30 June 2020 | Article

By Mika Alapiessa, Senior Advisor at Superoperator Oy

A few years ago, The Economist wrote a renowned article titled “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” The article was a wake-up call for many companies and even industries to start considering data a valuable asset that can be used to improve efficiency, and to create new ways of doing business and even new offerings.

In this process, many companies realised that data is the byproduct of digitalisation, and digitalisation enables businesses and processes to be data-driven. The two are interlinked and should be approached as such – data is the fuel and digitalisation is the engine. The whole other dimension of this are the companies that are totally built of commercialising the data they get from their customers like social media and search engine companies such as Facebook and Google.

The future success calls for data-minded action

Let’s take a look how the data-driven, digitally competent companies are outperforming their peers in every industry. When used right, the most common gems that come out of the “wonder machine”, digitalisation fuelled by data, are simple but wonderful: Data enables companies to improve their operational efficiencies, innovate in the way they do business i.e. business models, and finally improve the way they engage with their customers. From the technical point of view, having the data available is also the only way companies can leverage new technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics. These technologies can hugely drive all the main wonderful outcomes mentioned earlier even further.

“Having the data available is the only way companies can leverage new technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics. “

Companies in different industries have adopted the data-driven culture at different speeds and depth. The data maturity differs from company to company and industry to industry. The car wash industry has known to be more traditional than many other industries in adopting the data mindset and digitalisation in general. But in many cases—and for good reasons—things are now rapidly changing. As we call to know, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the customer behaviour and shifted the preference from face to face to contactless services. This and the increasing competition in the market are forcing car wash companies to look into new ways of conducting their business.

So, where are we in terms of maturity of leveraging data and digitalisation in the car wash industry? And what are the potential opportunities and benefits?

Here are some ideas and examples of steps and measures that we at Superoperator have done with our customers, and how we are helping turn our clients’ businesses more data-driven. Yes, we can help to improve three major areas in the car wash business – operational efficiency, business model innovation and customer experience, but these are only meant to drive more revenue, profit, and customer satisfaction.

Let’s take a deeper look into these areas.

Operational efficiency: Finding answers to the important questions (and act on them)

Data can help improve the operational efficiency by enhancing business productivity, resulting in cost savings or producing more with the same resources. By having full visibility to the business in terms of numbers/data, the operations can be constantly optimised. It’s clear that you can improve things only if you can measure them. To make this more concrete, the data (or new insights) help to ask and get answers to important questions like, why does one site perform better than another? Which wash programs have the best margin? What is the uptime of the washing equipment? How to make sure that the downtime of wash equipment is as low as possible? How to optimize the level of staff based on a daily basis e.g. based on the weather forecast and other factors?

“To make this more concrete data can answer to questions like why does one site perform better than another.”

Business model innovation: Thinking outside the box

Many industry analysts believe business model innovation is the most effective way to disrupt an industry. We all know how Uber changed the transportation industry and the hospitality industry. What’s common for these two companies is that they introduced new ways of doing business unlike anything seen before. In the car wash industry, we have seen some innovation such as monthly subscription plans, but there are a lot of other things under work.

A good example of this is Clever Waschen by Axel Springer in Germany. Clever Waschen is building a nationwide virtual network of car washes that can all be accessed and used by a mobile app. This type of new service is great for car wash operators, because they can increase their revenues by selling extra capacity, and for consumers, because they can use all car washes anywhere through a single application. Clever Waschen is working closely with Superoperator enabling the virtual networks and mobile application.  

Customer experience: Tailoring the new norm

There’s a ton of things to be done to improve customer experience. We have seen other industries set great examples of personalising the services and making them easy to access through mobile. For years, Superoperator has worked in this area by enabling contactless car wash experience and mobile payment.

However, the customer experience can be taken even further. Think about a tailored car wash program based on your car model and brand. The customer experience can also be introduced to B2B. We have company customers whose fleets can be washed automatically. The only thing the driver needs to do is to drive the car into the car wash site, and everything happens automatically thereafter – no payment, no apps, no contact.

Furthermore, incentives such as loyalty programs and customer perks can also be used for elevating the customer experience. The customers do appreciate nice gifts and benefits for taking their business to an operator. How about a mobile voucher for free coffee at the station that pops up on your mobile phone instantly after washing?

We at Superoperator have been helping our customer companies for years to digitalise their businesses and encouraging and equipping them to more data-driven business operations. We are excited about this but also we feel that there’s still a lot ahead and out there for all of us. By working closely with our customers we will continue innovating our solutions making our clients’ businesses and the entire car care industry ever more successful.

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