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Business Operations

Cleaning up with technology

October 11, 2010
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A few weeks ago I was coerced into buying an iPhone by a very friendly and persistent AT&T saleswoman. I was already the begrudged owner of a BlackBerry and a Facebook account; I wasn’t sure I was ready for the touch-screen connectivity of Apple’s newest gadget. But Tiffany assured me the iPhone would be an easy transition; and a necessary one for a busy, on-the-go, work-from-home gal like me.

By the end of the day, I had downloaded 13 applications and was ignoring my turkey artichoke sandwich as I sat in the WiFi friendly Panera store around the corner. One of my first searches at the “App Store” was to find any relevant carwash features. A number of companies promised to help me find the nearest carwash services to my location (thanks to the phone’s built-in GPS), but only one offered to teach me how to detail my car. There wasn’t any application (that I could find) to help me run, manage or improve my carwash business; although there were several generic applications for small business owners and I have no doubt carwash-specific services are just around the corner.

Around the time I purchased the iPhone, Professional Carwashing & Detailing was taking a technological step of its own. We created a Twitter account (www.twitter.com/carwashmagazine). Twitter is a social networking and so-called microblogging website that allows the poster to write numerous updates — as long as they are written in 140 characters or less. We’re able to post links to interesting stories and surveys, as well as network with operators and major industry players to discuss trends and news events.

As a carwash business owner with a Twitter account, you would also be able to reach out and connect with your customers. You could link to your business’s website, to a customer service survey, or even to articles which promote the benefits of professional carwash services. Twitter allows your business the opportunity to showcase a little personality, too. Just like the church in your community that uses its outdoor reader board in clever or “punny” ways to remind churchgoers it’s time to be a bit more regular, you can take a moment to remind your customers that “Salt eats cars” and “Your wife called. She wants the car washed.”

And it looks like Twitter will be adding even more features to help small business owners. The day after we opened our account, Associate Publisher Sandy Murphy e-mailed me a link to a news story that detailed Twitter’s plans for remodeling its site to help businesses better reach their customers and utilize the website. I know of a few carwash operators already tweeting who have been able to launch marketing campaigns and update customers about improvements at their locations; you should be among them!

In the next few months, there are bound to be numerous advances for both Twitter and cell phone application services. If I may, I’d like to play devil’s advocate (or Tiffany, as she’s known at the AT&T store in Chula Vista, CA); although these programs and technologies might seem scary or intrusive at first, the overall benefit is worth sacrificing some time and effort.

The crowning achievement of my own tentative steps into the technological world was a guest appearance on Ryan Carlson’s Wash Ideas Podcast. Carlson is director of marketing for WashCard Systems, a provider of credit card, fleet management, and gift card technology for the carwash industry. A few years back, he started blogging on his website, www.washideas.com, and soon after added the podcast feature which allows him to interview carwash operators and industry experts from around the world and broadcast the segments via the Internet.

These hour-long radio-like sessions are available for free listening at the site. You can also watch Carlson as he conducts the interviews via a live video feed; or you can wait until you have time in your busy schedule and listen to the recorded session after it’s finished. Either way, I implore you to get on your computers and/or smart phones and push a few buttons for the sake of your business. Success is at your fingertips.

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