Case Study

High Volume in the Pursuit of Customer Convenience


Valet Car Wash

If there's one thing that stands out about Mosaic clients across the board, it's that they pride themselves on being early adopters of technology. Mike Black, owner of Valet Car Wash, is no exception. Like many of our clients, he's seen technologies come and go, and he's tried a fair number of solutions over the years that didn't quite measure up to his needs.

Mike's background in washing cars goes deep — all the way back to his childhood. "I grew up surrounded by the car business and was always fascinated by cars. My dad was general manager of Chrysler Canada. He had his car sent out to be washed every day. I'd still wash it on the weekends."

"Around the late nineties we had our first website. We were the first in Canada to have automated POS systems."

Mike brought that appreciation for automobile excellence (and cleanliness) directly into his business from day one. "Our first facility I built in Cambridge, Ontario in 1991. It was at the time the largest car wash in Canada, 20,000 square feet under one roof. We now have 10 large tunnel operations, five quick loops, and three gas stations. We even have some self serve."

This diversification reveals an inclination to stay ahead of the competition that's been with him since the beginning. "Around the late nineties we had our first website. We were the first in Canada to have automated POS systems." All of those firsts coexist with the reality that the car wash business utilizes essentially the same type of equipment as when he started over 25 years ago. "What's really changed is the technology side of it," says Mike.

Valet's (Long) Road to Subscription Success

When it comes to subscriptions, Valet is one of our highest volume clients. They started down the subscription road many years ago, even before adopting our platform. "We sold yearly subscriptions for a long time," notes Mike, "but the problem with yearly is that it was four or five hundred bucks and depending on that person's position when it came due, maybe they couldn't afford it at the time."

In addition to experiments with yearly pricing, Valet tried out a hardware/software system that offered a self-serve way for customers to pay for single purchases with their phones. "I thought, this is going to be great. People can come into the bay, and all they have to do is point their phone at the acceptor. We pushed this thing for almost two years, and I couldn't get over 2% buy-in." His conclusion about that endeavor: "The squeeze wasn't worth the juice. It was costing me more in service fees and maintenance than I was receiving. And then one of the motherboards crashed, and that was kind of the deciding factor."

"Mosaic's done a good job of listening to operators and designing a back office to give them the support they need. Now, we're almost completely cashless. It's one of the best decisions I ever made."

Since adopting the cloud-based Mosaic platform, Valet's subscriptions have exploded. At one point, they recorded 600 subscriptions in one month — and that's just at one location. "I've been pleasantly surprised by the results," reports Mike. "It has exceeded my expectations. At some of our sites, the revenue is 90% from subscriptions." Even better than the revenue stability that comes from adopting a subscription model is the fact that it all happens without much employee intervention — and without the tedium that comes from trading coins. "Now, we're almost completely cashless. It's one of the best decisions I ever made."

Bringing in reliable subscription dollars on a regular basis is an exciting feeling, but moving to a subscriptions model forces you to think about your finances in new ways. "You've got to be able to reconcile at the end of the month. How many people bought? Did you get all the money? What's the tax consequences? What do you do when someone wants a refund?" To help answer those questions and many more, we collaborated with Valet to beef up our financial reporting to make sure they could perform a monthly reconciliation that fit their needs. "They've done a really great job of working with us to get all those parameters lined up so it's easy to operate."

Labor, Automation and Time per Customer

From a 10,000 foot view, it's easy to see how automation is poised to dramatically change nearly all industries. How society will deal with the robot revolution is still an unknown, but in the meantime wash operators have to adapt to the reality of tight labor markets. "We have a lot less employees now than we had back when we started simply because of automation. The cost of wages has forced us to automate as much as we can." But that doesn't mean the cost of labor has to be passed on to Valet's customers. "Believe it or not, our basic car wash is cheaper today than it was in 1991. Not a lot of companies can say that."

"Believe it or not, our basic car wash is cheaper today than it was in 1991. Not a lot of companies can say that."

The most obvious area where labor can be trimmed is in the amount of time spent installing RFID tags. "When we use RFID tags, we have an application for the customer to fill out. Then, we have to enter the information into the computer. We have to take that RFID tag, go to the customer's car, clean the windshield, put it in the right spot, and make sure it works." That's a lot of time spent on integrating hardware when you can cut customer on-boarding down to a minimum by adopting a software-based solution. "With the Mosaic app, we're totally out of the picture. The customer takes a brochure, and a lot of times they'll sign up while they're in the parking lot. It really has reduced the time our staff has to spend with the customer."

Mike can now take all of that previously wasted hardware installation time and apply it to social media, marketing, and on-site campaigns to drive new subscriptions. "We have POP material in the store and banners on site. We have pump toppers on top of the gas pumps. And then of course anyone that comes in to buy a wash, that's an opportunity to talk to about the benefits of a subscription." Valet has spent a lot of time and effort experimenting with driving both subscriptions and one-off purchases, and he's never shy about trying something new. "I think it's a no brainer. the more avenues you can give your customers to purchase your products and services, the better it is."

We're proud to provide more avenues for Valet to achieve its goals, and we eagerly pass on Mike's advice to other wash operators about experimentation and diversification: "The car wash business has a long, expensive learning curve. I tell people it's like being a farmer. You've got to know how to do everything from put the crops in the ground to fix the machinery, do the books, hire the employees, and deal with the government. You don't become really good at anything, but you learn a lot of everything.”

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