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SPECIAL FEATURE ‘Brushing up’ on car wash, in Amsterdam For 50 years, or for as long as I can remember, there has been an almost unbreakable link between fuel retailers and the manufacturers of car washes. You could say, with a continuous stream of vehicles lining up for fuel, or maybe a free amusement park ride for kids at weekends, it’s a natural fit for any petrol station wherever it happens to be. Washing habits around the world of course differ, especially in countries where legislation forbids the possibility of washing your car in the street, or even in your own drive, like it does for example in Germany, where for all the best environmental reasons, standalone car wash centres are a common sight in most neighborhoods. And then there is the choice of application. Rollover, conveyor tunnel or jets washes. Often this comes down to the amount of available room a fuel station has, with the tunnel clearly taking up many more valuable square metres than either of the other two. Space, or lack of it, is indeed the main reason why in the UK today there are so many rollover car washes adorning its fuel stations, a feature stemming back to the 1970s when oil company ownership dominated the UK market and key decisions were taken to opt for vended car wash operations. At the same time multi staffed car washes in the US were so popular, there were even songs being written about them, courtesy of funk band Rose Royce who released a classic hit still being played today, aptly called ‘Car Wash’ No surprises there! It has always come down to ‘how do I get the best value from my footprint and offer the optimum level of customer service’, or else “ Today, there will always be someone close by who can offer a more fulfilling car wash experience if you fail to come up to the mark. It’s as simple as that! “ Duco Hoen, Global Category the UK would almost certainly have followed the US, like it usually does and had everyone dancing to the music of the 70s whilst having their regular wax and shine. In short, nothing has greatly changed in site owner aspirations since way back then, however in recent times the goal posts have undeniably been moved immeasurably. Duco Hoen, Global Category Car Wash Manager at Shell said when we interviewed him recently “We live in a world of choice, whatever it is we are buying and as consumers, this is something we are becoming very much accustomed to. It maybe the location, the facilities or even the price, which brings a customer onto your forecourt for the first time to have his or her car washed, but almost certainly in every case, it will be the quality of service they receive, which will determine if they ever return. Today, there will always be someone close by who can offer a more fulfilling car wash experience if you fail to come up to the mark. It’s as simple as that!” Car wash manufacturers in the past may have been accused by some of thinking they are too focused on making stylish machines, like perhaps BMW or Jaguar do in the motor industry, rather than concentrating on the real job in hand. General appearance with optional ‘go faster’ stripes are indeed vital elements to consider when selecting the correct machine for your particular site, but the ultimate aim must surely be to give customers the best possible overall wash experience. Due to some revolutionary thinking of late by the car wash industry, service is definitely becoming a primary focus of attention for BY NICK NEEDS Car Wash Manager at Shell most car wash manufacturers, each of which will be represented by a senior executive at the idac 17 conference in Amsterdam, from May 31st – June 1st, to present their own specific customer experience initiatives. Duco Hoen told us of the technology which is now driving the industry and leading it towards for example subscription models, where customers have their car registration plate scanned and then proceed with a car wash without getting out of the car or even winding down a window. There are also card swipe applications to consider, allowing customers to buy multiple car washes on different sites within a common network. One manufacturer has recently won an award for its virtual assistants, Kate and Robert, who will help customers choose the wash program that best suits their needs based on the vehicle’s condition. They will also help with fuel station site fluidity at the same time. Then there are those opportunities utilizing artificial intelligence for more personalised marketing, which can be put in place using electronic and specifically social media, in order to attract more repeat business. As part of the international erpec business forum taking place for the European retail fuel industry every two years, idac 17 will focus on the car wash sector in the afternoon of the first day, covering topics such as; better understanding customer needs, improving the customer journey, how new technology impacts on the end user, how marketing should serve to benefit the customer experience and talking human, not talking technical. Final speakers have not been confirmed yet but you can get the latest information on speakers and how to register by visiting www.idac17.com or www.erpec.com erpecnews is published by McLean Events, Conferences and Media Ltd. 13


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