Buff-N-Glo Carwash, Buffalo, MN

Multi-Profit Center

Car wash Attracts 350 More New Customers A Month; Sees Dollars Per Vehicle Jump $1.75 After Upgrading To SiteWatch®

Challenge: To allow customers to purchase car washes at self-pay stations and retail fuel pumps.

Solution: Upgrade from a CarWatch® Cash Register System to the new SiteWatch POS System, to utilize WASHCAP and the XPT Self-Pay Station.

A hard working car wash operator, Randy Ernesti was looking forward to some quality "R&R" when his plane touched down at the San Juan airport in March 2005. But no sooner had the owner of Buff-N-Glo Car Wash turned in at his hotel, than he received a call from back home in Buffalo, Minnesota. It was the kind of news that every car wash owner dreads.

"They were telling me that my business had burned down," recalls Ernesti. "A vehicle in the quick lube/detail shop had a defect, and it just combusted. The whole thing was captured on our security video."

Cutting his vacation short, Ernesti returned home to survey the unhappy scene. His business would be closed for two months to repair the car wash tunnel, quick lube and detail shop, both of which had suffered extensive smoke damage.

However, like most dark clouds, the smoldering ashes at Buff-N-Glo had a silver lining.

The CarWatch Cash Register System, which had served the wash well since 1992, was destroyed in the fire. Faced with having to replace CarWatch, Ernesti did something he had been wanting to do for some time; he installed a new SiteWatch POS System. "I probably would have moved up to SiteWatch anyway," he says, "because I'd been thinking about it and knew it made sense, but the fire made this step necessary."

Installing SiteWatch at his reopened multi-profit center not only allowed Ernesti to implement some ideas that had been on the drawing board, it also resulted in some unexpected benefits that significantly increased Buff-N-Glo's dollars per vehicle.

SiteWatch Creates More Opportunities

Looking back, Ernesti recalls there were two reasons why he was interested in upgrading to SiteWatch. "The CarWatch System we had was excellent," he says. "It saved us time, increased our efficiency, provided good reports, and gave us no trouble. We were looking to go to SiteWatch though, because we felt it would create more opportunities for us to do the things we wanted to do. For example, we wanted to sell car washes directly from a neighboring SuperAmerica's fuel pumps, and we wanted to have a self-pay station. SiteWatch makes these things possible."

With SiteWatch in his corner, Ernesti is able to use the WASHCAP feature to sell car washes from SuperAmerica's retail fuel pumps. He is able to do this without sacrificing control, because the wash codes issued by the pumps are read automatically by the XPT without requiring any actions on the part of an employee.

Many customers appreciate the convenience of being able to buy a wash when they pay for gas. Others like the incentives that Ernesti has used to promote this payment option. When customers pump eight gallons or more of gasoline, they receive $2 off a $13 Ultimate Wash and $1 off the $10 Clear Coat Wash if they purchase the wash at the pump. (The standard wash price at Buff-N-Glo is $7.)

Co-Marketing With Outside Service Station

Ernesti has also broadened his customer base by installing the SiteWatch WASHCAP feature at a nearby SuperAmerica retail fuel center, so customers can buy a Buff-N-Glo wash when they pump gas at that station. The added tunnel traffic generated by this co-marketing program has made it well worth the investment for Ernesti, who paid for installing WASHCAP at the service station, and gives SuperAmerica $1 for every wash sold through its pumps.

Ernesti points out that Buff-N-Glo has increased gross sales by over $3,000 a month as a result of business from SuperAmerica customers. More importantly, over 350 added customers have visited Buff-N-Glo every month after buying a wash at the service station's pumps.

Would some of these SuperAmerica customers have come to Buff-N-Glo anyway? Certainly, says Ernesti, but even if only a fraction of the 350-plus visitors a month are truly new customers, the co-marketing program must be regarded as a successful form of advertising.

"Nowadays, it's more challenging than ever to attract new customers," he observes. "Selling washes at SuperAmerica has been an effective way to expand our market -- and we couldn't have done it, without upgrading to SiteWatch."

Unexpected Benefit Of Adding Xpress Pay Terminal®

By upgrading to SiteWatch, Ernesti was also able to install an Xpress Pay Terminal (XPT) at his tunnel entrance. Today, all sales at his car wash are entered through the self-pay terminal. "We no longer have an employee taking money at the car wash entrance, because using the XPT is much faster," he explains. "Making change takes time, and when you eliminate that with the XPT, you're much more efficient at processing customers."

Ernesti points out that the XPT also results in tighter control, since employees no longer handle cash. Money taken in by the XPT is safe and secure, thanks to the terminal's tamper resistant safe and built-in alarm.

Installing the XPT has brought a pleasant surprise with it, says Ernesti -- it quadrupled the number of customers paying with credit cards. Customers are much more comfortable using credit cards with the XPT than they are "surrendering" cards to an attendant, says Ernesti, who notes that about four in ten of his customers now pay with plastic. "There are even people who are less resistant to putting a card in the machine than a $20 bill," he says. "Plus the XPT clears credit cards so quickly (in about two seconds), so customers feel that they aren't going to waste time if they charge a wash."

Encouraging credit card payments is good for a car wash's bottom line, says Ernesti, since customers will spend more when they pay with cards. For example, a Visa study found that customers at quick serve restaurants spend about 30% more per visit when they pay with credit cards.

$1.75 More Per Vehicle

This principle was borne out at Buff-N-Glo. Ernesti says the dollars-per-vehicle figure at his wash has increased by $1.75 since the SiteWatch XPT was installed. He attributes this directly to the increase in credit card usage.

"Our credit card customers spend more," he says. "They're more likely to upgrade and get the better options, without worrying about how much cash they have in their pockets. Plus, there's a psychological factor; people just feel they can spend more with credit cards."

Bottom line: Upgrading to SiteWatch gave Randy Ernesti more power and flexibility to offer different payment options and market wash upgrades more effectively to increase his dollars per vehicle.