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Carwashing enters the computer age

October 11, 2010
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A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to give my ‘do a trim. Problem was, I’m new to the area and haven’t had time to find a hairdresser. I pass five hair salons on my drive to work, but apart from the signage and amount of vehicles in the parking lot, I can’t really tell a lot about the businesses by just looking at them.

So, I did what hundreds of thousands of women in my position would do: I surfed the web and started wearing my hair in a ponytail. A hat on the really bad days.

All in all, I visited about nine websites before making the major, life changing decision of who would cut my hair.

Some sites were flashy. Some were informative. Some were straight out of the early 90’s. (Points for being ahead of the curve — but don’t forget to update your look!)

In the end, I chose a salon with a website featuring prices and photos of the stylists’ work, as well as short bios and pictures of its staff. It gave me an idea of what and who I could expect to see there.

So what?
Your carwash isn’t a hair salon. I know this. People driving by see your lot, your employees, your equipment. They see how busy you are and how well you maintain the landscape. They see how well you clean a car. They notice when a bay has been closed for weeks for repair. In short, people driving by know a lot about your business without having to turn to the internet.

For that reason, some carwash owners undervalue the importance of a website. They couldn’t be more wrong.

True, your website might pass unnoticed by the majority of your customers. You might not have a hit every day. It might set you back a few hundred dollars. And a carwash still remains, first and foremost, an impulse decision.

But your website will undoubtedly give you a professional edge. It will give you another opportunity to greet customers — this time from the comfort of their home or office.

Not only that, but as Generation X and Y slowly start to take up more of your customer base, you will have to be prepared to address these new customer wants and needs. This includes the Internet.

Entering the computer age
In the inaugural issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing, published in October 1976, the cover story focused on emerging computer technology.

The focus of “Carwashing enters the computer age” was the electronic cash register. Dave Lippitt, then the owner of Minut-Man Car Wash in San Diego, had spent $3,200 for one to use at his full-service carwash. At the time, the basic functions of the machine helped Lippitt keep track of stolen merchandise, as well as organize his various revenue streams for comparison and evaluation.

While some operators may have rolled their eyes at the seemingly unnecessary “luxury” of an electronic register, Lippitt was able to use it to diversify his profit centers and make smart business decisions.

At the mere touch of a button, Lippitt was able to compare how many greeting cards he sold at a 50-cent price point and how many sold for 75-cents. Lippitt then used the information to make pricing decisions. He also used it to compare various detail and carwash package sales. In the end, the decisions he made with the electronic cash register increased his annual business from 85,000 cars per year to 100,000 cars per year. And it helped his business gross nearly $750,000 (in 1976).

So I implore you: as you surf the web today, think of Lippitt and of your carwash. Think of the 27-year-old who might not be a customer today, but could be one tomorrow. Think of how he or she uses the Internet and then think of your own website (or lack thereof!), its potential impact, and how you can improve it today.

Because staying ahead of the curve means staying on top of the dollar.

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