The hallmark of a successful train line is consistency. Riders expect the train to arrive and depart the station at the designated times with little variation. Similarly, a successful car wash provides consistent and dependable service, meeting customer expectations each and every time they pull into the drive.
Cypress Station Car Wash & Lube has been getting to the station on time for over a decade and was honored not only for its consistency, but its quality service and innovation as the Southwest Car Wash Association’s Car Wash of the Year. The Houston, TX suburban wash was given the award at SCWA’s annual convention and expo in late February for its latest wash, 10 years after it received the same award for its first.
The chain’s fifth site features all of the modern bells and whistles of a state-of-the-art wash, but with a commitment to traditional full-service features and service. While many car wash owners are going full steam ahead into the express concept Cypress’ owner Ahmed Jafferally has stayed committed to the full-service model, providing customers with a superior clean since he opened his first location over 11 years ago.
When customers pull into any one of the chain’s five — and soon to be six — locations they are met with a traditional railroad theme that is both intriguing and fun. The well-designed theme wash is covered in old-time railroad signage and historical touches that clearly display management’s commitment to providing a welcoming and satisfying wash experience.
“The train theme is everywhere in the wash,” general manager Mike Montalvo says. “The lobby is all hand-laid cobble stone, like the old train stations. We use a lot of vintage signage inside and out. Even our lighting on the outside is old-style boxes that were used for lanterns. When you exit the tunnel we have railroad crossing arms. If you buy a wash package, the lights flash and there is a train sound effect.”
The wash’s décor certainly adds to the customer experience, but it is the chain’s washing prowess that is the star of the show. Station’s award-winning fifth wash is by far the chain’s biggest site to date and its reigning flagship location — sitting on 1.7 acres. The site is outfitted with Motor City Wash Works equipment, including the 145-foot conveyor and all of the tunnel wash equipment. Like all Station locations the wash features both a lube facility and a full-service detail center.
One feature that was added to the latest location that is unique to not only the chain but the industry as a whole is the onsite Nestle Tollhouse Café. The freestanding coffee and cookie house is leased to an independent operator, giving Station an additional source of income as well as increased traffic to the site.
“It has been really good for us and them,” Montalvo says. “We get a lot of people that come in to get their car washed and end up buying a cookie or a coffee. There are also a lot of people that just come in for the cookie store and realize there is a car wash here and will use our services as well.”
While the cookie café sets the wash apart from the others in the chain, the other goods and services the location offers is right on par with what the residents of suburban Houston have come to expect from Station Car Wash.
While many operators across the country are getting away from the lube center model, Station has figured out how to not only make it work, but thrive in the market. Success is credited to three simple things: providing superior customer service, having customers in and out in 10-15 minutes, and using quality name brand products like Pennzoil and Mobile 1. The lube centers are able to perform Texas state vehicle inspections and every customer that gets their vehicle inspected at Station receives a free exterior wash. In addition, all full-service oil changes come with a $14 full-service car wash free of charge.
“There is still a big push for lube service in the Houston area,” Montalvo says. “A lot of people don’t want to schedule an appointment at the dealership or wait in a long line. The lube center guys do a great job communicating with the customers.
They do a 15-point inspection and if they notice that the vehicle needs an additional service they explain what is needed in an informative way and are never pushy.”
All Station sites feature a full-service detail center. Four detail packages are offered starting with exterior or interior only service that costs $99.99 each, all the way up to the top of the line $259.99 Final Destination package that includes a high speed buff and polish and light paint overspray removal. In addition to the set detail packages, the centers offer a vast array of a-la-carte services and ancillary offerings.
While Station prides itself on the ability of its tunnel to get cars shiny and clean there are some owners, either because of their vehicle’s size or high-end nature, that prefer to have it washed by hand. To meet the needs of these washers Station offers a hand washing service as well. All Station locations offer hand washing, but the newest award-wining location is the first to do so in an enclosed building.
“We would love to put them all in the tunnel,” Montalvo says of the hand wash service. “But there are some vehicles that are just not suited to a tunnel wash. It is a convenience service we offer to our customers. We do around five to 10 hand washes a day. It is not a huge business for us but the customers enjoy it.”
Customers also enjoy the wash’s clean car guarantee that allows them to return up to 48 hours after their full-service car wash service should their car’s shine be compromised by rain or other foul weather conditions and receive a complimentary exterior cleaning. Even if the customer has misplaced their receipt their service history can be accessed via their license plate number and the date and time of their last visit confirmed. The clean car guarantee is a very popular feature at Station with approximately 30 percent of customers taking advantage of the program.
The clean car guarantee is extended to 72 hours for members of the wash’s free VIP Lifetime Membership program. In addition to the extra 24 hours of clean car protection, members of the program receive a free car wash on their eighth visit, as well as a free oil change after 10 services.
While all five locations offer the same services, it is the chain’s latest location that received the tip of the cap from the SCWA. “It’s always great to be honored and recognized by your peers,” Montalvo says of the Car Wash of the Year award. “You can always find something wrong with a site and I am sure we have some things that people could point out. But it is great when people recognize how much effort you put into it.”
While the SCWA award is certainly an accomplishment it is not a culmination for the wash, simply a highlight on the long track of success. The wash is steaming ahead on its expansion plans, cutting the ribbon on its sixth location this spring with the land purchased and contracts signed on the seventh and eighth sites. With a commitment to quick, reliable, superior service Station is sure to have its platform filled with delighted customers for years to come.