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Carwashing speed demons

October 11, 2010
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With the busy schedules of today and the predictably packed planners of tomorrow, wash owners need to think about how they can speed up the carwash process without lessening the quality of service.

Here are some great ways to speed up your wash process

1. Offer express detailing

From express check-outs at the supermarket to the speedy drive-thru at the bank, Americans are bound and determined to spend as little time as possible attending to necessary tasks.

In the carwash industry, express detailing is an option that has grown in popularity and helped wash owners jump on the speed bandwagon.

Lloyd Fuller, owner of Fuller’s Car Wash, Countryside, IL, added an express detail station to his carwash last year and feels he now offers the best of both worlds for consumers: the full detail and the quickie.

Fuller’s full detail usually takes about one hour; his express detail finishes in 20 minutes or less. His average per car price has increased since the addition of the express detail area.

Fuller believes many of his customers are faced with time constraints, as are most people in today’s society and he sees a lot of his first time customers choosing the express detail.

Without the express option being available those customers may not have chosen the full detail on the first visit due to time limits.

2. New technology speeds the process

Although not every wash offers a detail service, the ones that do need to consider how much time their customers are willing to give up.

Technology has come to the carwasher’s rescue with new interior detailing belts that can cut the detailing time in half.

J.T. Thomas, owner of Auto Spa Hunt Valley Car Washes in Maryland and one of PC&D’s Automatic Industry Leaders for 2004, researched the new belts and decided they were something he wanted for his wash.

The belts hold both cars and workers on them at the same time, cutting down on the scuffling from one area to another that can slow the processing time.

According to Thomas, the new belts keep his workers on schedule and make them more efficient in their work.

3. A place for everything, and everything in its place

When PC&D looked at the leaders of the automatic carwash sector for 2004, Bill Catalfio’s, Mr. C’s Car Wash, Inc., washes located throughout the Michigan area stood out for their quick service.

The full-serve wash time at Mr. C’s ranges from 5-8 minutes, a significant reduction when compared to the 15-20 minutes it may normally take elsewhere.

Catalfio said that the way he sets up his workers plays an important role in his washes’ speediness. Ten employees man a car at one time and have set positions, no matter what the traffic conditions.

With prep, vacuum, and front and back swoop positions, all of Catalfio’s washes work like well-oiled machines.

Catalfio noted that most washes have issues with the forms and setup of their workers. Sometimes one employee may be doing a job that should be handled by three or more people.

At Catalfio’s washes, his workers use a specific method for their particular sector. This ensures that most of the time no one forgets a step in the process, and things move smoothly and more importantly, quickly.

4. Give them an automatic response

At Doug Newman’s future wash in North Branford, CT, an auto attendant will bear the brunt of human impatience.

People won’t have to get out of their cars to choose a wash option, which will help to speed up the wash process a little more.

The primary goal for Newman and his co-owners, John Kinney and Scott Holmes, is to make their new carwash a lot faster for every customer.

They can’t yet predict how much time it’s going to save, but Newman hopes the decrease will be sizable.

Newman agrees with the new time conscious mentality and said that people in the carwash industry need to start thinking that way too.

Consumers want fast service, and utilizing new technology to speed up the wash process is part of a wash owner’s responsibility to his customers and his wash.

5. Offer credit card payment and pre-paid card options

There are many more payment options at the carwash today and it is important to consider what kind of payment consumers are most likely to use: credit cards.

Offering credit card payment options and pre-paid card options are two ways to simplify the process for the customer.

It has also been shown that people who pay with credit cards tend to spend more, so not only are you speeding up the process, but also increasing the likelihood that your customers will choose a more expensive wash package.

Some carwashes are even utilizing the Internet to help the transaction and billing process by allowing customers to check their accounts and usage online. This option is especially useful when dealing with fleet accounts.

In the increasingly cashless society of today, carwashes must offer the payment options that consumers favor and look for.

6. Training the right way

All the technology and new equipment in the world won’t speed things up much if carwash employees are not trained properly. The quickness in one section will be irrelevant if the process is slowed down by an improperly trained worker.

A new worker needs to be trained by a current employee before he or she is allowed to work on their own.

Training should not be limited to a set number of hours, but should last until the new worker feels comfortable and capable in his or her new role.

When workers are being trained, be sure to clarify how much time should be spent on each job or section of the wash. Having guidelines by which to base their pace will help the workers meet time goals.

Fast to the future

There is only so much time that can be shaved off at a carwash, no matter what type of wash it is, and still maintain a quality service.

But, with the increasing complexity of American schedules and priorities, it’s important that carwash owners recognize the need to provide their service with as much dexterity and swiftness as possible to keep the busy consumers coming back.