10 Tips for Detailing Success
1. In order to have a successful detail shop, you must be able to wash cars well. No customer will trust you to detail his vehicle if you can't do this.
2. Don't go overboard cleaning wash customers' cars. Instead of removing tree sap and road tar after you wash a car, recommend that the customer get a detail service instead of a wash next time. If you spot clean a car every week for six months, your customer may never purchase a detail service.
3. Have a simple detail menu. Our detail shop services include: full detail, mini-detail, interior-only detail, exterior-only detail and wash and wax. We offer an Xpress Wax and Carpet Express for customers who are in a hurry.
4. Educate your staff about your detail services. Ticket writers should plant a seed by encouraging customers to consider getting a detail service soon. Hand your customer a brochure after you wash his vehicle or at the front line. Circle the service he needs most and quote him a price. You may want to offer him a discounted rate if he agrees to come back the next weekend or refund the price of the wash if he comes back the next day.
Show customers neglected areas of their cars such as dirty door handles, carpet stains, seat stains, dirt in the seat cracks, environmental fallout, oxidation and scratches on the paint. Cashiers and managers should also know how to thoroughly explain what each service entails and how long these services may take. When customers are price shopping on the phone, your cashier or receptionist should make the customer feel like your shop is competent, your prices are fair and your techniques are the best and safest around. Phone skills are very important when dealing with price shoppers. Customers will usually choose the best services around, not the cheapest services.
5. Have a fully trained detailer on site at all times. Your staff should be able to accept appointments and drive-in customers on any day at any time. For some people, detailing is an impulse service, and you don't want them to go to another facility. Always call your appointments on rainy days. We get emergency appointments when the customer is returning a leased vehicle or if the windows were down during the last evening's rain. We like to have a detailer on call for performing maintenance duties while we do rainy-day bookkeeping duties. You would be amazed at how many calls we actually receive.
6. Set out specific rules for detailing employees and enforce them. Employees should not be permitted to wear belt buckles or jewelry as these can scratch the paint or interior of a vehicle.
7. Choose only one detail supply company and ask your distributor to teach your detailers where and when to use each product. Install a metering system to ensure proper dilution ratios for concentrated chemicals. You'll need a hot carpet extractor, orbital buffer, high-speed buffer, pressure washer, deionized water, an assortment of brushes, applicator pads and soft cotton diapers. Your pressure washer should be used to rinse rims after heavy cleaning and for hand-washing vehicles that aren't suited for conveyor washing or rainy-day emergency washes when the tunnel isn't running. Keep all chemicals labeled and color-coded. We have a step-by-step cheat sheet that explains what to do and in what order for all our detail services. Don't ever do too much or too little work. Your staff should offer excellent service on every car every time.
Keep your shop neat, organized and fully stocked at all times. We suggest cleaning the trunk of the vehicle first, then placing personal items in a bag or box inside the clean trunk so that nothing is misplaced, damaged or forgotten. Have a manager inspect every detailed vehicle before returning it to the customer. A fresh set of eyes can catch small mistakes and save you from embarrassment and a bad reputation.
8. Promotion. Word-of-mouth is the best advertising, and it's free. Before committing to expensive advertising, try working with the customers you already have. Comment on what a nice vehicle a customer has and suggest he get it detailed. Do an excellent job and encourage your satisfied customers to tell their friends or bring in another vehicle. Offer a referral incentive.
When talking to a customer about your services, persuade him to make an appointment and call him the day before to confirm. Provide a shuttle service or offer to wash the car of the person who gave them a ride. We suggest staying away from dealer work until you have enough trained detailers. You don't want to turn away retail customers. Dealer work is a nice fill option; just don't make it your only source of detailing income.
9. Maintenance of detailing equipment is crucial. Be sure to check buffer cords, (they often short out) and change the oil in the pressure washer. Clean out the carpet extractor regularly.
10. The bottom line. The carwash business is very competitive. We're expected to do the best job and charge less or the same price as our competitors. By adding or promoting a detail shop at your facility, you can add an extra $300 to $3,000 a day in income without a lot of expense. For instance, two and a half detail services should take one detailer eight hours to produce $420 income. How many employees does it take to produce $420 in washes? Add four detailers and a day's worth of work and you're looking at $1,680 more each day. Even a small detail shop should bring in $15,000 a month in income. Don't stop with a detail shop. Once you're settled in, add paintless dent repair, windshield repair, paint touchup and micro repair services to your menu. Maximize your profit by keeping it all in house.
Mimi DiMassa is co-owner of Hermosa Beach Car Wash in Hermosa Beach, Calif., along with her husband and business partner, Robert DiMassa. The DiMassas started out in detailing and eventually brought their skills into the carwashing world.