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Detailing

Manage, maintain, train and retain

October 11, 2010
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It’s a given that the majority of customers evaluate detailing work based on the quality of personal service and the appearance of the owner, employees and the shop or trailer.

Basically, when customers are looking at you, your employees or your facility, they’re looking at your company’s image. It is important to know how to properly manage your employees and facility in order to maintain the quality of your business.

Recruiting and hiring
From the person answering the phones to your detail personnel, your employees represent what is viewed as "the company" by customers.

Without a doubt, the most important management concern for any detailing business is the employees.

The greatest resource for new recruits comes from your current employees. Choose your best employees, who know your expectations and what ability is needed to deliver the exemplary service you require, and offer to give them referral incentives for recommending new employees.

No matter where you recruit from, make sure you use the same interview process each time to weed out undesirables and select only those who have the personality and ability you are seeking.

When interviewing, don't ask “yes” or “no” questions. Instead, ask questions that reveal the character and personality of the prospective employee, such as:

  • What did you like least about your last job?
  • What did you like best about it?
  • What did you think about your supervisor?
  • Do you prefer minimum supervision or lots of guidance?
  • What was the best experience at your last job?
  • What was the worst experience at your last job?
  • What qualities do you have that would make you an asset to us?
  • What is your best quality as a person?
  • What is a quality you know you need to work on?

Training and retaining
Once hired, employees need to be thoroughly trained, not just on how to detail, but also on how to represent the company. Effective training promotes good habits and delivers consistent, professional service to your customer.

Every detailer needs to be trained the exact same way. Provide employees with a written manual that explains the company's policies and procedures and the detail procedures you expect to be followed for every vehicle they work on.

These include:

  • Washing;
  • Engine cleaning;
  • Trunk clean and shampoo;
  • Interiors;
  • Paint finishing; and
  • Final detailing.

To help retain good people, I recommend establishing an ongoing employee recognition program. This may include a monthly award meeting along with a yearly awards event, during which recognition can be given to all employees within the company.

Planning for this event is straightforward: make it a family affair with spouses and significant others invited. Determine the average number of employees you expect to have during the year and plan a budget for the event accordingly.

People like to feel needed and appreciated beyond receiving a paycheck. Regular praise goes a long way.

Safety
Another area of employee management is ensuring the safety of your detailers and customers.

This is accomplished by:

  • Making sure all detailers are properly covered with Worker’s Compensation Insurance;
  • Monitoring their driver’s license status;
  • Periodic or random drug testing; and
  • Providing them with sufficient time-off so they don’t become burnt out.

Facilities management
Whether mobile or fixed, facilities management is the second most important managing duty. You are in the business of delivering a luxury automotive cleaning service, which means different things to different customers.

There are too many details of facilities management to discuss in a single article, so the key focus should be to keep your facility (building, van or trailer) clean and to create a plan to keep it that way, everyday.

Even if you adhere to a thorough opening and closing procedure, breakdowns do happen, so it is important to have a plan for equipment failure in advance. This will help you to react to make the repair and be back in business.

Mobile maintenance
For mobile operators, facility maintenance means including vehicle maintenance in your plan. If you are mobile and can’t get there, you are out of business.

There comes a time when you are spending too much money on the repair of your vehicle to keep it on the road. When major engine work is required, such as a valve job, replacing the head gaskets or resurfacing heads, it is time to put the rig up for sale.

Surprisingly, retired trucks or vans can fetch good money, at least more than you'd receive by trading one in for a new one. It's better to sell a vehicle privately and offer the cash as a down payment on the new truck or trailer.

Of course, buying a new truck or van is a great time to spruce up your image.

Evaluate your operation
Is it time to update your training program for your staff? Is your image still the one you want to convey?

If your employees and your facility are working together to create a positive company image, your customers will take notice and your detailing business will benefit.


R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a 37-year member of the car-care industry. He can be contacted at buda@detailplus.com.