- Buyer's Guide
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1. How software helps owners of multi-site businesses.
According to Brian Bath of Innovative Control Systems, multi-site software provides to-the-minute sales and performance data to an operator with the click of a mouse.
"The data is sent via the Internet to a corporate server; which the operator then reviews all sites rolled up as one number or drills down to individual locations and then right down to a specific shift report or bank deposit," Bath said.
Multi-site data replication can track when a customer uses a frequency promotion club plan (like unlimited club washing) at one site and then travels to another site to reap the benefits of the wash program, Bath said. "The software tracks data from a single site, sends it to corporate server and then back down to all individual sites."
2. Using it to monitor employees.
Most software programs have provisions for handling employee time clock activity, Bath said. "The time clock data measures against the required staffing in real time by profit center. Time clock reports also track labor rates, hours and overtime by profit center. Some programs have the ability to export the data to payroll firms such as ADP making it much easier to have correct payroll information," he said.
Judy Dunn of DRB Systems Inc. added that it will also help you manage schedules and control labor costs "by alerting you when an employee is getting close to overtime."
3. Keeping up with the inventory.
Most programs provide for inventory control, by utilizing minimum/maximum ranges and reorder points, according to Bath. "The direct benefit of a multi-site program offers one place to view all the locations' inventories; thus saving time for each site to send information to corporate headquarters."
4. Software and marketing.
As for the newest features, Bath said reaching out in real-time to the washing public, especially those under 35, will be part of the future. This means a carwash will be able to create marketing tools that promote social networking programs, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupons, etc.
5. Mistakes to avoid.
According to Ryan Carlson, director of marketing for WashCard Systems, along with not doing proper research before making a software purchasing decision, another big mistake is not utilizing all of the tools offered. "A common mistake operators make is not using the tools at their disposal," Carlson said. "Remember that these software-based systems are a lot like an exercise video ... you can go out and buy the video, and you can even watch the video … but, if you don't do the exercises you won't see the results you're looking for."
6. The iPhone advantages.
According to Dunn, a key change that's taken place recently, and one that benefits multi-site operators, is that now you're able to access current sales and labor data remotely from any Internet connected device, like a smartphone or iPad, without having to be at your office. "So," she said, "if you owned four carwashes, you could be at a trade show 2,000 miles from your office, and still see how each of your sites is doing at any given moment."
7. Ease of use.
If you're at all intimidated by today's software, or just computers in general, Dunn said not to worry as user-friendliness is high on every operator's list. "Any software product is going to be of less use to you if it's difficult to access and navigate or if the reports are cumbersome or lacking in detail. Visual reports with charts and graphs are very popular with carwash operators because they make it easier to see 'at a glance' how their site or sites are doing," she said.
8. Feeling secure.
For the owner who never takes a vacation day because they're scared they won't be able to see what's going on at their wash, today's software can not only help with that fear, but also make it so the owner can operate their wash from anywhere in the world.
"Timeliness and remote accessibility are two of the biggest advantages that today's software has over the products of 10 years ago," Dunn said. "Being able to see what's going on at any one of your sites at any moment in time is a big advantage, because it lets you act fast and correct an issue before it gets out of hand."