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Adding verve to your self-serve

March 08, 2011
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A customer sees, smells, feels and even hears everything while at a self-serve carwash. A leaky hose, a foul odor or a wand that appears dirty are red flags to a customer and also things that can be fixed or replaced.

Savvy operators know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So before a customer looks elsewhere, read on to find out what needs to be checked, fixed, updated and replaced before a customer replaces your wash with your competitor’s.

Tweak those leaks
It might not seem like much; a drizzle of water leaking out of a hose, but those drips add up to lots of lost money — and they’re also an annoyance to customers who don’t want to get wet. And they’re a national concern! To help consumers save water and money, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds an annual Fix a Leak Week in March, informing businesses and households on how to fix and detect leaks. Wash owners should also monitor their water meter to track water usage. Using a lot of water during a slow month is a good indication there is a problem somewhere in the system. If the leak is not through the hose, companies such as American Leak Protection, will come to a carwash and detect a leak for a fee.

According to Chuck Titzer, president of Halo Boom Systems, a company that manufactures self-serve carwash equipment, wands should be checked as much as possible. “See if there’s a leak or any damage to the wand or if the trigger is sticking,” he advised.

As Titzer explained, pumps tend to get ignored and need to be checked regularly. “The oil needs to be changed on a regular basis. The belts need to be checked and the pressures as well,” he said. Titzer said they check the pressure every day, whereas the oil should be checked less regularly.

Jaimie Sokolski of Mosmatic Corporation, also a manufacturer of self-serve carwash equipment, said operators should consider the condition of their “front and center” equipment versus the behind-the-scenes equipment. “A carwash that looks like garbage or has a leaky hose will turn a customer away,” he explained. “A customer doesn’t see that it’s pretty inside the pump room; they see what’s on the outside. And, if a customer gets wet while washing their car, it will drive them away.” Sokolski said it’s not always the hose that’s leaking, but it could also be the swivel connection or the connection entirely, and that needs to be checked on a regular basis. These types of leaks waste water and chemicals.

Update with add-ons
Oftentimes, customers can be pleasantly surprised by more offerings at a carwash. Just like upgrading to a new phone with all the bells and whistles can boost a person’s day, a shiny new carwash feature can be enticing to try and make the customer feel as if the carwash is evolving with the needs of its customer base.

Keith Linton of Southern Pride Car Wash Systems suggested possibly adding functions like tri-foams, dryers, Rain-X, or adding bill acceptors or credit card acceptance to your bay meters. “Also,” he continued, “Possibly adding a new vacuum with more added functions should help the owner not only increase their time at the carwash, but also increase their customer base because they have more to offer.”

Linton also suggested adding on dryers to the bays. Sometimes, if it’s not a warm or sunny day, a customer might not want to drive away with a wet car. “I think the latest and greatest are the self-service dryers available,” he said. “We purchase ours from Mosmatic. We have put them in our numerous carwash locations and the owners, as well as the customers, really like the product.”

Titzer also said that some self-serves, which offer tire cleaner chemicals on the options dial, are adding on special tire cleaner brushes that have a stiffer bristles.

Another thing an older carwash might want to consider is adding on a dual boom system, which operates from the ceiling of the carwash, eliminated hose tie-ups and the hose hitting the side of the vehicle. “These help out customers because they don’t like it when a hose has to go over and hit the top of a vehicle. When they have to go around the vehicle the hose can droop down and drag along the vehicle. And the shorter, the customer, the more problems they have,” added Titzer.

The future of self serves
One of the more advanced features in the world of self serves, according to Titzer, are gated self serves in which people will pay a flat fee to enter the property and then have free range with a self-serve bay, vacuums and other car care services.

“Once you pay to get in, it’s all inclusive and not time-constricted,” he said. Titzer said this is happening down in the Southeast so far. It requires adding on a fence and security, but might just be the wave of the future.

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