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When it comes to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, there are some frequently asked questions in regards to tamper-proofing, what it takes to install the technology, and the potential return on investment, etc. To help in answering those quandaries, we turned to Brian Bath, the vice president of Sales and Marketing at Innovative Control Systems, Inc. and Richard Carpenter, director of product development with Unitec.
Question: Are RFID tags tamper resistant? What’s to stop a customer from removing a tag and putting it on another vehicle?
Richard Carpenter: The objective is to prevent an RFID tag from being removed from the windshield so it can be used to wash additional vehicles. The tags are designed and constructed so that if they are torn in any way or removed, they are then rendered unusable.
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Question: What kind of ROI can be expected?
Brian Bath: The biggest mistake any operator can make is purchasing RFID and expecting it to bring brilliant results without any operator input. It doesn’t work that way and, unfortunately, many operators do just that. RFID technology is just like any other product: It has to be marketed properly and get the customer's attention. And, only with the customer awareness will it produce a strong result.
Question: What are some of the latest and greatest offerings that come with RFID technology now?
Richard Carpenter: While RFID technology has not changed considerably, the associated marketing programs have expanded a great deal since the technology was originally introduced for unlimited carwash accounts. Many of these programs are not new and were previously accommodated with mag stripe cards or other means with RFID technology, which ultimately provided more customer convenience and security.
Question: What kinds of programs are available for operators to use with RFID technology and how do they work?
Richard Carpenter: Available programs vary by vendor, but they include post-pay applications where a customer’s credit card is charged whenever a wash is provided (versus a monthly prearranged payment) or customers are billed for usage (which is appropriate for fleet applications) and loyalty applications (which can include member discounts and frequent washer rewards, etc.).
Question: What are some of the ways a carwash can market their RFID program?
Brian Bath: Have the auto sentry screen immediately offer a club membership first thing is best.
Also, operators should have signs on the property promoting their club membership. Staff members can wear hats or t-shirts advertising the club. And employees should be talking it up as well, making sure to promote the benefits of being a member.
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A banner on a gate arm advertising the club plan also works well, as well as using smaller billboards placed in key high traffic areas. Both of these methods provide valuable ways to build club volume, which will in turn return your RFID technology investment.
Question: What kind of installation process is needed for the equipment?
Richard Carpenter: The installation process will vary by manufacturer. However, it will be more complicated if construction is required, such as with concrete removal installation, conduit installation/burial, etc.
Question: What kind of downtime can be expected during the installation process?
Richard Carpenter: While some work can be completed with the site in operation, operators should expect at least a few hours of down time.
Question: What happens if a customer sells their car? Is it a big deal to switch tags?
Richard Carpenter: The process may vary by operator and by POS (point-of-sale system) provider, but, in general, the customer’s account is linked to an ID number that is encoded in the tag and a tag cannot be transferred to another car and a new one has to be issued. The operator will have to find the customer account in the system and then change their ID number to that of the new tag. This process will also automatically deactivate the old tag.