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At the Car Wash

Paystation Upgrade Opportunities

Wash operations that are looking to upgrade or replace their existing entry stations in front of their automatics have a number of options available to them. Many business owners realize that they have to re-invest into their business to keep up with the times and keep their wash from falling into disrepair.


Knowing what to do with older entry station equipment can be stressful, especially when you’re forced to decide between keeping what you currently have or buying something new.

Common reasons to up grade or replace a paystation

Unreliable equipment - If your entry station is the reason you have to put orange cones in front of your automatic it may be time to invest in new paystation equipment. It hardly matters that your wash equipment does a great job cleaning a car if your customers cannot pay for their wash or make a wash selection in the first place.

Lack of payment options - If your entry station only accepts codes from inside a C-store or only accepts cash, it may be time to consider replacing the unit or upgrading it. The convenience factor of an automatic wash weighs heavily on whether a customer chooses a car wash for a first or second visit. If customers are forced to park their car to go inside to purchase a code it is likely they will never wash there in the first place.

If a customer cannot use their credit card for payment it is unlikely that they will have the cash to pay for the higherpriced wash packages let alone the basic wash package. If your entry station does not take your customers’ money than what good is it? Many successful wash operations will accept cash, credit card, loyalty gift cards, and fleet cards at their automatic entry stations. These businesses that take multiple forms of payment are in the “making money business” and have the bank accounts to prove it.

Lack of wash options - Older paystation units only have the basic ability to offer up to four different fixed wash packages. One of the popular ways in which new automated entry stations largely pay off is in their ability to up sell additional wash services to customers.

Whether up-selling an application of Rain X or a tire scrub, the ability to increase your dollar per ticket by $1-2 dollars per customer pays off very quickly.

Keep the equipment you have - retrofit options

If your entry station meets most of your business requirements there are a number of retrofit options that may be available to you depending on what kind of paystation equipment you currently

Credit card acceptance - Accept the most convenient form of payment for your customers and earn their business in return.

Commercial fleet tracking - Take advantage of the largest untapped business opportunity for your wash by establishing business-to-business relationships in your community.

Loyalty gift card acceptance - Studies prove that customers with a loyalty card from your wash will wash far more often than cash or credit card customers will.

Cash monitoring - Keep an eye on your money remotely because nobody cares more about your money than you!

Dollar coin acceptance - If you dispense dollar coinage you had better accept them at your paystation as well.

Paper bill acceptance - Some customers will never fail to see that cash is king, so you had better take their paper money at the paystation if you want their business.

Factory up grades - Entry station manufacturers may offer a number of upgrade kits that existing customers can purchase after the fact. The most common upgrade is a dial-up modem kit for adding batched credit card processing to your entry station. Factory upgrades are generally limited in scope since an entry station manufacturer spends its resources on adding any new features to their new line of entry stations. It is generally cost prohibitive for wash equipment manufacturers to offer many upgrade options to older model units when they could be focusing their resources on
innovating new designs.

Third party up grades - There is a thriving market for companies that provide retrofit solutions to car wash owners with older entry station equipment. Most entry station manufacturers offer ‘interface kits’ for the leading third parties to allow communication between third party components and the entry station circuitry. These third party companies primarily specialize in adding cashless acceptance to entry stations that normally do not have that option.

What makes third party retrofits so popular is that wash operators with more than one manufacturer’s equipment can use a single retrofit solution for multiple machines. For wash owners that look to add credit card processing to multiple entry stations--and perhaps multiple locations-- can greatly benefit from having a single cashless system manage their cashless monitoring and reporting regardless of which equipment they have.

When wash owners can get away from proprietary solutions, they find that they gain a lot of additional benefits for their entire wash operation.

Features worth considering with a new purchase

Colour display screens -Humans process information with all of their senses but, 80% of that information is processed visually. The optical nerve is hysically connected to the brain and is 25 times faster than the auditory nerve. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, it should be no surprise that animated touch screens allow for a faster and less confusing customer

Entry station up-selling - Whether by voice prompt, text prompt, or interactive video, the latest in entry stations will do a lot more than provide wash packages for consumers to choose from. Based on the selection made by the consumer, preprogrammed add-ons are presented to the customer for effective up-sales.

Internet credit card clearing - In a service industry such as car washing, time is money. A handful of the new entry stations are able to process credit cards via a high speed Internet connection. Having the capability to process and clear credit card transactions in three seconds or less has multiple benefits.

Not only is throughput of the wash increased, but credit card fraud is decreased because the entire transaction is cleared before the service is provided. This is unlike existing dial-up credit card systems widely in-use that batch their transactions throughout the day. Remote access and troubleshooting: High-speed Internet capabilities and computer software are not just for clearing credit cards.

Manufacturers and car wash service technicians now have the ability to remotely access and diagnose issues with some of the latest entry stations. Imagine not having to wait for a service technician to drive out to diagnose an issue!

Remote reporting and administration - By giving owners and operators this level of accountability, it reduces the risk of employees getting away with theft. If you know how much money should be in the deposit and if it comes up short you know you have an employee problem, not a machine problem.

Voice prompting - If humans process 80% of their information visually, that leaves the other 20% to what they hear. Studies on human behaviour have concluded that humans are prone to confusion which leads to inaction when given only written instruction. The addition of voice prompting makes a consumer five times more likely to follow instructions as they navigate an unfamiliar interface.

Proximity tag technology - Proximity technology has been making a big splash in the gated entry and express wash community. Entry stations are set up to read a specialized proximity tag that is adhered to the inside window of a vehicle. The entry station reports the wash selection, time and date stamp of the vehicle and software in the back room authorizes the transaction.

The actual promotional value of the proximity technology varies depending on the software and the application.

Making the right choice for your business

The moment you buy a new entry station for your car wash operation it will no longer be the latest and greatest. Advancements in entry technology are evolving so quickly that to stay on top would cost a fortune. Thankfully, most of the recent software-based entry stations can all be updated remotely to take advantage of the latest programming and feature sets. Wash industry manufacturers make a point of offering existing customers with limited upgrade options when new hardware or software is available.

For existing businesses considering an entry system upgrade for their location, consider what your goals are for the upgrade first. Remember that many retrofit solutions are available to help defray the cost of having to buy an entirely new paystation. So whether you’re replacing what you have, or you ascribe to the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, remember that no matter what you decide, you have options available to you.

Do your homework before you buy, talk to your distributor, contact manufacturers, and look into what third-party solutions are available to you and you can’t go wrong.

Much, much more in the print addition of Auto Atlantic.
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