Whether you are building or buying a car wash, or rehabbing your existing wash, you’ll have a number of choices to make. One of the most important choices will be selecting a point-of-sale (POS) system. The POS is the backbone of your car wash business. The system can help manage not just sales, but also labor, human resources, marketing, customer loyalty, and more.
The POS manages your business, so you should make selecting your POS a top priority of your business plan.
The POS system should be able to adapt to whatever type of wash you choose. An express-exterior or flex-serve wash likely will use a self-pay terminal or pay station to process standard sales. Full-service washes will use portable, tablet, or handheld terminals for greeting customers, and computer cash registers for lobby sales. Self-service washes use credit card terminals in the wash bays. Finally, convenience stores use pay stations to process sales at the in-bay-automatic wash, and tie the wash POS into the gas pumps to sell washes from the pump.
No matter which type of wash you have, precise, in-depth reporting is a must-have in a POS system. The POS should be able to track sales and share data between all your sites and the home office. You should be able to check sales history, transaction history, key operating statistics, and sales information by profit center. Sales analysis, sales statistics, labor overview, and inventory activity reports will provide you with information on what’s working and what needs adjusting to keep the wash profitable. The POS should also have a dashboard that gives you access to key performance indicators (KPIs) through a mobile app or website.
The POS should be able to take all types of payment, including cash, credit cards, and house accounts. Credit card processing should be fast and secure. The POS should be PA-DSS compliant, which is the standard that all point-of-sale providers are held to for credit card security. After the system is installed, you will be responsible for maintaining PCI-DSS compliance. Compliance is a never-ending task; you will need to work with your POS supplier company to make sure you meet those standards.
If you have an attended wash with cashiers and salespeople, the POS should be able to help train your staff. When a salesperson enters a wash into the system, the POS should make recommendations on upsell items based on the customer’s sales history, or make suggestions for new customers. The POS should also be able to schedule price changes based on time of day, day of week, or prices that you’ve loaded into the system that need to take effect on a specific date. For example, if you run an early bird special with $2 off a wash before 9 a.m., the POS should handle that pricing automatically, taking that decision-making process out of your cashier’s hands.
The POS is your #1 tool for building customer loyalty. Monthly unlimited-wash programs should be processed through the POS. When a customer signs up for a plan, the credit card should be processed through the POS, and important data about that plan should be securely stored and encrypted in the system. When the monthly plan needs to be renewed, the POS should handle this renewal automatically, without interaction from you or your staff. The POS should also make managing the monthly plan easy for the consumer, allowing them to change their plan, cancel their plan, update their credit card information, or even just check — through a website or mobile app connection — to see if you’re open.
In addition to monthly unlimited plans, there are many other loyalty promotion options that can be tracked through the POS. You’ll need a system that offers flexible promotion options designed to generate return visits. Depending on your customer base, you can choose a promotion model that works best for you; whether it be license plate tracking, frequency discounts, or custom plans for your key customers. With a flexible POS system, you should be able to adjust your loyalty promotions to account for seasonal changes in car wash volume or competition in the neighborhood.
If you are an express wash operator with a self-pay terminal, it’s important that your customers can easily navigate the wash menu. Customers need to be able to purchase a wash quickly and be in and out of the wash with a clean, shiny, dry car with minimal effort on their part. The pay station should be thought of as an attendant, with the ability to market various aspects of the wash. Customers should be able to buy gift cards and monthly passes directly from the terminal. You should be able to print messages on receipts as well as barcodes for return visits. Custom receipts should be aimed at different customers based on the wash options they purchased, the date of their last visit, or other factors. The pay station should be equipped to accept discount coupon mailers, newspaper ads, and barcode receipts, as well as being able to read barcodes from a smartphone. Use the pay station to upsell services like extra wax, tire shine, etc. A self-pay terminal can also work well at full-serve sites when adding or converting an additional lane to an express.
Your website can also integrate with the POS, giving you a 24/7 salesperson. The web store should be tied to the POS, giving you a link to online sales. This allows customers to purchase car washes and unlimited monthly passes over the web or through a phone app. Gift giving is made easy and a “no-brainer” during gift giving times like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, and graduation. Sales made online should enter directly into the POS.
For conveyorized sites, the POS should be interfaced to the tunnel controller. This helps reduce fraud at the site, as all cars that are washed in the tunnel have to first be tracked as sales in the POS. Additionally, you should be able to automatically set up links to your controller such as wrap retracts, truck-bed overrides, and more, making the tunnel safer for customers.
An often-overlooked aspect of the POS is its ability to process labor-related information, such as timecards, punch in and out, and tip reconciliation. Many POS systems also allow the ability to integrate with payroll systems and HR systems to provide help with hiring, training, and scheduling employees. The POS should be able to tell you which employees are getting close to overtime, so that you can monitor labor numbers and keep expenses in line.
Finally, before purchasing a POS, it is very important to research the company that you are buying from. The POS provider should be able to support your system remotely, and should offer 24/7/365 support for the system when problems arise. The provider should offer training on how to use the system, making it more user-friendly for you, and helping you run your business.
Picking the right POS is as important as picking the right location for your wash. Do your research on the product and the company that is providing it. Ask for recommendations from existing washes that are using the POS product. Don’t skimp on features or service, because the POS is the backbone of your business — and selecting the right system may be the most important decision you make.
Todd Davy is director of sales for Akron, OH-based DRB Systems Inc. You can visit the company on the web at www.drbsystems.com.