Wash first, then pay
Customers often kill time for a number of minutes at the gantry car wash. Washtec has therefore turned the usual process around: customers pay while the wash is in progress. The waiting time can be used for a bit of relaxed shopping.
Lost time – is how many customers see the minutes they spend drumming their fingers after paying for the wash programme as they wait in front of the car wash, hoping that it's finally their turn.
To turn the tedious waiting time into a beneficial break, Washtec has come up with the idea of turning the process around. At the pilot station of the EFA petrol stations in the Wolfartsweierer Strasse in Karlsruhe, customers pay inside the shop while their cars are being washed.
It's not by chance, explains station tenant and petrol station novice Rudi App, that Wash & Pay is being tested at his station that was newly built in 2016 on the Karlsruher Ostring and points to Ralph Benz, service technician for all EFA stations. "For this project, Washtec was seeking a contact person on the same level and found him in Mr Benz. He is very knowledgeable, is capable of repairing systems himself and has defined the technical standards here", praises App. But he himself has reason to be proud; prior to entering the petrol station business, he was a manager in the Raiffeisen organisation. It's almost as if this technician/manager duo were predestined to pilot the Wash & Pay project here.
Transparency in price and time
And this is how it works: In front of the entrance to the gantry car wash, a Softcare² Pro XL, there is an automatic machine with a touch screen display, which gives customers two options to choose from.One is the standard method, where the customer has bought their wash at the POS and scans the barcode on their receipt to start the wash. The other option is new. The driver no longer has to go into the shop, but can select their wash here on the terminal.
This is based around a basic programme for 8.95 euros, which can be complemented with wheel cleaner, underbody wash (two euros each), beading wax + high pressure and high gloss + high pressure (2.50 euros each). "Unlike at the POS, drivers enjoy using the automatic machine to add in options", App has observed.The display of the precise services selected and also how long the wash will take creates transparency.If the car wash requires just under nine minutes for the basic programme, the all-inclusive wash takes more than 15 minutes. The customer usually spends this time at the car after paying. With the new process, however, the customer only starts the wash process and then takes the printed receipt to the POS to pay.
Make the most of the waiting time in the shop
So that the customer does not immediately rush back to their car, the EFA petrol station has installed a monitor above the tobacco products shelf, which informs the car wash customers (and also anyone else toying with the idea of using the car wash) with a live image as to how much longer the programme still has to run. If the customer sees a two-digit number of minutes, they might sweeten their waiting time with a coffee and a snack, that's the idea.Particularly at this station, customers are enticed with tempting offers from an in-store bakery, which can be eaten in a relaxed atmosphere in the spacious 90 square metre bistro.
About half a year after the official opening, the operator App is satisfied with the average of 22 washes a day, but is expecting this to increase by the year end to 30 as the "worst case scenario", as he calls it. It is even more important to him that the customers adopt the reversed payment process. Currently, only ten percent use the Wash & Pay method. "Our goal is 35 percent of washes via the automated equipment in the first year, increasing to 50 percent in the second year", calculates App.
He does not plan to acquire the customers at the system itself, where they are too caught up in their old ways. Instead, he tells them the advantage of the new system at the POS: "We then say to them: 'You only queue once – and that's outside!'". You don't have to tell the EFA technician Benz that this can be an arduous process. He can remember when barcodes made having to type in numbers obsolete a few years ago. "We explained this to the same customer for a whole year – and in the second year, he still tries to type something in."
But also for those who find it difficult to break out of their usual habits, the operator App has an idea: "If we don't see the trend we are hoping for, we will offer what we call a 'coffee for change'. Customers who buy their wash from the automatic machine, get a free coffee." Once the customers have been 're-educated', the flow through the car wash will also increase. Something to which App is already looking forward: "With Wash & Pay, we are banking on a change in social habits. And you know what? There has not been a single person drive away.”
Text / Images: Michael Simon / Sprit+ 07/2017