Technology expansion, efficiency and integration in the carwash business

Technology integration 

Technology prioritization and selection are critical in generating consistent service, scale and efficiencies to your business.

Technology has become a driving factor in growth for business — no matter the industry. With a seemingly unlimited number of potential partners, assets and resources available, it is critical to maintain focus in finding those that will deliver the most impact both near, mid and long term. Through many trials, and a clear articulation of priorities, I’ve found the key to driving that streamlined, sophisticated operation is by integrating the right technology into your business at the right time. When modern, advanced systems and traditional processes work harmoniously together, business synergies truly thrive, producing more intentional and efficient results overall. 

Using the right tools

Growing into a pair of shoes is much more comfortable than growing out of them, and the same can be said about the technological resources your business utilizes. It’s important to adopt the appropriate tools for your business, and to shop smart by investing in platforms that support your company’s needs today, while simultaneously providing clear direction and understanding of your organization’s intended future growth. 

When considering which technology platforms to invest in, we rely on multipurpose platforms configured to grow with our brands and platform. One example is the human resource information system (HRIS), from team members onboarding to their acknowledgment of the brand’s employee handbook and safety expectations, the HRIS eliminates the need for paper and allows us to capture everything digitally. It is also powered by a streamlined single sign-on both at a platform level and at each individual brand in our network.

When it comes to training and development, choosing a learning management system (LMS) that offers multiple ways to engage teams while managing learning modules at individual employee and brand level is crucial. In our company’s LMS, the platform’s main hub features a “town square” that includes video chat and podcast capabilities for local brand communication. It also offers an open forum to “Ask the Expert” where any team member can get their question answered quickly on virtually any topic ranging from operations to maintenance. 

In addition, each brand has its own landing page to filter content to the end user in order to only interact with the most relevant information. Within each brand’s individual page, there is team member recognition, career road maps and trajectory, and a job opening system (JOS) that lists employment opportunities across each of our brands and its respective departments. This is a critical development opportunity for the teams and offers opportunities to consistently promote from within, keeping our talent within the Spotless Brands family. 

All these tools are also developed and structured to ensure that our teams understand the processes and what they look like, which delivers a long-term consistency of operations throughout all locations and/or brands, with guest loyalty and experience in mind. 

Consistency is key

The ultimate goal in a multi-unit operation is creating a consistent experience for guests. Whether you operate multiple locations under one flag, or oversee several different brands within a broader portfolio, it’s important to exceed our guests’ expectations during each visit. At our company, we keep the processes clean and consistent as we continue to expand via cloud-based site auditing tools that are both web- and app-based for a seamless experience for the end users. 

By utilizing these mobile device-friendly tools across all brands, we are able to track anything and everything; for example, computer maintenance management systems (CMMSs) monitor and manage inventory, which helps the financial department in keeping inventory at an appropriate level and not overstocking. When we know what inventory is currently on the shelf, the team avoids unnecessary purchases of parts that we already have in stock. 

We can set retail order points (ROPs) on key products, so we aren’t falling below minimum thresholds needed on those parts and products. With the use of QR codes in the CMMS platform, our productivity increases as we can track the mean time between equipment failure, granting the opportunity to proactively replace and repair parts as well as avoiding safety issues and operational interruptions.

Additionally, these tools contain historical and trend reporting data to show performance at each location, which adds efficiency and speed in our decision making as to when equipment should be replaced based on usage history. For instance, we know when a specific belt is approaching 700,000 cars and will proactively place an order and schedule its replacement to avoid any down time. This ensures a consistent experience for our guests and our team members.

Just as well, the integrated inspection process in our CMMS grants team members a faster way to immediately flag materials or areas of concern in the system until it is properly repaired or replaced. 

To ensure a high sense of urgency around a consistent guest experience, a customer relationship management (CRM) platform has been a top priority for our company. The CRM database holds extensive in-house analytics, monitors competitive data sets, and assists with predictive analysis for current and future success. It’s another essential multi-platform, user-friendly tool to track business initiatives, with widespread capabilities to create, record and monitor impact and performance.

This tool is critical in managing and optimizing relations between current and potential guests as well as supporting our sales management efforts. Better understanding equals better guest service, which results in a direct increase in sales. 

By taking advantage of the information found on the CRM, we integrated a third-party contact center to take care of the common questions asked by guests to allow our on-site team members and managers to focus on those present at the wash. An integrated contact center creates a complementary dashboard for leadership teams to act in real time. This gives brands visibility to trending services within the database, what calls are coming in and how many of them, common inquiries, etc. Not to mention, this third-party center is available 24/7/365, ensuring our guests’ concerns are addressed in real time. We engage guests the way they want to engage with us, whether that is via phone, web chat, text chat, email, etc. This goes far in maintaining a consistent experience. 

With the help of these cutting-edge tools, our carwash brands are able to continue to produce a top-notch experience that’s delivering on what our guests are accustomed to, building consistency and increasing consumer loyalty with each wash. 

Adjusting the change and creating a fit

Technological advancements — or any system change in a business — can be overwhelming. It’s inevitable that not everyone will be on board for such a major operational revamp, which is why the implementation process is paramount to rolling out a strong, brand-wide transformation. When it comes to delivering new technology, thorough education and training is necessary for team members to understand why the change is imperative to the company’s success, and the reasoning behind the organization’s decision. 

During the process, consider developing a strategic roadmap three to six months out. This allows decision makers to weigh the outcomes of this possible platform/tool use. Does it bring a good ROI? Is it efficient to use for employees and customers? Will it allow us to reach our goals? This detailed planning can help businesses avoid any unnecessary system-wide alterations. 

All the technological resources and digital tools in the world mean nothing unless they clearly add value and time. Time for your employees to interact with their customers and team more meaningfully. Value in how they provide a consistent base for employees and customers and offer room for your operations to grow and succeed.

Christian Seem, Chief Stores Officer of Spotless Brands, can be reached at [email protected]. Christian joined Spotless Brands in 2020 as CSO with a 20-year history of managing P&Ls in organizations with budgets exceeding $1.1 billion. Christian previously worked as Senior Vice President – U.S. Operations and Marketing, where he led over 200 U.S. locations for ICWG. Prior to this, he led over 750 retail store locations under the NTB and Tire Kingdom brands for TBC Corporation. He has also held executive VP positions with Advance Auto Parts and Best Buy. 

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