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This last few weeks in the North Central United States have been great for carwashing.
Lots of dirty cars covered in salt, plenty of sun, dry roads and moderate temperatures. Excellent cleaning conditions and a great opportunity to showcase your carwash to new and infrequent customers. And as a carwash customer, it’s a great opportunity to decide where to take your vehicle for 2013 when the need arises.
Let’s face it: The carwashes have us by the pants. Your car is filthy, you can’t wash in the driveway (unless a skating rink is a desired by-product), and every time you brush up against your car the coat you are wearing needs to be cleaned as well.
I visited a few carwashes this week. When I pulled onto the lot of one, a line of cars extended to the street. That in itself is not unusual this time of year. This was an express carwash with a cashier shack out front, a prep guy spraying down cars, a conveyor and live wipers towel drying the vehicle at the end.
I understand that not many people enjoy waiting in line ― who does? But if the line is moving at a reasonable rate of speed, and progress is being made ― most people will gladly wait their turn.
At this particular wash, there were about 20 cars ahead of me. The line seemed to be moving incredibly slow, about one car length every two minutes. So I decided to make some simple calculations:
20 cars X 2 minutes each car = a 40 minute wait just to get to cashier booth!
In other words, this wash was processing about 30 cars per hour
As a carwash expert, my curiosity got the best of me. I pulled out of line, parked my car by the self-service vacuums and walked around the wash to do a little detective work.
Sure enough, at the exit where the guys wiped down the vehicles, four employees were waiting for cars to come down the conveyor. One guy was busy texting on his phone; the other was smoking a cigarette, while the remaining two wipers gave me a blank stare.
I looked down the entire tunnel and could see just one person making sure the customer drove onto the conveyor properly, then sprayed the car, then programmed the wash and finally pushed the roller up button.
By operating in this manner, the manager of this particular wash was needlessly bottlenecking production at the power spray area and not making needed adjustments to increase volume for that day. Simply pulling one of the wipers up to assist the power sprayer could have increased thru-put to an easy 60-70 cars per hour.
It would not have cost any additional labor, would have made happier customers and especially a happier owner by doubling revenue. I found it amazing that this simple adjustment went unnoticed or uncared for by management. Why would anybody leave that kind of money on the table? Was it lack of training? Lack of knowledge? Lack of caring about the business?
Either way, it was a classic example of simple answers to increased revenue and decreased customer wait time being overlooked or ignored. Was this particular car wash gaining or losing customers during this critical time? Were they maximizing revenue and customer experience or simply throwing it away? Would you return to this wash? Which is more important for today’s customer, time or money?
The old saying "make hay when the sun shines" was true for this wash on this day. Unfortunately, they failed miserably for both the customer and the business itself ― unnecessary and totally avoidable self-inflicted waste.