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Mike Black finds a new way to pay

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Photos by Brandon Gray

Mike Black is no stranger to the car wash and petroleum industry.

He co-owns Valet Car Wash, an independent chain of seven wash and three petroleum sites in Southern Ontario. When Black was in the process of updating one of his sites to comply with Europay MasterCard and Visa (EMV) specifications at the pump, he decided it was also time to explore additional software upgrades that would help streamline the site’s POS system.

But Black knew he couldn’t do it alone. “The technology has gone so far above the average operator’s comprehension that you really need to rely on a trustworthy partner,” he says. And luckily, he met Jim Yelle through his Global Fuels rep. Yelle is the director of fuel management systems at Sylogist Ltd., a Canadian public company specializing in the management of petroleum automatic fuel dispensers (AFDs). Yelle had worked with Global Fuels in the past, so Black turned to him to develop customized software upgrades that would put this site at the forefront of pay-at-the-pump technology in Canada.

Now, this Valet Car Wash site, which flies the Global Fuels flag, offers unique payment solutions at the pump that customers will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the country.

Here’s what he’s done:

1. Extend the discount

Black’s site has a program called “Pump More, Save More” that provides discounts on car washes for customers who have purchased fuel. The size of the discount is based on the amount of fuel purchased, “ … so if you buy 30 litres you get 5% off any car wash; if you get 50 litres you get 10% off any car wash; and if you get 70 litres or more, you get 15% off any car wash,” Black explains.

Before, that discount could only be extended to customers if they entered the kiosk. But with the help of Sylogist, this is no longer the case.

“We wanted to be able to duplicate that discount at the pump and Sylogist was actually able to develop software that allows us to do that, which is quite advantageous for the customer and for us,” says Black. “So now, after the customer is done pumping and he selects his wash, the system will automatically make the calculation and give him a discount on the car wash.”

2. Streamline the payment

Black wanted to take this technology upgrade one step further. “Most of our other sites have standalone pay stations where customers can pull up and pay for a car wash, but this location didn’t have that. Customers had to go inside to the kiosk to buy a wash,” he explains.

The kiosk is small, and if it was busy or a transaction was taking longer than usual, customers were stuck waiting in line.

He decided he wanted to solve this problem with a novel idea. “If a pump was available and somebody just needed to buy a car wash, I thought it would be cool if we could do that at the pump,” says Black. And luckily, Yelle’s response was, ‘I think we can make that happen.’

“Now, customers can go up to the pump and, without purchasing any fuel, use it like a cash register and purchase a car wash,” says Yelle. “It’s unique. It’s just like having another cash attendant,” he says.

Although the new technology has only been in place for a couple of months, Black found that 10% of car wash sales are now coming from the pump.

“I think the key thing is, and we proved it at [this] site, Black can run his entire forecourt without a POS cash register. That’s unique,” says Yelle. “We want people to know that this is all achieved with an intelligent, standalone console. We’re proud of this.”

To see what else Mike Black and Jim Yelle did at this Valet Car Wash site, check out the full story in YCM March 2013