6 Ways Point-of-Sale Drives Car Wash Success

April 11, 2023

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The point-of-sale (POS) system is the backbone of your car wash business. Like a human backbone, it works behind the scenes to keep everything moving. It’s connected to everything: your pay stations, plan members, vehicle identification, tunnel equipment, etc.
But it’s not enough to simply have a POS system. You want a system that supports and accelerates your growth. How can a point-of-sale system do that? Let us count the ways.

1. It Helps Establish, Maintain and Grow Recurring Revenue

Next to reliably processing transactions, supporting your unlimited wash plan may be the most important thing your car wash POS can do.

The POS can do so much more than simply process unlimited plan purchases. At the very least, it should automate monthly plan renewals by automatically charging members’ credit cards. Additionally, it should promote plan growth.

The first and most obvious way it does that is by promoting your plan on your pay station screens/menus. Additionally, it can deliver customized marketing messages when paired with license plate recognition (LPR). Unlike RFID technology, LPR recognizes any customer with a clear, readable license plate, allowing you to capture customer history. The system can then recognize when a customer has revisited numerous times and presents them with a personalized message about how a plan would be more cost-efficient.

Not only can a good POS system help you gain new members, but it can also help retain the ones you have. You can reduce churn by implementing:

  • Pay Station Prompts – When a customer’s credit card is about to expire, the pay station can prompt them to update their card.
  • Retry Periods – Your POS should provide an option to automatically retry members’ credit cards for a period of time after they have been declined. Setting this option can significantly reduce churn.
  • Automatic Credit Card Account Updater – Provided by some credit processors, this service automatically checks for and applies credit card changes within the POS, potentially reducing your overall credit card declines by 20%.
  • Reports – Car wash-specific POS Systems typically have reports on churn. For instance, DRB®’s next-gen POS system, Patheon® provides a Plan Churn Dashboard that shows you involuntary churn (such as credit card expirations), voluntary churn (when a member quits) and total churn. You can use this to see, for instance, that involuntary churn is the biggest culprit, which means you may want to look at your retry period or implement an automatic credit card account updater. Or you may notice that voluntary churn is high the month after you run a first month for $1 promotion, indicating that customers are quitting after that first discounted month. You may then want to consider other types of promotions.

2. It Cultivates Customer Loyalty

Unlimited plan members may be the holy grail, but there are other ways to lock in customer loyalty, and your POS system can help. You can offer bundles or “buy one, get one” deals. You can implement loyalty programs that provide a free or discounted service after a customer has purchased x number of washes. These types of offers keep customers coming back for more even if they aren’t signed up for an unlimited wash plan.

Patheon® offers a new way to cultivate loyalty within its Essential Web App (EWA). The EWA is Patheon’s version of a Progressive Web App (PWA). Like a webpage, you access PWAs through a web browser on your mobile device rather than through an app store (Apple Store, Google Play). However, you can still add it to your phone’s home screen so you can access it in the same way you would a mobile app.

Patheon’s EWA includes a Pay-As-You-Go feature. With Pay-As-You-Go, customers use the EWA to enter their credit card information, favorite wash and license plate number. When they visit to your wash, the LPR will scan their plate. The system will automatically charge them for their favorite wash, open the gate and put them into the queue. 

If you don’t have LPR, this feature can work with RFID. In that case, the customer will be given a QR code in the app. When they scan the QR code at the car wash pay station, it will notify the staff that they need to assign an RFID sticker, which will then be used to identify their vehicle at future visits. 

Pay-As-You-Go is ideal for loyal customers who don’t want to be locked into a monthly recurring charge but like the convenience of a membership. Providing the membership experience to these customers gives you a major competitive advantage.

3. It Can Be Your Best Salesperson

Your POS is the salesperson that never sleeps. It’s never too lazy, shy or forgetful to pitch your unlimited wash plans.

Moreover, it can drive personalized marketing messages when used in combination with LPR. We already discussed this in terms of pitching unlimited plan promotions to frequent visitors. It could also recognize a visitor’s 10th wash and offer them a reward. Or if a customer has turned down numerous membership promotions, the system could offer them a wash bundle (buy four get the fifth free).  

4. It Knows More About Your Business Than Anyone

Knowledge is power, and your POS gives you the knowledge to empower you to make immediately impactful business decisions. Here’s just a sample of what your POS can tell you with the data it collects:

  • Which wash or unlimited package sells the most? If you find that the percentage is particularly high for any tier, you may want to consider a pricing adjustment.
  • Which coupons/discounts are driving the most business? This allows you to put more effort into promotions that are proven to work.
  • Are you regularly short in your cash counts or recording an abnormally high number of voided sales? This could indicate an employee theft issue that needs to be addressed.
  • What times of the day and days of the week are the busiest? You may want to implement promotions to entice customers to come in during slow times.
  • Who is purchasing from your app? This allows you to see if your mobile app is truly driving sales.

Patheon takes data insights to the next level, providing the Insights Dashboard that includes explanations, forecasts, trends and narratives that help you better interpret your data.

5. It Manages Labor

Tracking and managing labor is one of those necessary evils if you have an attended car wash. Fortunately, your POS system can help.

Any car wash POS should provide data that helps you determine, at a glance, if you have too many or too few people working, even if you are not on site. Past labor and volume data can also help you schedule the proper labor going forward.

6. It Enhances the Customer Experience

True car wash success hinges on the customer experience. Your POS is often the first – and only – direct interaction your customers have with your wash, so it’s on the front line when it comes to customer experience. You’ll want to make sure your POS is up to the challenge.

So what kind of experience are customers seeking? Simply, it must be fast, convenient and friction-free. Your POS can facilitate that by:

  • Offering self-serve options, including a pay station, e-commerce and a mobile app
  • Providing an intuitive interface regardless of which option they use. They shouldn’t have to struggle to accomplish a task.
  • Allowing them to manage their plans (activating their plan, changing contact info, updating credit cards and even canceling) from start to finish without having to call in or visit 
  • Providing reliable vehicle recognition technology to automatically allow members and Pay-As-You-Go customers through to the tunnel
  • Presenting personalized messages and promotions

Get a Strong Backbone

As you can see, the car wash POS does so much more than simply handle transactions. It touches every aspect of your business. Having a strong POS and utilizing it to its fullest potential can help you accelerate and multiply your success.

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