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Bedtime stories for detailers

March 04, 2009
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Today’s Management Tip is a collection of stories from Gina Budhai, managing partner of Car Pool Detail in Richmond, VA, and 2006 Detail Person of the Year. Budhai was inspired by a previous bulletin board post which asked detailers to share their best detailing experience.

The stories, some funny, some touching, some practical, all show examples of good customer service, excellent employee management and ideas for improving operations at your detail shop.

Feel free to share your own story on our bulletin board.

There are so many best detailing jobs and best experiences over the course of running a business. Each of these experiences are unique and brings an entirely different reward and pride in the work we do, what we accomplish, and the people we have had the wonderful opportunity to encounter and serve.

The experiences help to shape us and rewards can be inspirational and uplifting; having your peers respect your work, knowing you have solved a customer's problem, knowing you have impacted a customer's life.

Unable to select just one story here are a few of the stories that have become part of the history of our detailing business and helped to shape our experiences.

Reuniting family:

A while ago we received letter from a client thanking us for reuniting him with his son. Turns out, one of our detailers found a St. Christopher’s medallion between his seats, and as is our policy, whenever we find something of value we either hang tit from the rear view mirror or place it in the cup holder. In this case, we hung the medallion from the mirror. Our client was shocked to find the chain. He had severed his relationship with his son because he believed his son had stolen the gold necklace for drugs. As a result of the find he apologized to his son and the family was reunited.

A new brother:

After detailing a client’s vehicle, we got to speaking about many things and he shared with us some anecdotes about his father…the stories sounded remarkably familiar with another client who had the same last name. We decided to introduce the two men and after sharing stories, it turned out that they were brothers born to the same father in different cities!

A lifesaver:

We were asked to detail a vehicle that was being shipped overseas on a diplomatic assignment. It was a recently purchased used vehicle, so we decided to remove all the interior components to give it a thorough cleaning. On removal of the carpeting, we smelled gas and discovered the entire floor board was completely rusted through and barely being held together. The vehicle was on its way to Africa and any slight bump would have spilled all the occupants in the roadway. Needless to say, the client quickly purchased a new vehicle.

A new paint job:

Years ago a client brought in a vehicle with oxidation that appeared under the clear coat. Despite polishing the finish, the cloudiness would continuously re-appear. Sensing there was more to this we did some extensive research and determined there was a manufacturer’s defect. We detailed our findings in a letter on behalf of the client to the dealer and manufacturer which resulted in a completely new paint job at no cost to the client.

A new engine:

A client was having engine problems and explained she had taken the vehicle to the dealer who advised her that there was sludge and gelling in the engine and that she needed to install a new engine. I remembered a re-call notice in one of our industry magazines and decided to dig a littler deeper. After further research, I found not only the recall notice, but a copy of a class action suit settlement and innumerable complaints about the engine. I prepared an extensive file for her to take the dealer and they immediately agreed to install a new engine at no cost to her.

Will work for free:

A client came in with a severe water leak. Basically, the vehicle was like a sieve; you could plug one leak, but another would develop. We did as much as we could to repair the vehicle, but we were about to lose our minds. We realized this was a no win situation; the client’s expectation was unrealistic. We decided not to charge the customer, hoping he would go away. Well, some six months later we saw a big article in the newspaper naming us “Best Service Provider.” We had been selected best service in our area based on a letter the customer had written to the newspaper about the work we had performed ‘pro bono’ on his vehicle.

Something doesn’t smell right:

A new vehicle with 1,000 miles came in to us from the dealer; there was an absolutely horrific smell and the occupant complained it was causing him to have a bloody nose and severe headache. To ensure proper cleaning, we decided to do a third party testing. The test included swabbing, as well as indoor air quality testing in the vehicle. Turns out, the mold count was off the chart and the vehicle also had airborne amoeba. Once the dealer received the report, the manufacturer purchased back the vehicle immediately and put the client in brand new vehicle. Best of all: We were still paid for the job!

A real connection:

Recently a client came into my business asking to have his brand new vehicle detailed. Since most consumers use the term “detail” to describe hand washing or even waxing, I proceeded to inquire if the customer knew what detailing services entailed. He was delighted to share with me his understanding of detailing which included a precise explanation of protection to paint and fabrics. I was impressed with his knowledge, and told him so. He said when he was a student without money, he stopped into a detailing facility and a man explained all the particulars to him. The man decided that when he was able to afford such a service, he would have it done to his new vehicle. I asked him exactly where this person was located and it turned out to be my own father’s detailing business located in another city two hours away! Our two businesses are not connected, but the customer’s connection to my family was very real.

A husband’s passing:

A client called from several states away and said she had re-located and her husband wanted her to drive the car to us for detailing. The drive took her some six hours and when she arrived, she brought a picture of her husband to show us and we inquired how he was doing. She replied that he had recently passed away, but while they were stationed in Belgium and he was dying he prepared a list of things to do and one of them was taking the car back to us to have it properly detailed. Needless to say, every person at the shop – from the cashier to the technicians -- was in tears.

Gina Budhai is the managing partner of Car Pool Detail, the detail shop location of Car Pool, Inc., a seven-store chain based in Richmond, VA.

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