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Talking to Your Tech

Talking to Your Tech

July 2, 2024

5 minute Read

With AI, you can now have voice-enabled conversations with your database.

Early adopters in the car wash industry are using artificial intelligence (AI) to have daily conversations with their databases to mine business insights — freeing them up from keyboards forevermore.

As the storm clouds join forces and form an impenetrable wall on the horizon, a decision has to be made. Is it time to close shop and tell the workers their day is done? “What’s our car count for the day and how likely is rain in a 5-mile radius in the next 4 hours?” asks the car wash operator, seemingly to himself. “1,028 cars and there is a 27% chance of rain, though the percentage rises to 69% in 5 hours,” came a reply, almost instantly from an invisible source.

The capability may seem like sci-fi to some. But for those in the know, chatting daily with their databases — as if they’re talking with Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant or a similar voice interface system — has become second nature and a way to be more efficient and specific when making decisions, especially on-the-spot ones.

“We’ve grown accustomed to simply asking our smart speakers or mobile assistants to authoritatively resolve any factual questions or trivia disputes,” said Chen Zhang, chief technology officer at RAIN, a voice tech company.

Employing that capability in the car wash space could mean some changes in how data is accessed, how informed your decision-making process is and what effect the data might have on your bottom line and day-to-day operating expenses/income — such as when bad weather may be moving in. 

“Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri have grown incredibly robust in the knowledge graphs they consult to perform these tricks of effortless data access — and clever in how they return results that balance brevity with some helpful context,” Zhang said. “Adding that capability to a business data system makes perfect sense.”

Nick Spallone, co-founder, Car Wash Pro Designers — who specializes in car wash design, development and consulting — agrees.

“The car wash industry is always moving forward into the future and this is just another tool that we as an industry will need to adopt in order to keep up with not only our competition — but also the ever changing public,” Spallone said. 

The ability to present a customized query to an AI-powered database could not only provide tangible bottom-line benefits, it could also be used by for training purposes. Employees and managers could ask the computer questions they might field from customers, and hear how they should respond. 

AI also provides an option for managers looking for real-time statistics related to the car wash, such as:  

• What’s our current car count for today?
• What’s our cost per car, taking into account supplies, payroll, insurance and all other business expenses?
• What’s our water usage per vehicle?
• What is this month’s churn?

“A lot of times we want to know specifics about our washes and we are limited by the reports our point-of-sale (POS) gives us. I’m thinking AI can work around that,” said Dino Nicoletta, owner, Asbury Circle Car Wash.

Taking AI for a Test Drive

If interested in giving an AI conversational database a test-drive, AI systems are generally very easy-to-use — despite all that complexity under-the-hood.

With just a few moments of interaction, management and workers at a car wash business, for example, can voice query AI databases and grab a quick insight just before, during or after a meeting.

In addition, such systems also enable users to converse with their databases in much more depth — enabling them to query with numerous follow-up questions and what-ifs. With the most sophisticated of systems, these kinds of drill-downs to insight are only limited by the number of questions and follow-ups a user can imagine.

“You could theoretically ask AI, ‘How can I save on labor? And give me a report on what we saved and how it affects the bottom line,’” Nicoletta said.

And these questions can be asked without going near a keyboard. Instead, data, insights, ideas — they’re all available via simple conversation: A voiced question, followed by a voiced response from your computer.

Many of these voice access systems are also able to serve-up all the typical charts, graphs and other visuals you’ve become accustomed to with a keyboard-driven business intelligence system.

“Using voice-to-enter commands — and then using screens to display lists and maps — seems like an unbeatable combination,” said Warren B. Powell, chief innovation officer at Optical Dynamics, an AI services software provider.

New? Not for long

Even if the content and the types of question you have in mind are all-new for an AI voice access system, they won’t be for long. Many of these systems are designed to handle new types of questions, on-the-fly — and still come-up with an insightful answer.

Many of the systems are also designed to auto-integrate these new types of questions into their problem-solving abilities.

The rationale: The next time around, the system is better prepared to handle such questions. These AI voice systems are designed to continually learn over time — and they continually get smarter, nimbler and more informed with their answers.

Having a database with voice-enabled, conversational abilities could also allow your managers and frontline workers to interact with your business database more often — and more thoughtfully.

“I do believe this would result in more informed, more insightful business decisions by my employees — because it would heavily reduce the risk of incorrect data analysis and overall human error,” Spallone said. “I believe AI-generated reports would also allow my team to shift their energies to other tasks that cannot be automated — therefore improving the services we provide to our clients as a whole.”

Getting Started

Converting an existing database to one that is voice-enabled can be a relatively smooth process. Numerous AI-powered voice query systems can seamlessly interface with business intelligence systems, such as Snowflake, Power BI, Pentaho Analysis and Microsoft SQL Server.

If you’re looking to evaluate voice access for your car wash’s database, some companies in this space include Genesys, Coruzant, Acuvate, Lovox and, a new player, OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT. OpenAI also has a special ChatGPT Enterprise version you can use for making the pairing, which is designed to ensure that any data your business shares with ChatGPT is kept private.

Ask Away!

Typical questions you can ask an AI-powered conversational database include: 

• How many of our machines are due for maintenance, where are they located and how quickly can they be readied for sale?

• How do our sales for this July compare to July sales for last year — and what key factors are influencing the difference in those numbers?

• What car washes in our chain have sold the most monthly, unlimited car wash memberships — and what characteristics do these car washes in common?

• Who are the top 100 repeat customers at each of our car washes for the past year — and what buying patterns do they share in common?

• What is your projection for our total sales for 2024 — and what are the top five factors influencing that projection?

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