WashTec Best Practice:
The car wash business is doing incredibly well with WashTec's SoftCare2 Pro gantry systems. Sales are increasing significantly, and the trend is still upwards.
Together with his wife Stefanie, Karlheinz Schüßler runs the Hartmann petrol station at the northern end of Oberleichtersbach, a community with a good 2,000 inhabitants in the Lower Franconian district of Bad Kissingen on the southern edge of the Rhön Mountains. Their creative commitment as petrol station entrepreneurs for many years has formed the basis for their business success far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and the high volume of traffic. Behind this is a true story that is unparalleled. The Schüßler family has been extremely successful in the petrol station and vehicle washing business not only since today, because they think and, above all, act like entrepreneurs around the clock, because they have concentrated on their skills and always analysed the economic situation of the petrol station and vehicle washing business in particular with wisdom, understanding and foresight, and then made wise business decisions.
This includes the systematic replacement of the gantry washing technology at the Hartmann petrol station. "I used to change my two gantry systems every five years. So each gantry always washed for ten years," says Karlheinz Schüßler. However, the latest car wash replacement presented him with a special challenge. "I really wanted WashTec's flagship SmartCare. It was my absolute favourite," Karlheinz Schüßler remembers very clearly. "We then drove to Augsburg and observed the SmartCare at work in WashTec's showroom. After the test wash, however, I came to the conclusion that it was not the right system for our company here in Oberleichtersbach." Asked about the reasons, Karlheinz Schüßler replies: "Due to our very high monthly wash volume, I did not want to and could not afford to experience any downtimes of the system which was new on the market at that time. In addition, the SmartCare was not compatible with our transponder cards. We would have needed to replace 'everything'. In addition, this would have created a situation where I would have had two different systems in use, with the consequence that the customers would have had to decide which portal to have their vehicle washed by. Ultimately, the SmartCare with a wash height of 2.80 metres was not available. Regardless of this, FoamTastic coud not have been retrofitted to the old gantry. The decisive reason why the SoftCare2 Pro was chosen as the twin was that WashTec was conducting field tests at the time to make the SmartCare even more stable. Wash stations that do not wash and maintain vehicles on the large scale of the Hartmann petrol station are usually suitable for this.
Schüßler's decision in favour of the tried-and-tested high-performance SoftCare2 Pro system and thus inevitably against the top-of-the-range SmartCare was nevertheless a thought-provoking process full of obstacles with difficult pro and con considerations, but a master stroke. WashTec's Area Sales Manager South in the Gantry Systems segment, Matthias Rotter, solved his persistent objections in the course of this by suggesting that he swap both systems and purchase the SoftCare2 Pro as the new system. "It must be said, however, that this was a very hard struggle to convince Karlheinz Schüßler of this. We discussed for a long time and often also because we wanted to avoid the danger of the new system being overloaded and the old one no longer being used by customers at all." Talking about his difficult decision at the time, Karlheinz Schüßler says today: "I am very happy that I finally agreed to swap both. Our customers are really taking to the new gantry systems. Especially the high-priced washes, which we didn't sell as much before, now 'do' incredibly well because of FoamTastic, the fantastic foaming experience. Our two best and most expensive washes respectively have FoamTastic in their programmes. And that works without any ifs or buts." This speaks for WashTec's system and chemical quality.
And the special, even unique washing experience that SoftCare2 technology offers as a whole in less than seven minutes also speaks for this. The use of SoftCare2 technology means perfect vehicle surface cleaning down to the last detail – and thanks to SofTecs® Pur washing brush material, it is also extremely gentle and soft. WheelFlash and WheelJet leave nothing to be desired when it comes to making wheels and rims up to 21 inches shine. Vehicles with hatchbacks do not present WashTec's MultiFlex side brushes with impossible tasks, quite the opposite. The spoiler, sills and rear are cleaned thoroughly and without leaving any residue. On both gantries, the multifunctional rotary nozzle performs multiple functions – uniform application of chemicals, convincing high-pressure washing, perfect drying. With FoamTastic, a full-coverage, draught-proof and backlit foam application to perfection, customers are wowed and the vehicle is completely and uniformly covered in foam. To achieve perfect cleaning results, Karlheinz Schüßler had both gantries equipped with high-pressure pre-wash nozzles on both sides.
The launch of both SoftCare2 Pro gantry systems in regular operation was definitely to be conducted with the use of WashTec's EasyCarWash app. Karlheinz Schüßler is very interested in modern payment options for wash cards. He had two cameras for vehicle number plate recognition installed at each entrance in order to be able to offer his customers digital booking and payment with the EasyCarWash app. He says today, looking back: "Downloading and programming the app is intuitive and therefore really very easy. I only needed 20 minutes to create the programmes. The process of integrating images worked without any problems. It really is very easy, just as the name of the app suggests. As I see it, any petrol station operator can learn the procedure very quickly."
WashTec technicians finally completed the installation work for the necessary digital recording technology on the systems in mid-February 2022. When the hardware and software were ready for use, Karlheinz Schüßler immediately started the car wash business with the EasyCarWash app. This is because flat rate customers spend significantly more – often twice as much – on washing and caring for their vehicles than customers who do not use WashTec's special unlimited car wash service. For operators like Karlheinz Schüßler, the EasyCarWash app delivers further advantages – irrespective of the weather at any time of day or year and constant wash turnover.
Well before the launch of both identically equipped gantries, which differ only in wash height and width – 2.80 metres x 2.58 metres and 2.40 metres x 2.38 metres – he informed customers on his attractive company website and in social media networks. To do this, he initially drew on WashTec's extensive marketing support. Two weeks later, Karlheinz Schüßler himself launched an advertising campaign in the "old" format, had an eye-catching layout created and commissioned the printing of a total of 10,000 copies. Post office employees delivered the flyers, printed on both sides, to the letterboxes of households in the surrounding area. After four weeks of offering EasyCarWash, "we achieved over 1,800 euros more turnover with the app alone. The WashTec area manager Rotter has already confirmed an exceptional launch. To better appreciate this sensational result, you need to know that it is twice as high compared to other car wash operators." The team at the Hartmann petrol station has also sold numerous flat rate washes and several times 200 euros in credit via the Wash Wallet. "As I learned from WashTec, no one has achieved this before. Originally, I didn't want to offer the Wash Wallet at all," says Schüßler, summing up and justifiably proud.
In the "end", it is always the result for operators and customers that counts. This is also the case at the Hartmann petrol station. After all, the purchase of two SoftCare2 Pro-portal systems involves a lot of money that should flow back into the coffers as quickly as possible through income from the car wash business. So it is all the more pleasing to hear Karlheinz Schüßler say relaxed again after well over three quarters of a year: "By changing both systems about twelve months ago, we had the best washing year ever, with an incredible leap upwards. And this despite the fact that we also raised prices in the course of this. The customers are extremely satisfied, we have virtually no complaints. The cleaning results are absolutely tremendous. I really have to admit." I am extremely happy with the decision. We have done everything right. That's really crazy."
This is not the only reason why the team of the Hartmann petrol station became 'Car wash professional 2022'. This is remarkable in that there have never been so many responses to ratings in the gantry systems sector. "We distributed five thousand feedback cards to our customers and received 850 ratings back from them. Five questions had to be answered for the rating. I got full marks for everything, except for price/performance. We scored 4.9 points in this category. "This is simply phenomenal and, as I now know from the judging panel, unprecedented. A big thank you to all the WashTec teams!