Professional Carwashing & Detailing

POS systems and fast lubes

October 11, 2010
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What’s new in the world of POS systems for fast lubes?

Craig Harris: One of the latest innovations is a graphical report that tells the customer what services are due immediately, due soon, and which are good for now. It is generated automatically by the POS system based on the customer’s current mileage as compared to past history while utilizing the vehicle’s preventative maintenance data.

This report can be presented to the customer on the computer screen or as a color print out. Both methods work well depending on the lube shop’s layout and workflow.

This feature has two key benefits: it makes it easy for the shop and technician to make a low-pressure sales presentation to the customer, turning any lube tech into a productive seller. The customer benefits by getting a clear representation of where their vehicle stands in terms of needed maintenance.

This report can raise any store’s average ticket. By how much, depends on how good the shop was at selling before and how consistent they are in utilizing the new tool after implementing it.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: How have the systems changed?

Craig Harris: Most of the systems on the market today are pretty mature products. Although, many providers will agree that software is never really finished. There is always new technology to take advantage of and new ideas that providers and customers come up with. The advent of VIN barcode scanners, better and more affordable touch screens, even fingerprint scanners, can help today’s quick lube operate as efficiently as possible.

With the divergence of carwashes and quick lubes as well as other profit centers, POS systems and their providers have been pushed to incorporate more capabilities and features to handle the changing operating environment. Whether it’s adding a whole new profit center or adding a few repair services, many of today’s POS systems have grown to meet such needs.

The computer hardware that runs the software has also evolved. Solid-state computers have become more popular and affordable. Some systems use them in the lube bays or as work stations, while others use them as the main computer/server themselves. Solid state computer have no moving parts and usually use a special embedded version of Windows. No moving parts and secure operating systems translate to increased reliability and no viruses.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Why are POS systems necessary?

Craig Harris: There are two simple reasons backed up by many supporting features and benefits: POS systems help your shop save money and also make money. How? By increasing efficiencies as well as delivering tools that allow you to raise your average ticket, retain customers, and market to new ones.

Utilizing a good inventory system running a lean and mean reorder formula will keep you properly stocked to serve your customers while reducing unnecessary stock levels. Reducing theft is a major reason most operators choose to implement a POS system. Where there is cash there is theft, and implementing a good system with good procedures allows an operator to better control his cash.

When multiple locations are involved, this becomes exponentially important. Setting up a back office system that consolidates every store’s sales, deposits, and inventory will help ensure the owner knows where the money is and they have a tight grip on the finances.

In terms of making the owner money, a good lube system will help the shop operate quickly and efficiently. This starts with a good VIN scanner and a good VIN decoder. This tool saves them time, can reduce labor, and instantly identifies the vehicle’s parts and lubricant specifications. It then automatically compares that vehicle’s history to the manufacturers preventative maintenance data, producing a crisp sales presentation that will capture more add on sales. Processing vehicles and customers quickly will reduce wait times during peak traffic, making you more money.

Reminder cards and other marketing programs are also important to keeping the store’s bottom line healthy.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Is there a fear that they are taking away a “personalized” feel to the customer services offered at fast lubes?

Craig Harris: Occasionally I will run into that objection but it is nearly a fear of the past at this point. If anything, today’s POS system can help the operator add a personal touch and heighten the overall customer experience.

Use the system to greet customers by name, reference notes about their last service such as last oil used or other preferences they might have. Presenting them with a report on the health of their vehicle is not just a sales tool for the shop, but a helpful service to the customer.

I think today’s customer expects to see a computer system used as a part of their service and may even feel uneasy when they encounter a shop with no such system.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Do fast lube POS systems differ from those at carwashes?

Craig Harris: Although fast lubes and carwashes find themselves together quite often, the two different profit centers have their own unique requirements.

Of course, they also have some things in common. Both require a simple user interface and a speedy checkout, but the carwash’s volume of transactions compared to a quick lube’s demands an even quicker time to printing a receipt. A quick lube’s inventory is more complex compared to a typical carwashes when it comes to overall value and mission critical reordering.

The customer history can also differ in what is important to each respectively. The quick lube customer history is used to determine what and when services are due. The carwash customer history is used more for loyalty programs, tracking sales, and determining customer preferences on each visit.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What is the biggest mistake owners and operators make with POS systems?

Craig Harris: Not implementing one to begin with, of course! Probably the most common and serious mistake I see is the under utilization of the inventory control aspect of the system. Although I have sung the praises of inventory control throughout this interview, the fact is that it still requires good user practices.

Accurately entering new shipments, transfers, and adjustments, as well as periodic physical counts are all necessary items to make your inventory system work.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: How should they handle technical glitches?

Craig Harris: By all means, call tech support first to see what the best course of action is. Tech support should be able to remotely connect to the system to troubleshoot any software issue and many hardware issues as well.

Trying to tinker with the operating system, data files, or computer itself without giving and gathering as much information as possible could result in lost time and money.


Craig Harris is the national sales manager at Auto Data, Inc., makers of point-of-sale (POS) software and computers for the carwash and quick lube industry. Harris recently spoke with Professional Carwashing and Detailing®, and let us in on what’s going on with today’s POS systems, how fast lubes are using them and where they are headed.