Your errands list this weekend may include a visit to the car wash to wash off the week’s dirt and leftover crumbs from an on-the-go lunch — the $10 billion car wash and auto detailing industry sees the majority of their clientele on Saturday and Sunday. But with those high-trafficked times comes the hassle of standing in lines and rushed service.
Serial entrepreneur Scot Wingo believes that most services should and will go digital, to put the customer back in control of their time versus relaying on the service provider. He’s onto something — the on-demand economy is attracting more than 22.4 million consumers and $57.6 billion in spending annually.
As CEO and co-founder of on-demand car wash Spiffy, Wingo is putting you back in control of your time (and your now-squeaky clean car) by letting you schedule a car wash on your time, at a location of your choosing. The startup recently raised a $5M Series A to expand to Los Angeles after opening flagships in Charlotte and Raleigh, NC as well as Atlanta. They also closed the acquisition of LA-based car wash app Squeegy to scale residential and commercial clientele in the area.
Spiffy’s premise is fairly straightforward, but the startup has earned glowing reviews by paying close attention to customer feedback and researching in-depth on how to improve the overall car wash experience. Think quality assurance, customer experience, and eco-friendly operations.
Wingo and his co-founder Karl Murphy came up with the idea in 2013, but saw another on-demand car wash startup in Silicon Valley. They sat on the idea while they watched the ebbs and flows of that company, and took notes.
“They raised a fair amount of capital, and their app was really good, but what they really didn’t do well on was the operational side of the business,” says Wingo. “You would order a car wash and a guy would show up with a bucket and sponge and ask where the water is. They used contractors without any training or anything. We knew that the outcome of the vehicle being clean would not be a great customer service experience.”
Wingo and Murphy founded Spiffy in 2014 with the goal of improving that experience. At launch, customers often preferred having their cars washed at work, but often office buildings don’t allow for third-party detailers due to liability and environmental concerns. They came up with a creative solution.
“To solve this, we employ all of our technicians as W-2 employees. We run extensive background and driving checks and they wear uniforms and drive our vans. We train every technician 100 hours, 50 hours as classroom style and 50 hours as an apprentice with a technician. We have a very big insurance policy as well,” says Wingo.
They quickly addressed the environmental concerns by using a bathtub-like mat in the car to catch run-off water and chemicals while it’s being washed. After the job is done, the mat goes back in the van and is taken to a central reclamation system.
Now, 70 percent of their clients are the initial hesitant office parks, who provide Spiffy as an amenity for tenants.
“We’re pretty obsessed with making sure customers are happy,” says Wingo. “Before customers pay, they have to leave us a rating. We call that rate gating. We get about 90 percent of our customers leave us a rating in the application.” This allows for Spiffy to identify where employees are lacking and retrain them as quickly as possible.
This attention to detail has helped Spiffy grow over 150 percent from 2015 to 2016, and the company shows no signs of stopping. Their Series A funding round will help this startup expand in current cities, grow to new markets, and add new services like oil changes (currently being piloted in their hometown of Raleigh).
“We have pretty big aspirations. We think that, based on what we’re seeing with consumers and how much they love this, this works pretty much in any huge city over a million people,” says Wingo. “We haven’t solved cold weather yet, but we’ve identified 25 warm weather cities that are our first phase of growth. We frequently are at or above 100% capacity.”