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Automated advances

June 06, 2011
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Admit it. When customers pull up to your carwash, you want to present them with the perfect employee. You know the type: No matter the conditions, this employee is always colorful, friendly and full of information. The employee knows your carwash menu front to back, and he or she tries to upsell every single customer. Also, this perfect employee is always on time, doesn’t mind staying late and never, ever, complains. If you stop and think about it, we’ve just described an automated payment terminal.

According to Tiffany Horvath, vice president of marketing with Innovative Control Systems, automated payment terminals offer a consistent customer experience by delivering a wash’s exact message perfectly to each and every customer. “The automated system is never sick and never shows up late for work,” she said. “You have 100 percent control over the appearance of your automated ‘employee.’”

Brad Quay, vice president of sales with Hamilton Manufacturing Corp., agreed. “Kiosks or point of sale systems can be set up to ask customers if they want to upgrade their purchase on every transaction, whereas an employee who is having a bad day or maybe who is not as confident in their sales approach may not do this.” Further, Quay said owners are gambling on what their true sales could be if they’re not using an automated point of sale (POS) system.

Selling the top package

One way an automated payment system can boost a carwash’s bottom line is by clearly communicating the value of the top wash package. Automated systems can communicate this value in a number of ways. “Through the use of voice, text and even video messaging, these systems will ask every customer if they would like to upgrade their purchase,” Quay explained. “Many point of sale systems can also be programmed with video clips or pictures that entice customers to add on certain items or services.”

“The most basic way to encourage customers to select the top wash package is to place it at the top of the wash options screen,”Horvath said. “Promotions can also be used to encourage customers to purchase the top wash package.” Some popular promotional examples are having systems offer a “free vacuum” token with the purchase of the top wash, offer a half-price exterior wash with the purchase of the top wash or offer a free or discounted exterior wash with the next visit.

But, even if a customer doesn’t select the top wash package on the first screen, an automated system can offer all of the individual or packaged additional services on the upsell services screen. “Ultimately, the customer may select all of the services included in the top package, for the same price, but in smaller choice increments,” Horvath continued.

Video capabilities

One way automated systems can offer the top package to a customer is by the use of video. These systems offer owners a number of custom on-screen graphics and video choices that can coordinate with wash signage to help deliver a branded customer experience. Horvath said the variety of video clips that could be used throughout the sales process includes:

  • Intro videos;
  • Instructional videos;
  • Info videos;
  • Service videos; and
  • Wash busy videos.

Horvath explained that intro videos welcome customers to the carwash and introduce featured services or specials. Instructional videos offer guidance for the sales process or navigational instructions through the carwash site. Info videos educate customers about the specific services offered at the carwash. Service videos promote specific upsells and unique site services. Finally, wash busy videos can entertain and educate customers while they wait in line.

Promotions galore

For customers who are not interested in the top package, the pay stations are flexible enough to promote certain upsell selections. Horvath noted some systems have smart upsell technology that can deliver customized additional service offerings based on the customer’s base wash selection.

In addition, frequency promotions and carwash clubs can be set up in the system and applied automatically to purchases to keep customers coming back more frequently. “With the addition of RFID technology, a variety of club programs can be implemented to keep customers loyal to your car wash,” Horvath said.

Time sensitive promotions, with special hours each day, are system friendly programs that can be used to drive volume in off-peak hours as well. “Time sensitive profiles allow you to set your time-based promotions once and have them automatically change based on the time of day for early bird or happy hour specials,” Horvath said.

Forgotten features

Quay said many carwash owners make the mistake of not learning all the features and capabilities of their equipment. “Too many times, these machines are purchased in the same way that we purchase computers at the local electronics store,” he said. “What I mean by that is that we look for the brand that has the longest list of available programs and features, but then we only end up using a handful of the programs that it has available.”

Owners also commonly ignore the security settings in their payment systems. “Many owners do not take the time to create a solid auditing system for their location. They leave holes in the system where silent partners can take advantage of them,” Quay continued. “This obviously eats directly into their profits. They also too often do not use the security features like establishing user ID’s and passwords for employees to access the machines. They leave the factory set passwords on the machine and trust that their employees will be honest.”

Another common mistake, according to Horvath, is owners not effectively using the system’s cash control features. With proper cash control, carwash owners can know that they are getting paid for all of the cars that are washed.

“Most of these systems have some form of cash management available that helps maintain the integrity of the transactions,” Quay said. “It provides a detailed reporting of when the money was put in and taken out of the machine and how much should be there. There are also security systems that require user names and passwords in order to access the inside of the machine or access the ‘vault’ area of the machine.”

Keeping in contact

The automated systems also make monitoring carwash sales easier with off-site contact options. “Most systems these days allow for access to the kiosk through the Internet,” Quay said. “Some even allow for information to be shared via smartphones. These systems are very user friendly and are designed for owners who may be accessing the equipment remotely to change settings and even to configure changes in advance of the date and time they want the changes to occur.” The systems also save owners time and money by emailing or texting status messages and allowing for remote resets of error codes.

Horvath said her company offers the WashConnect system. WashConnect is a multi-site management system that keeps owners connected to their carwash with real-time data and statistics via the Internet from any location. “WashConnect is configured to follow their defined organizational structure to provide a consolidated view of critical data at each level, from the corporate overview down to the individual site and specific device,” she said. “The system also automatically sends customized SMS text or email alerts for component failures, service notifications, basic site information, or designated management metrics based on the owner’s selected configuration.”

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