Implementing software is the key for scaling really any car wash business, and allows you to compete in the modern world. From mobile apps that detailing companies may want to offer their customers, to software that controls a car wash tunnel, there are a bunch of different types of software in this industry that do different things.
It can be confusing when purchasing a car wash ‘software package’ that claims to do everything, when it may in fact not have the capabilities you need.
In this blog I will break down the most common ways software is used, and give you a breakdown of each example. I’ll also list a few software vendors to take a look at based on my research.
Selecting Software Based on Your Business Model
When it comes to keeping your business fairly automated, you have several different software solutions you may or may not need right away. Some are great for scheduling (perfect for mobile detailing teams), while others are primarily designed for physical tunnel-based car washes or detailing shops.
On-demand car-wash ordering apps
This solution is probably the easiest form of software for mobile detailers just getting started. If you don’t have the marketing resources (or technical resources) it can be a great way to establish your brand. Similar to apps like Grubhub, these apps typically allow the customer to select detailers based on factors like reviews, availability, and price.
These apps are a good way to get exposure and access to an appointment calendar, without having to manage any of the technology whatsoever. It’s not for everyone, but definitely an option for freelance detailers, since the back-end technology and scheduling is handled completely by a third party.
Vendors to Consider:
- Washos: Southern California only
- Washe: Nationwide
- MobileWash: Nationwide
This type of scheduling system is really ideal if you are a mobile detailer that will come to your customer, but also beneficial for detailers with physical locations that also provide high-end services that customers are willing to make an appointment for.
Some software companies sell only scheduling software, while other companies offer just about everything. Scheduling software is many times included in a POS software solution, but a standalone scheduling solution should be able to be integrated with your point-of-sale software vendor.
When it comes to booking appointments, some customers may not care who on your team washes/details their car, so the “earliest available” option may be fine. However, luxury car owners may want to schedule service with someone they are already comfortable with, and this feature may be nice to have for scheduling.
Vendors to consider:
- Octopus Pro
- Washify (detail management)
- Most POS systems
POS (Point-of-Sale) software
A POS software system is a must if you are a car wash operator that operates a conveyer-based tunnels, a self-serve express wash with a terminal, or a full service wash with employees. POS software comes in a variety of capabilities, and some is more sophisticated than others.
For example, POS software can run on a self-pay kiosk, and processes credit cards, cash, or other forms of payment. Other more sophisticated POS software is capable of doing a lot more, including capabilities like:
- Running sales reports
- Managing indoor lobby sales via a tablet or card reader
- Communicating with your tunnel controller
- Ability to be integrated into your mobile app (for mobile payment processing)
- Managing employee timecards
- Integration with payroll and HR systems
How it works
Being the central software solution for most physical car washes, POS software runs behind the scenes, and basically collects data when customers scan to enter a gate, purchase a wash through the kiosk, and anything else they do while at your car wash.
Every bit of data that you collect from a customer should flow through the POS, whether that be someone signing up for your monthly unlimited program in the lobby, or scanning their membership card.
Having a good point-of-sale system is critical for determining how car washes perform in general, and is most of the time installed for you by the vendor on-site.
Here are a few vendors to consider that specialize in car wash POS software:
- ezWash by eGenuity
- Sonny’s POS
- Vend POS
Washify is by far the most common that I have seen implemented, and comes with RFID capabilities for unlimited wash members. To access your wash, they simply need a sticker on their windshield, which is automatically scanned to let them through your gate. Washify also offers some email marketing capabilities and web-based sales tools.
What to keep in mind
If there is one must-have function when it comes to POS software, is it’s ability to offer good reporting. As a car wash owner, it’s important to know what wash packages are most popular, how many customers are utilizing a membership management program, and what promotions are most effective.
Another key consideration is compatibility with physical car wash equipment you purchase. Most car wash systems include some sort of basic POS software out of the box, but may lack the back-end reporting and management capabilities that you want.
Tunnel controller software
Controller software is really the brains of any car wash tunnel system. Whether you have a conveyer or belt-driven tunnel with employees, or an express wash with an unattended terminal, the tunnel controller software ‘controls’ the hardware, like the speed of your conveyer, and really allows you to fine tune the mechanics of your wash.
ICS (Innovative Control Systems) pioneered a lot of the car wash controller technology, so if you purchase a car wash system from a vendor, it will likely come with some sort of ICS software.
When you have a car wash system installed, it should include the bay controller, and often times an included POS system with kiosks.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and Marketing Automation software sort of go hand-in-hand, since they are really about maintaining customer relationships through things like sales calls and marketing emails. Each are great if your business focuses on up-selling customers and managing relationships.
When to consider a CRM
Many POS systems tend to include some sort of CRM capability, so you may not need a subscription to a dedicated CRM like Salesforce right away. However, if you need a way for your sales team to keep track of contracts, notes, or interactions with your customers, I would highly recommend a CRM solution as you grow.
For example, a mobile detailing company may have 20 to 30 contracts with companies that need their fleets washed regularly. A CRM would enable phone calls and meeting notes to be logged for each person in each account you have, including keeping track of the client’s current contract status. This is where a CRM shines.
Marketing automation software
Simply put, marketing automation is just a more automated way to nurture and engage customers and prospects. This software allows you to do a bunch of these things, including:
- Sending emails to customers or prospects
- Tracking who opened emails
- Viewing what prospects are visiting your website
- Scheduling social media posts
- Collecting leads on your website using forms
When to consider marketing automation
If you have a web presence online and rely heavily on nurturing leads or customers, marketing automation is really essential for keeping your brand top-of-mind through various marketing activities. Some POS solutions may include some ability to send emails, but managing inbound leads, email templates, and web page activity is often lacking or unavailable.
I am a HubSpot user myself, and in my opinion is the best software for marketing automation out there for most businesses. Their direct competitor is Marketo, which is very good as well, just targeted more towards enterprise users.
It’s really easy to use, and their training program is one of the best for rookies totally unfamiliar with marketing. The reason I recommend it is because while it began as a marketing tool, it now acts as a CRM that both marketing and sales teams can use.
Another piece of the puzzle for your car wash business may be selling products online. Anything that requires a customer to add an item to their cart is made possible using e-commerce software. Depending on the platform your website is running on, you have a couple of options. If you have a lobby, your POS system should be able to process in-store transactions (and may have some e-commerce capabilities).
If you have a WordPress website, WooCommerce is an e-commerce plugin build specifically for this platform that may be worth checking out. In addition, Shopify is also an excellent option for integrating e-commerce functionality into any website.
Shopify offers a buy-button option that’s pretty easy to add to your existing website platform that makes everything really easy. Instead of creating an e-commerce website using Shopify, you just drop a bit of code into your existing website and you’re ready to go. Most plans are less than $20 per month.
How can my business benefit from e-commerce?
While if depends on your business, one of the most common reasons why you might want an e-commerce provider is to sell gift cards online. Nearly any detailer or car wash business I’ve been to offers these in-person, but they make perfect sense to sell online as well.
I have also seen some detailers private label their own detailing products, making them available to their customer base online.
Should I Create a Mobile Car Wash App?
We are living in a mobile-first, and often times a mobile-only economy. My recommendation is to make launching a mobile app your priority when it comes to booking. Customers are on a tight schedule, so having the ability for customers to book appointments using your app will be key.
Don’t get me wrong, having a mobile-optimized website is a great idea (that you should also prioritize), but having a good mobile app experience is really an expectation that customers have nowadays.
One industry-leading mobile detailing company called Spiffy has an app that I reviewed here that you might want to check out. While vehicle tracking and other advanced functions are custom build (and cost more), there are several vendors that allow you to offer a lot of these capabilities out-of-the-box.
Washify allows you to create your own app using their template as part of their numerous software offerings.
Simply put, there will probably be one software product (likely your CRM or POS) you will use most often for evaluating your car wash or detailing business. This is the one you will use to run reports to evaluate profitability, expenses, etc.
However, the data you are getting from other software products you may want to feed into your central POS or CRM. This is where integrations come in.
The software companies you choose should be able to integrate with one another through APIs, and is worth asking about.
A real-world example
Dan owns a plumbing business, as well as fleet of work trucks. He has been looking for a detailing company to wash his fleet on Saturdays when they are not in service. Dan fills out a form to request more information on pricing at Fleet-Washers.com. Dan visits this site quite regularly over the next week and views 10 webpages all related to pricing, and fleet washing services.
Scott, the website owner, runs a report in his CRM software and sees that Dan (a person Scott has been trying to sell for months) recently viewed a ton of information online and has requested more information. This was made possible, since his form software (marketing automation) is integrated with the CRM he uses for reporting.
Do your research
Before getting started, you need to make sure you know what you need the software to do for you. Do you want just basic scheduling, or the ability to collect emails and contact information on your website?
Many of these software companies are Software-as-a-Service platforms (SaaS), with different pricing tiers. Most require an annual contract, but will allow you to negotiate pricing and payment terms.
While I only covered the tip of the iceburg, hopefully you have a basic understanding of what software can do in the car wash and detailing industry. If you are thinking about having a company install a complete car wash system, ask the installation company what software they are using (from their POS to mobile app capabilities).
If you already own a car wash, and want to upgrade anything (like a POS) most of these software companies I’ve mentioned will give you a free demo of how everything works if you fill out a form on their website.
I’d recommend having a list of questions you ask multiple vendors, just so you end up with the solution that works best for what you need. Factors like 24/7 support, setup costs, and customer satisfaction ratings should all be taken into consideration when purchasing any kind of software.
Have any recommendations or things to add? Leave a comment below!