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The touch-ups that sell

November 19, 2008
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Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the April 2005 issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing. If you would like to submit a tip or an article idea, please e-mail editor Kate Carr.

Not only can extra services such as paintless dent removal (PDR) and paint touch-up enhance customers’ convenience by allowing them to receive multiple services in one stop, but they can also significantly improve a detail shop owner’s bottom line by pulling in additional revenue for needed services.

Can you compete?

Before adding services like PDR and paint touch-up, there are several things a shop owner should consider, such as:

  • Competition;
  • Training;
  • Tools and supplies;
  • Staffing;
  • Pricing wholesale and/or retail; and
  • Subcontracting.

Start by checking out the competition to find out who they are, what they are charging, what their quality is like, and how busy they seem.

After compiling this information and realizing that it appears feasible to add PDR and touch-up services, a detail shop owner should immediately begin researching the particulars behind adding these services to his or her site.

An eye for detail

The employees chosen to learn PDR or paint touch-up skills must have patience and a real eye for detail. Both services are technical enough that not just anyone can pick them up as easily as some companies claim.

In fact, at some facilities it can take several months to become very good.

The training is typically four to five days of attending educational classes that include both classroom and hands-on training with parts of cars as opposed to real cars.

The training schedule

Employees begin in the classroom where they are briefed about the skills and techniques they will learn.

Following the general course outline, they then watch some repairs done by the experienced instructors.

The instructors explain the techniques they are using and the process; providing tips and helpful information as they demonstrate.

Employees are then allowed to start performing very simple and small repairs on some fenders, hoods and doors mounted to work stations, not actual cars.

As the pupils start perfecting the repairs and the repairs get bigger, they eventually begin working on actual cars under the supervision of the instructors.

It generally takes the whole week of training to get to the final point where the pupils are working on actual cars.

Following the class, the furthering and improving of their skills requires a lot of practice.

Once the person completes the training, he or she will have a basic understanding of the procedures required to perform the services, but they will not yet be quick or able to perform great quality work.

That expertise will only come with time and lots of practice. These individuals should concentrate extensively on the paint or dent service they have learned, especially in the beginning.

Class and dash

The next challenge the owner may face is keeping these now well-trained people from going out on their own and starting their own company with the knowledge and skills that the owner paid for.

Regardless of whether they make it on their own or not, the owner still has to start over to replace them. Although this seems like an unlikely occurrence, it does happen.

Therefore, it’s important to choose individuals who seem committed to the business and appear to be interested in long-term employment and advancement.

The employees should not only have an eye for detail, but also the maturity to make educating them worthwhile.

How to sell it

Making it known to the public that extra services like PDR and paint touch-up are available is an important step to selling the services.

Be sure to list PDR and touch-up service options in all literature and advertising related to the business. Highlighting it on the company’s website and mentioning it in the yellow pages is also a good idea.

Try to sell these services to every customer by writing up an estimate and asking them if they are interested in having the service done.

Surprisingly, most of them will accept once they realize how inexpensive it is and how it can significantly improve the appearance of their vehicles.

People won’t buy something if they don’t know what the results are.

Having examples of previous PDR and touch-up services to refer to will help the customer recognize the benefits and will entice them to purchase.

Is subcontracting the answer?

Adding extra services like PDR and paint touch-up can really help a detail shop’s bottom line. However, if you don’t have enough capable staff, subcontracting might be an option to consider.

After years of hiring, firing, training, and sometimes babysitting the dent and paint departments in your company, you may discover a way to offer these services to customers and profit from them while eliminating all of the headaches, hassles and expense of doing it yourself.

Subcontracting is usually the answer.

Customers will be happy that you are able to offer these services. Subcontractors are happy to get all of the business, which is conveniently pre-sold for them.

Finally, you’ll be happy because you kept the benefits of offering these services and eliminated all of the strings previously attached, including training and staffing responsibilities.

Kevin Iden is the president of Iden’s Detailing, Inc. in Seattle with eight locations and two carwashes. He is also a consultant in the detailing industry and can be reached at idenkr@comcast.net .