It’s crazy how far the world has come with technology in such a short amount of time. Being born in 1990 (which places me in the “millennial” spectrum) has given me front-row seats to enjoy every moment of it. Starting with my Super Nintendo purchased in 1995 to my nail-biting anticipation for the release of PlayStation 5 this coming holiday season, having the latest-and-greatest tech in my day-to-day life always has always captivated my creativity and interest.
If 14-year-old me would have known that I would eventually have a career focused completely on carwash software and automation, I probably would have paid attention more at the full service wash I worked at through high school. However, I remember enough to make the statement that innovation in carwash technology has been moving just as rapidly as everything else.
I’m sure seasoned operators as well as lifelong carwash customers can relate to at least a few aspects of this experience: While in line, you are reviewing your standard “changeable letter” menu, given a hole-punched paper ticket from the attendant, which you then take inside of the lobby and pay a friendly cashier on a dated cash register. You know, the ones that have that appealing manila color and look like they have been to hell and back. Oh, and cash only (of course). From an operational point of view, most of the past 20 years of financial records are kept in boxes filled to the brim with those black and white marble composition books, and the tunnel equipment itself only cleaned about 30% of the car. It was up to the six full service employees at the tunnel exit to deliver you clean, dry, and shiny.
Fast forward to 2020, where our industry has transformed from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. Fully cloud-based management systems, automated pay stations, digital signage, license plate recognition and the all-powerful unlimited membership. The reason we wash cars is to make money, plain and simple, and that is exactly what these systems were designed to do.
Let’s go through that experience again, but in a 2020 express model.
Customers in line as far as six cars back can see a beautiful, bright, and entertaining digital menu display which is currently advertising not only the packages and plans but an Easter gift card promotion.
By the time the customers get to the pay station, their minds are already made up on what they want to purchase. Let’s say your customer wants to purchase a $35 per month unlimited plan. Press the button, swipe the credit card, the gate goes up, and the customer is on his or her way. License plate recognition has stored that customer as a member, and there is no need for an attendant to interact with him or her and finish the enrollment process. No RFID tags, no paperwork.
While the customers are in the tunnel, they get the following text message: “Thank you for joining our Wash Club! Please click the link to install our app and manage your account.” They click the link, your custom branded app drops to their phone screens, and now you get 20 less phone calls a month from customers who need to change a credit card or make changes to their plan.
Meanwhile, you and the family are on vacation over 2,000 miles away. Back at the wash location, the forecast calls for intermittent rain all week. You pull out your phone, make it so a purchase of the top package prints a receipt with a two-day rewash coupon. Press “save”, post this new offer on Facebook, put your phone back in your pocket and relax.
Last but certainly not least, your state-of-the-art carwash equipment and chemical have given them clean, dry and shiny cars, and it cost you a fraction of the labor.
Innovations in technology help us to stay ahead of our competition and improve the customer experience. Customers expect the latest and greatest, and it’s our job to deliver on their high expectations continuously. Imagine where we will be in another 10 years.
Good luck, and good washing!
Nick Kerns has four years of carwash experience and is a regional sales manager for Sonny’s Controls and an instructor in CarWash College. Nick can be reached at [email protected].
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