes popular, customers see the benefits of that service and seek it out in their area. Savvy owners recognize the trend, and they promote, push and upsell these newest products on their properties. Here, many self-serve and in-bay automatic carwashes operate at a disadvantage. Since many self-serve washes do not have an employee on the property, how can these businesses push new products and upsell services to every customer?

Automated upselling

One effective way to push these services is by using an automatic cashier. Today's point of sale (POS) systems can maximize profits at unattended in-bay automatics and self-serve bays by communicating upsell selections to every customer, according to Brad Metcalf, Northeast regional sales manager with Innovative Control Systems (ICS).

And it's easy to see how using an automatic cashier to upsell could end up being a lucrative decision. Metcalf said, "Just think, based on washing 25,000 cars per year, if an operator can get an extra 50 cents per transaction, it could equate into $12,500 more than he had before."

Metcalf recommended a two-step scenario to easily suggest carwash upsells using POS systems. First, there should always be a sign with a simple menu layout positioned before the automatic cashier. Customers can use this sign to easily and quickly decide what to purchase once they arrive at the pay station. Next, using the payment system's touchscreen menu services, customers can easily select a carwash and purchase any additional services on an upsell screen.

"If the customer does not understand the perceived value of the upsell menu, they will not purchase," Metcalf said. "So, make certain the sign and touchscreen menu are similar in design and layout."

Video promotion

Metcalf pointed to streaming video with advanced graphics as a technological advance in POS systems that can make it easy to promote services to a customer. Up-to-date systems use the videos to offer customers the best and highest-quality services. Self-service and in-bay automatic washes can easily use the videos to promote specific products and cross market other services on a property.

The videos can use pictures and voice commands to encourage customers to purchase more services to clean their vehicle. Coupled with a wash's custom graphics and professionally designed decals, videos are a great way to advertise a specific service, a frequency promotion and a fundraising event at a wash facility.

Videos also make it simple for a customer to understand menus and follow instructions, and they allow for more interaction between the automatic cashier and the customer. And, customers are used to seeing videos in a retail environment now. Metcalf said they can be found at ATMs and at express checkout lanes in grocery and convenience stores.

What does it sell?

The number of items a system can upsell varies depending on how many extra services an owner feels his or her customers want. Some pay stations offer as many as six extra items, but, on average, three to four extra items work best, according to Metcalf. A simpler menu makes it easier for a customer to select and purchase additional services.

Examples of possible self-serve and in-bay automatic upsell services include:

  • Undercarriage wash;
  • Rain-X;
  • Air-dry;
  • Spot-free rinse; and
  • Tri-color foam.

Also, gift cards have now found their way into the self-serve and in-bay automatic markets. "The ability to recharge the gift card at the POS is a great benefit to the card holder," Metcalf said. "Simply by using their credit card or cash, they can add whatever value they want to the card, without having to see an attendant, saving them time and convenience."

Automatic cashiers, through the use of touch screen buttons, now offer customers the ability to purchase and dispense a gift card at the POS terminal. Customers can enter an amount for the gift card and can even receive bonus value washes, if an owner decides to promote that feature.

In addition, wash club memberships using RFID technology are compatible with automatic cashiers. These club memberships can be sold using a button that promotes a variety of monthly club plans. Customers insert a credit card into the automatic cashier, and it automatically forwards the credit card information to a third party processor, keeping in line with PCI compliance. If a credit card expires before a customer returns for a club wash, he or she will have the ability to renew their membership at a pay station.

Customer comfort

Metcalf explained that customers often respond well to an automatic cashier for a variety of reasons. First, they receive the same, consistent message each time they use the pay station. Next, the customer knows that there will be no surprises with an automatic cashier. A customer may be concerned about who will greet them at the carwash. Think of how an employee's looks, speech and attitude, or lack thereof, can add to or diminish a transaction. For customers, the pay station is a safe, friendly option.

"There are millions of customers who have used automated cashiers at washes nationwide," Metcalf said. "It seems likely that if it was not well received by customers, they wouldn't use them."

Customer comfort with automatic cashiers does appear to differ depending on age. Metcalf stated that there is a general consensus about certain age groups gravitating to an automatic cashier rather than an employee. Younger customers may have no difficulty navigating through a touch screen menu since they were brought up on computers.

Carwashes that have a large senior citizen demographic will need to encourage and train customers more than an area that has a younger population base. Metcalf said this is due to formed habits over the years that include certain expectations of service. Senior citizens have worked with the "human factor" for years and are very comfortable with this type of service.

Impact and future

Since they have been introduced, automatic cashiers have had a significant impact on carwashes. They have reduced the labor needs and labor costs of many carwashes. "The positives clearly outweigh the negatives. Pay stations free up the need for greeters and cashiers, thereby allowing an owner to reassign labor to where it is needed or eliminate the positions," Metcalf noted.

And the future is bright for the pay stations. Metcalf predicted the systems will continue to expand and build upon their ability to meet and greet the customers and make the purchase process more enjoyable.

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