Which came first: the business or the customer? Much like the proverbial chicken versus egg conundrum, the idea of a business and a customer is similarly intertwined. Does a business come into being because it has customers, or do potential customers generate the need for the business?
In any case, it’s obvious that without one, the other would not exist. If every human could take care of all his or her own needs, there would be no need for businesses to supply them. Conversely, if a business has no customers, it will cease to be.
So, it should come as no surprise that customers helped drive the creation and development of the newly opened 192 Car Wash Express.
What could be easier?
David Daniels, owner and operator of 192 Car Wash Express LLC, built a career out of real estate. He spent 25 years working in new home sales and management for several national builders. However, in 2008 after the market slow down, he was ready for a change.
One day, Daniels took his car to Orlando, Florida’s first express wash, which was owned by NBA legend Shaquille O’Neil at the time, and the lines there astounded him. An attendant at the pay station even told him that the location had already washed over 1,000 vehicles that day.
“A light went off in my head,” Daniels says. Looking at the operation in front of him then, he thought it looked like an easy business to run with only minimal employees. “Of course, once I opened my own carwash, I found out a carwash business is not so easy to operate as it may seem from a customer’s perspective.”
After finding a location that already happened to be zoned for a carwash and getting a Small Business Association (SBA) loan at a time when most lenders were loath to lend money due to the economy, Daniels and co-owner Hanson Nguyen opened the first Car Wash Express location in St. Cloud, Florida, as an exterior-only wash, which they later converted into a flex-style wash in 2010.
Now, over seven years later, Daniels and Nguyen have built a new location: 192 Car Wash Express in Kissimmee, Florida, which opened in October 2016 and was developed largely with the customer in mind.
“Since our St. Cloud wash is on the same road 13 miles to the east, we had quite a few customers driving from Kissimmee to our location and were constantly hearing from our customers [that] they [wished] we had a Kissimmee location,” Daniels says.
The carwash’s primary road, Hwy 192, happens to be one of the main avenues leading to Walt Disney World, so Daniels found the location quite promising due to its mix of locals and tourists as well as the tremendous growth the area has experienced over the last few years. In addition, Daniels noted that the area lacked a carwash. Thus, seeing a need and factoring in the demographics of the area, he decided to open another flex-serve there.
A fully-integrated customer experience
“The customer experience was a big part of the design process,” Daniels says. But then, it makes sense that someone with such a long career in real estate — someone who made a living on delivering customer satisfaction and experience through building designs — would make the wash building itself so impactful to passersby.
192 Car Wash Express features a 110-foot tunnel, 10 detail spaces and 19 self-serve vacuums. As Daniels describes it, the building has a modern style and features a red roof that peaks at 35 feet to make it eye-catching and visible to motorists from a distance. The color scheme of the entire property is based on the primary colors — red, yellow and blue — to make it stand out further, according to Daniels.
In addition, the site is large enough, Daniels says, that customers do not feel crowded, thus providing a more relaxing experience. Even the tunnel allows for some openness; one side has three large window openings that let sunlight inside to make the tunnel less claustrophobic. The tunnel also includes LED lights to provide a show during wash cycles.
Furthermore, the free vacuum stations have an arch design and are covered by a canopy, providing shade protection to customers, which, Daniels says, is vital in Florida. The parking spaces by the vacuums are also 15 feet wide with dual drops on each side, allowing two cars to sit side-by-side with all their doors completely open.
Also important to Floridians and tourists is the air-conditioned customer lobby, which has a television and provides free Wifi. Customers have a full view of their cars from the lobby so that they can watch the detailing process. Furthermore, the carwash features a covered patio as well as smoking areas.
“My first wash was quite a learning process, but with this second location, I was able to build it to include all the features that were not available in 2009 or items I missed from lack of experience,” Daniels says. “But this one definitely hit the mark on everything on my list.”
In fact, although he now has over seven years of carwashing under his belt, Daniels attributes a substantial part of the new opening to his general manager, Trevor Haynes, who has over 25 years of experience in the carwash industry.
“Trevor Haynes has been with the company for over seven years and [he] was instrumental in [the] coordination of opening the new wash while running an existing location,” adds Daniels. It just goes to show that retaining a loyal team at your carwash can be instrumental not just in the day-to-day operations but for future growth projects as well.
Inspiring loyalty all around
To retain loyal employees, a company needs to inspire that loyalty in the first place. One way in which 192 Car Wash Express tries to do so is, simply, by keeping their workers on staff. For instance, after the Kissimmee location opened, Daniels and Nguyen transferred some of the employees from the St. Cloud location, which already had a full staff, to the new wash.
“We actually have three brothers that have worked with us for several years that transferred over, since it was closer to their home,” Daniels remarks. Today, the Car Wash Express locations have over 40 employees all together.
In addition, the company also promotes from within whenever possible to give all employees an opportunity to move up in conjunction with the experience they gain. Furthermore, Daniels says, “All our new employees go through an online training program as well as a formal training by one of our full-time trainers.” In essence, this training not only benefits the employees but ultimately the customers as well, providing a better experience for all.
With that said, it’s not only employees that 192 Car Wash Express LLC aims to retain. As mentioned before, a business must keep its customers if it hopes to survive. So not only was the wash crafted to make the customer feel at ease, but 192 Car Wash Express LLC does what it can to build customer loyalty as well. It offers gift cards, coupons and club accounts starting at $20, and all club members can upgrade to a detail service at a discount. Furthermore, 192 Car Wash Express LLC promotes its fundraising opportunities for local organizations; those participating in the fundraiser can sell $12 Car Wash Express gift cards, from which they retain 50 percent of the profit per card sold.
The company website displays some of the testimonials from its satisfied customers, which is a best practice in this day and age when users are apt to explore a company’s website and review pages before purchasing services. The website also helps explain to customers how driveway washing is detrimental to the environment and, conversely, how water reclamation at carwashes, such as this one, make professional washing the better option.
But, 192 Car Wash Express’ aim to provide the best customer experience doesn’t stop there. “In addition to making the wash customer-friendly, we make sure our menus are easy to understand, [and we have] easy-to-read signage on the property [and] friendly employees who greet all customers with a smile,” Daniels adds. “We have a very strict quality control on all detail services, in which several supervisors inspect each car once completed as well as [have] one last final inspection of the vehicle with the customer to make sure everything is to their satisfaction prior to leaving the property.”
So, while we will never be able to answer the proverbial business versus customer conundrum (or chicken versus egg one, for that matter), what we can say is that 192 Car Wash Express is proof of the symbiotic relationship between the two.