Water has long been a prime concern for Californians, but that concern has been especially heightened in recent years. After all, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which started examining the country’s droughts in 2000, the longest period that California has sustained drought (ranging from moderate to exceptional) lasted 376 weeks, starting on Dec. 27, 2011 and ending March 5, 2019. With a vast majority of the last decade being classified as a drought, it’s no wonder Californians have become so water-conscious as of late.
To that end, water conservation has been a goal not only for individual citizens but also businesses. In fact, water is so important to one carwash in Orange County, California, that it even makes up part of its name: H2Go Express Car Wash.
Ryan Blanchard, cofounder and chief operating officer of H2Go Express Car Wash, got into the carwash business with his brothers, Brett and Doug. “All three of us are real estate developers — or better yet, we were developers. We can now say that we have converted to this amazing carwash industry, and we are loving it,” Blanchard says. In fact, Blanchard himself is now so entrenched in the carwash industry that he is also a board member of the Western Carwash Association.
The Blanchards opened their first H2Go location in Norwalk, California, which they have since sold. However, they now operate four locations in Orange County and have five more in the planning/entitlement stages. While Blanchard handles the operations side of things, Brett is in charge of land acquisition and Doug oversees human resources.
When the Blanchards created their business, they had three major goals in mind: cultivate employees, provide an exceptional customer experience and protect the environment. These goals are reflected in the company’s mission statement: “At H2Go, our mission is to efficiently deliver the highest quality exterior wash in Southern California while conserving water and using earth-friendly chemicals. We will provide exceptional value, superb service and an unparalleled experience to our customers, giving them every reason to become one of our many ‘raving fans.’”
While the majority of the mission statement is easy enough to understand, the “raving fans” reference might give one pause. It actually refers to a customer service book written by Ken Blanchard (no relation to the owners) that H2Go believes is so critical to its culture, it requires all of its managers to read it.
“We want our business focus to be on our employees, our customers and the environment,” Blanchard says. “Taking care of our employees will make it easier to take care of our customers. And, if we are taking care of our customers, then we know that we will be doing good things for the environment.”
Giving out pickles
So, how does H2Go take care of its customers? For starters, a company has to define what a “positive customer experience” means for it. For Blanchard, it is one in which a customer leaves happy or satisfied enough with the value received to return at a later date.
“Producing those types of experiences is not a complicated formula,” Blanchard claims. “Smile. Make your customers happy. Repeat. We try to create an easy work environment so our employees will find it simple to serve customers and deliver excellence.”
To that end, H2Go’s employees are told to do whatever is necessary to make sure that customers leave happy, be it something tangible or intangible. “Those tangible and intangible items that can be given we call ‘pickles,’ and giving pickles is the best part about working at H2Go. They are what makes customers happy, and we are never stingy when it comes to giving pickles,” Blanchard adds.
Happy customers, however, derive from happy employees. Smiles are contagious, but so are frowns. When employees convey an upbeat attitude, it’s more likely to lift the spirits of a customer and influence a positive mindset about the entire experience.
Of course, employees have bad days as well, but a business’ concern is to make sure that employees don’t hate coming into work every day and project a perpetual negative attitude. One of the ways that businesses can make sure to keep employees upbeat is to have a little fun and show them some appreciation.
“We also aim to have a great time at H2Go,” Blanchard continues. “We never forget to break bread with our employees, the ones who are out there every day working their tails off at our wash. Show appreciation, pay them a fair wage, celebrate them several times a year, and your business will prosper through low employee turnover, excellent customer service, less headaches and a generally easier business to operate.”
Going with the flow of the times
No matter what business you’re in, employees are happier when they work in an attractive environment and when they have the technology at hand to make operations easier and more streamlined. Luckily, the carwash industry has been improving on both fronts.
In recent years, operators have been trying to stamp out the old vision in customers’ minds of the plain, grungy, concrete-block buildings that used to be carwashes and replacing them with sleek, modern and colorful ones. H2Go is just one of those carwashes that has embraced the modern mindset.
H2Go wanted to set itself apart from the other carwashes in Southern California. Part of this meant operating a different style — an express wash versus a full-serve — but it also meant looking different from the traditional full-serve carwashes found in that area.
To that end, H2Go’s buildings are made primarily out of steel with blue lexan panels and feature sloping roofs made to resemble waves. In addition, the main colors on the lot (and in the logo) are blue and green — a color combination you can’t help but to associate with the Earth, and therefore, the environment.
“We feel that it is well worth the added cost of trying to catch eyes, especially in a market that has been dominated by ugly, worn-out, stucco full service washes,” Blanchard says. “We want to make sure our washes are not mistaken for a full service wash, and I think we have accomplished that. That, combined with aggressive and consistent corporate branding, and you have the right formula for attracting customers.”
As far as operations go, H2Go is doing all it can to be at the forefront of technology. For instance, one of the most important technologies H2Go uses, according to Blanchard, is an application developed by carwashers and industry experts that helps washes stay on top of maintenance tasks and checklists.
In addition, all of H2Go’s sites have iPads and use them throughout the day to both work through their checklists and log maintenance issues and customer incidents. H2Go also uses different apps to make operations easier, such as a digital purchase order app to order supplies and parts as well as an app provided by its point-of-sale system manufacturer that handles all of its recruiting, onboarding and employee schedules. Finally, it uses the Slack instant messenger app that, according to Blanchard, the staff loves and he says is a “must” for any carwash.
The other area in which H2Go has invested in modern technology revolves around its environmental conservation efforts. For instance, each location recycles between 80% to 90% of its water, and H2Go hopes to improve on those numbers even more as the technology becomes available. H2Go’s landscaping also uses drought-tolerant plants, so as not to waste excess water in keeping an attractive landscape, and each wash uses what H2Go believes to be the most eco-friendly chemicals on the market. One of the sites even has solar panels.
H2Go also never discharges water into the storm drain but rather into the sewer system. “Many sewer agencies in California are finding new ways to use that [discharge] water, like for city landscaping and even toilet to tap programs — a far better alternative to losing the water forever to rivers and streams and where it can harm wildlife,” Blanchard says.
Recently, H2Go was certified by the city of Huntington Beach, where two of its locations are situated, as a Sustainably Green Business, a rigorous process that took months to achieve, according to Blanchard. “We think we are doing more than most, but we want to continue to push the envelope in this area as an industry leader,” he concludes.