Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Growing with software

October 11, 2010

Making things easier to manage, whether it is employees, their paychecks, or maintenance schedules, is always a plus. One of the advantages of using a software program at your carwash is that it simplifies your business and can allow you to diversify your profit centers and grow your operations.

“One of the biggest advantages that software will allow the multi profit center site is marketing, but with good internal controls,” explained Rich Hays, Midwest sales manager for DRB Systems Inc of Akron, OH, a manufacturer of software solutions for the carwash industry. Hays said today’s software allows you to automatically offer your customers programs that increase loyalty and allows the carwash owner to compete more effectively for the consumer’s pocketbook.

Define goals, focus on the final product
Robert Picard vice president of sales of the newly established Autopilot Carwash Control Systems, added, “You’ve heard it said ‘what gets measured gets done.’ The use of software can greatly enhance the capability to define and manage goals. Today’s software gives you real time data and can deliver it to you no matter where you are.”

For a carwash with a second or third profit center, such as a quick lube or coffee shop, software gives the operator, manager and employee the tools needed to compete. In the juggling act of operating a multi-profit center, it’s important for staff to work efficiently and effectively.

Zack Arnold of Wash WashTechControls Inc. of Newburg, OR, agreed with Picard and Jays that software helps makes cars cleaner by allowing employees to their job. According to Arnold, today’s software can automate the sales side of the carwash operation allowing the employees to focus on the final product: A clean car.

Multi-tasking with multi-profit venues
Multi-profit center locations should use a software product for several operational areas:

  • Marketing (both cross-marketing on site and in your trade area);
  • Controlling labor;
  • Understanding financial goals; and
  • Capitalizing on profit center specific expertise.

Picard said the programs available allow the operator to pull the site’s information together, monitor the effectiveness of marketing efforts and produce summarized financial reports for comparison to your goals.

“I don’t know how you could possibly get as much control, or how you could get anywhere near the same marketing capabilities without help from a software solution,” Picard said.

One of the more popular marketing plans that Hays has seen for a multi-profit center site, such as one with a quick lube, is using the software to recognize a customer’s last service date. If it’s been longer than 90 days, you can offer the customer an incentive to get an oil change on the spot.

“In conjunction with the marketing programs, the software needs the ability to furnish reports which track those programs that work, and which do not,” Hays said. “This allows the operator to tinker with his offerings, which will ultimately lead to higher profits.”

Arnold said a robust card system should include the ability to not only take credit cards but provide the built in utilities to implement cross-merchandising programs, making it a win-win for both businesses. “Other features,” he added, “should include the feature to allow fleet and commercial customers the ability to manage there own fleet without burdening the carwash staff.” He said using software that is integrated with the Internet can increase the functionality of the software.

Use it to help manage your staff
Software can be used to help manage a staff. From storing employee information to clocking in wages and vacation time, it can be a vital tool.

“Managing an operation is more than just making sure the soaps filled and the machines are ready to run. What separates a good operation from a great operation are the employees,” Arnold said. “So what separates great employees from the mediocre employees? Drive and work ethics being equal, and that comes down to management. Employees need to know what is expected of them, how they will be held accountable for their work, and the criteria for review.”

Arnold’s company offers a system that includes an employee’s time clock and site tracking software that can be used to monitor usage of functions, track the trending of wash usage and to notify you of equipment failures. Packages like these often require software as well as hardware.

According to Hays, one way software can help is through its time-clock module which he said can allow you to monitor several management issues:

  • Labor per car;
  • Labor per hour;
  • Time it takes each employee to perform services;
  • Track who your most effective employees are and who needs more training; and
  • Calculate tip distributions.

A lot of companies, he said can provide this information each hour in the form of a text message to your cell phone.

The second way, according to Hays, is it can monitor how many extra services dollars a site is generating. “By allowing your greeter to monitor how they are performing throughout their shift, you will see greater sales results,” he said. “This is very important when calculating commissions and overall site profitability. This will take all the guesswork out of the daily operations of the site, which leads to more satisfied employees.”

Picard said the software can be used to better monitor a staff and even set expectations. “Expectations can be set and managed too. By giving management and the employees real time access to the data they are being held accountable to, they know the data is accurate and being constantly monitored,” he said. “By getting this data in real time it gives management and the employees a chance to react and adjust now, rather than just getting the results at the end of the day, or even worse the end of the week when nothing can be done about it.” They now have much more control and have no reason to be surprised by the results, he added.

How computer-savvy must one be?
Businesses today aren’t necessarily run by abacuses and record books, so most owners and operators are familiar with how computers work as well as its accompanying software. But some may still be wondering how computer savvy they have to be in order to have a software package manage an entire facility.

According to Picard, some basic knowledge is required. “Not for standard usage,” he said, “But it certainly helps if you understand computer basics. Just by having some computer experience, we find clients are much less apprehensive and are more willing to jump right in and explore. Most of the navigation is intuitive, but those with some experience grasp and retain the concepts faster.

Hays said that he generally tells his customers that it will take four to six weeks after the installation before they feel 80 percent comfortable with whatever they have chosen.