Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The automated greeter of the future

October 11, 2010

Computerized automated greeter terminals, which have a high-tech appearance and user-friendly services, allow customers to use a Point of Purchase (POP) automated terminal that is often pleasantly simple and efficient.

The convenience era
There are some concerns by carwash operators that speed of service, customer satisfaction and average ticket sales might be compromised and could drop off when the customer encounters an automated greeter.

In actuality, owners have seen a vast improvement regarding these important issues after the greeter terminal is installed.

To understand why the carwash customer will accept these terminals, one simply needs to look at other commercial businesses.

From the old standard ATM at banks to the check-in kiosk at the airport, the every day customer is utilizing these types of terminals.

It is a natural progression that the carwash industry follows suit.

Consistency and care
Kiosk use — or in this case an automated greeter — is growing at accelerated rates. At c-stores across the country, customers order their lunch via touch screen.

Now at local carwashes, a customer drives their vehicle up to the automated greeter and the unit automatically responds with a friendly welcome.

Some terminals ask the customer to purchase a wash and then suggest an extra service after a wash has been selected.

Each time the customer is greeted, it is in the same pleasant manner, asking the same questions, providing the same experience visit after visit.

The automated greeter offers a wide array of options. Gone are the days of the basic square box with electrical contact push buttons and one payment method.

POP terminals may have a sunlight readable touch screen display, where services are selected with a touch of the screen.

Others have sunlight readable displays with electronic touch buttons on the side of the screen to select the services.

Streaming video and audio can guide the user through the selection and payment of the carwash service.

Speedy service
Nationwide, express exterior washes are changing human greeters to a two point-of-purchase terminal system along with traffic control gates.

This combination provides a high-volume solution. With two terminals, an operator can process 170 plus cars-per-hour with very little effort.

The traffic gates control the flow of cars out of the terminals and stack them into the tunnel, so the wash attendant simply assists the driver with hand signals on to the conveyor and the control systems take over.

Another advantage of the automated greeter is the cash reporting generated from these terminals. Wash operators can now view these reports online, change prices and add a new fleet account by simply connecting to the terminal via dialup phone or high-speed Internet connection.

The flexibility of the reporting is enormous for the busy executive who seeks a simple, accurate and concise cash management report.

Owners open up
A proper tunnel controller can provide the needed continuity for an operation to run seamlessly. After a carwash purchase is selected, the wash service is automatically programmed into the controller.

From that point on, everything is automatic. The conveyor can start automatically, instructional signs will vary as needed, and roller control will begin.

The entire carwash process assists the driver through the wash while reducing the need for intensive labor. Believe it or not, there are washes out there that run very high-volume totally unattended.

Randy Bluestone, Country Club Car Wash, St Louis, comments, “I run my express exterior unattended with two terminals and gates acting as the greeter and traffic control in one.”

There are full-service wash operators that have seen a reduction in their labor pool.

“The point-of-purchase terminals allow me to offer the off-line services my customers demand and concentrate the labor where I need it,” Justin Alford of Benny’s Car Wash in Baton Rouge, LA said. “We can now focus our labor efforts on our detail conveyor to provide the quality service our customers expect.”

The future is here
The bottom line: reduce labor costs, increase profits and deliver a greater level of customer satisfaction.

The ripple effect of this change is to provide the owner with the ability to hire employees in the areas most needed to provide the level of service their customer base demands.

When considering a purchase of the POP automated greeter, the advantages and the features become self-evident.

One may ask, do I have the space on my site to place these terminals and what will be my return on investment?

The terminals need just a little more width than the average two-line approach at your typical wash. The terminals must also be properly placed so the best stacking can occur to run the volume desired.

The average price range for an automated terminal is $14,000 to $22,000; with system pricing ranging from $40,000 to $80,000.


Brian Bath is the vice president of sales and marketing for Innovative Control Systems, Inc. (ICS). Brian can be contacted at brianb@washnet.com.