- Buyer's Guide
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Carwash owners with any kind of additional profit center know that organization and optimization are key values when it comes to making sure each business is financially and functionally on track.
With the introduction of adroit software, capable of handling, managing and tracking various entities, owners are finding that they can not only monitor profits and losses, but also employee tasks, inventory and maintenance assignments and allow for cross-marketing opportunities with the click of a button. However, with smartphones added into the mix and programs that seem too complex to comprehend, today’s software can seem a bit daunting and too interwoven. But, according to various industry experts, software is not only completely comprehensible, but it can also be your eyes and ears for each and every business configuration whether you are on or off the property.
The intimidation factor
While complex on paper, software programs offered today are rather manageable. The key is to make sure you ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and make sure you have the phone number and email address of who to contact when something is awry.
Tiffany Horvath, vice president of marketing for Innovative Control Systems (ICS), said an owner or operator does not have to be a computer whiz to implement or use the available software ideal for multi-profit centers.
“Most monitoring software is simple and intuitive,” Horvath said. “Be sure to do your homework and request a demonstration of the software before you make a purchasing decision. The goal is to help you focus more time on managing your business, not managing your software.”
Choosing a system
Tracking sales and employees related to individual profit centers is critical for overall business success, said Horvath. “Choose a system that will allow you to set labor staffing requirements by profit center and will take labor minimums and efficiencies into account.”
David Klingman, director of marketing at Computel, Inc., a company that makes software for the quick lube industry, said a savvy owner will choose a software program that is integrated and will allow for one point-of-sale (POS) system to cover both the carwash and any other current and future additional profit centers.
Another key advantage is the ability to monitor every aspect of each business remotely. Horvath said that ICS offers a system that allows users to quickly and easily connect to a carwash site and have full access to all of the data from one dashboard, based on each business model and system configuration. “Not only can you view data for a single site and its individual profit centers, but you can also view data for a specified group of sites or combine all of the data from all sites,” she said.
The “Big Brother” factor
While an owner of a multi-profit center wears many hats, they can’t be everywhere at once. Even an owner on-site at the carwash will want to know if something is happening at their pet wash just around the corner and vice versa. This desire is exemplified when an owner is off-site altogether. Some software can let an owner know if a door is ajar, if a light went off on the property in the early morning hours and can even let them know if an employee was late getting into work.
Horvath said that when looking at software, an owner should view all of the remote monitoring options and look for a system that offers email alerts. Especially, she said, one that can send customized alerts to notify you of any issues at your carwash or provide data reports for car counts, total sales, etc. These alerts will go straight to any smartphone device.
The cross-marketing advantage
Cross marketing is key to any multi-profit center. A carwash customer might not know about other offerings on the property until it pops up in a marketing message. Owners can track all sales and look for patterns and can also look for correlations between customers and product sales and then market those products directly to those customers. Software can help in mailing out reminders, whether using the old-fashioned way, through email or through print ads on the back of receipts. If bottled water sales are up on hot days, the owner will see this pattern and then make sure enough bottled water is overly in stock before the hot day hits. This is one of the greatest advantages that software offers, according to Horvath.
“You need to be able to query your sales data to cross-promote the separate profit centers with targeted promotional packages. Identify your high volume carwash customers to cross-promote your lower volume, higher-priced detail services. Any system that manages multiple profit centers should also be able to show facility totals so you can analyze your data based on transactions or carwash volume.
Klingman knows it is most advantageous to use the software to promote other services while a customer is on-site or even off-site. According to Klingman, lube software can store a customer’s address and even determine the length of time from their last oil change. A reminder can then be sent to the customer to let them know they’re due for a service.
“The software,” said Klingman, “is self contained and easy to use. The most important items in the software are the reports and inventory. But, it’s up to the owner to take advantage of all that it has to offer.”