Expert Advice — Staying Relevant to Existing Customers
First of all, we are always committed to constant and never-ending improvement. That’s a mindset here and all of our employees and family members are constantly committed to that. And the way we do that is we travel a lot and we visit a lot of other operators. We try to stay abreast of our industry and also stay abreast of other industries like fast food and a few years ago McDonald’s had tore down a lot of their old sites and revitalized brand new locations, more efficient. We just opened a site three weeks ago that we tore down a carwash that was built in 1980, and it had become irrelevant and we completely leveled it and built a brand new facility on the same site.
So it’s a constant thing that we are always excited about to make our buildings look better, to make our landscaping better, to try to do something new every year to every place and to make it more interesting, and let customers know that we care about the place because we do things to it. And it also makes us feel good, going there, it makes us feel good that we can see the change and to see the improvement. Today, we always try to stay up with the latest technology, but I think the question is referring to do we prefer a face-to-face customer employee interface or a machine and customer interface.
And in our locations, we actually do both because we think they’re a market of people that want to interact with the machine and there are people that want to do face-to-face. So all of our locations are laid out with a window would be like a drive up, a window like McDonald’s and there’s a person there to answer questions, to sign people up for club memberships. But we also have the auto teller position for those that are club members, those that want to pay by credit card and don’t want the customer interface. So I like appealing to everybody.
The third lane we do is RFID only, which now we’re going to a camera system, which will relay some plate and it’s a phone app for club membership and so we’re doing, we’re integrating all three of those. So it gets very technical and complicated today on some of the new stuff coming out, but we try to stay with the latest greatest. And I think we really like appealing to have both. We are always looking for ways to get a cleaner car, a better quality, we are looking for how to process faster or we’re looking for less damage to try and improve every area we can. We’ve added recently the mirror dryers, which are the rotating cloth for the side window mirror, that has enabled us to run faster speeds and so we’re going back and approving that every location. And again, to stay relevant as technology changes and designs change, there’s always a, it’s never ending process.
Marketing, that is changing from my days of the old school, but again, we try to do it all and I’m not up to speed and all that, but like Facebook and Twitter and billboards and radio and cable print ads, we do it all. And I think it goes back to, I think Henry Ford said that half of his advertising money was wasted, but he didn’t know which half. So I guess that’s our philosophy too. We put it all out there and we know it’s an important thing to stay out there in front of the public and to advertise and our focus is on club plans. So everything we do on our message is to promote unlimited washing and getting people on the club.
My favorite being old school is a billboard because I think that I can drive by and see, physically see something. Whereas I think my daughter probably answered that she likes Facebook and texting text clubs, and she stays in touch with people through social media and that’s all beyond me. So I feel good looking at bill billboards. Billboards attract some people who are on the road and you’re being known in your community. I think social media today for the younger generation is becoming predominant everywhere. So I’m not really sure it would make a lot of difference anywhere in the country. I think getting the message out there and all the possible avenues, bigger markets, maybe cable or radio might not be as effective because the markets are so large, you couldn’t afford to dominate it but there again, in your small radius of a carwash, to go ahead and do the social stuff I think they’re important.
Branding, that’s a very complicated question. Most people jump to the idea of branding is in your name and your logo and your identity. Actually, I think branding goes way beyond that. It’s all about your philosophy. It’s all about how you’re perceived by your customer. It’s all about getting in your blood. You might say your culture and if the customer has the, your culture, like in their blood, they’re just loyal fans. And I think that’s what branding is. And I believe that it’s very important and sometimes I like the idea of a smaller market because you can dominate. And if you can dominate a smaller market, you become like a household name there to where everybody understands you and they know your philosophies and they’re committed. They become loyal lifetime customers.
If you can dominate a market, your volume across the board seems to go up and that’s true in the gasoline business too. If you hit a certain number of locations and all of a sudden it’s like, boom, your people perceive you to be everywhere. And when you’re everywhere, you become a household name and I like the concept of saturating a market versus going out and spreading them out across a broad area. I think all your marketing’s effective and all your philosophies and all your culture is more concentrated. And productivity I think in today’s world gets more and more important. Enable to get customers through in a fast, efficient time, but this location here that we’re looking at is a one year and four months old, we run 180 minimum chain speed up to about 220, this location has done over 50,000 cars a month.
And people just are attracted to it like a magnet, it’s they know they’re in and out, it’s productive, it’s smooth, it’s consistent and I think that at every second count, anytime someone has to wait for a cashier to show up is a real negative. If they have to wait five seconds, it’s that immediate frustration. And so with technology, just waiting for a gate to go up, I think it all needs to be queued, very seamlessly loading cars with a belt now, the car never stops, is coming around the line, it hits the conveyor front tires, contact. It keeps right and moving.
We can get cars within several feet of each other and it’s just a constant flow and seconds count. And I see around the country, a lot of times that a lot of people don’t get that, they’re more concerned. Well, they’re just taking it as it comes or not looking at it every second. They’re not looking for bottlenecks. I think it’s a constant thing to walk around your site and look for bottlenecks. Like, is it POS or is it people, is it loading? Is it a conveyor? Is it speed. And then adjust everything according to that to do quality, run that, change speed faster, but go back to make your watch capable of putting out a car at a faster speed.