Today I needed a quick car wash. I didn’t want to drive to my favorite wash because it would take too long. So I visited a local automated car wash a couple of blocks away.
They call it “Touchless Wash”, but it left a big ding in my wallet – $12. And that was for the quick wash.
I drove up and punched my ticket number into the keypad. The door opened and I drove in until the sign flashed, “STOP”. Next a big plastic wand thing moved around the car sizing it up and then it sprayed on sudsy foam. Across the front of my car, down one side, across the rear and back up the other side. The sign says, “Prewash Soak”.
After about 20 seconds the wand moved around the car again blasting it with water. The sign says, “Hi Impact Wash”. Next it sprayed clear water as it moved down one side of the car only. The sign says, “Rinse”.
Finally, two medium size blowers start up and the sign says “Exit Slowly”. Before I get my car halfway out the blowers stop, leaving me with a half-dry car. The whole process took about 3 minutes.
To the average person it probably seems like a good system. Very automated with clean and simple design, no cables, wires or plumbing hanging about. It sprays water and foam on your car, rinses it off and then gives it a quick blow dry.
Is this a good system? Depends on your point of view. Let’s look closer.
Car Wash Owner POV
From the gas station owner’s point of view it is probably a great system. It’s fully automated so very little labor cost. Cycle time (time the system takes to complete) is fast. Consequently, it doesn’t use a lot of power, water, or wash solutions – and it can process a lot of cars per hour. The simple design means break-downs are rare and maintenance costs are low. Combine the low operating costs with the high prices they charge customers and the owner will probably say it is a great system.
Car Owner POV
From the customers point of view it may or may not be a good system, depending on how discerning you are.
Fast cycle time means short waits if there is a line up for the car wash. Once you get your car inside it doesn’t take long to get it washed. The simple, clean design means it is unlikely your car will be damaged by rotating equipment, hanging hoses or metal frames moving around. (Some car washes look like you are driving into the maw of a garbage compactor.)
The service is expensive (at least to my thinking it is). Others may not think so.
The concept of a “Touchless Wash” has appeal. The implied benefit is nothing touches your car and therefore nothing can scratch it.
But, is it clean?
My experience is my car didn’t really get clean. Obvious dirt and mud were removed. But, looking closer or in the right light I saw a thin film of dirt on the paint. A swipe of my hand or a cloth and the dirt film is very obvious.
To me that’s not clean. That is a quality problem. Cleaning requires the paint surface to be rubbed to remove the dirt. That’s why a hand wash is the absolute best way to wash your car.
So, is this a good system? From this customer’s POV I don’t think so. The high cost and poor results mean it will be a long time before I go back, if ever. What good is a system that discourages customers from returning? For the system owner that is not good either.
Carefully consider your business systems. Are your systems sacrificing quality? Are you building systems that discourage your customers from returning?
What do you think? Click on the Leave a Comment link and let me know.