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Designing the express detail service

October 11, 2010
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If you are a business owner, CEO or general manager of a carwash or detailing business, chances are you’re forever looking for a way to increase profits.

While the express detail is nothing new to carwash and detailing organizations, many are leaving big dollars on the table by offering the wrong type of express services or using the wrong methods when performing these services.

Before determining what services to add to your business, it is important to closely examine your customer base and evaluate their needs.

Knowing your customer base
After researching our customer base, we found that the price point of our full detailing services were considered too high for the market and that our express details were viewed as too minimal within the scope of the work performed on the vehicle.

To us, that made perfect sense — we hated the express detail due to level of pride in our abilities, yet the market was screaming for an affordable way to maintain vehicles.

Based on this discovery, we increased the price of the express service, renamed it our preventative care detail service and added services that were not included in our previous express offer, such as: minor carpet and upholstery spot removal and dressing the interior.

Design, publicize, and they will come
During the interview process with our customer base, one common response surprised us. While we had been concentrating on bringing in more profits from our full detail services, our average customer was only doing business with us twice a year.

Those same customers informed us that if we had an affordable detail option that addressed light spot removal and protection of their paint, many would desire to have their cars detailed monthly or every other month.

Simple math indicated that on average, our customers would increase yearly spending from $400 to $800.

Customers also indicated they desired stain removal within an affordable detail. While we knew we could not offer a full-blown carpet cleaning, customers were primarily concerned about minor coffee and soda spots from incidental splashing and spilling.

Vapor steamer systems could help us achieve this one element with ease, minimizing man-hours and staff training, and provide a vehicle that was ready to drive instantly upon completion.

Additionally, customers indicated a desire for paint protection and beautification within an affordable detail.

Traditionally, we use only the best paint sealers and protectors available — designed to last for months. With this new level of express detail, combined with the fact that the majority of our customer base desired bimonthly or monthly service, we knew that a long-lasting and costly product would not be the answer.

Technology to the rescue
The man-hours we were racking up from applying traditional waxes using traditional methods were not meeting our financial goals. Realizing that technology was changing, we investigated spray waxes and found a solid product that was used within the aviation industry.

Using a spray-on wax or spray-on sealer however, was not enough. To see if this product was right for us, we decided to test and see the results first hand.

After a few weeks of testing, we were surprised that this product remained locked onto the surface of the fleet of limousines used as test vehicles. One month later, we knew we were onto something when some of the less used and less washed vehicles showed a fair amount of protection on the vehicles’ paint. This continued through 5-6 weeks of additional use.

The test vehicles that were heavily used and washed more held up far greater then expected. The spray-on products lasted an additional 3-5 weeks, matching our expectations.

The spray products we used in testing ranged from simple carnauba based products to aerospace-rated paint sealers. The application calls for a simple spray and wipe method, key in reducing man-hours while increasing our abilities to service more vehicles each day. This allowed us to gather a larger customer pool and fuel our referral program.

Overall, we were impressed with the results delivered from the spray sealers and decided that within this one market, it would help us to deliver on target with customer expectations and reach our desired profits.

Interior dressing: A devourer of man-hours
Customers told us they wanted gloss applied to the interior surfaces. Experience said we needed to keep an eye on the total man-hours used for express details. After all, dressing the interior using the traditional method of a hand pad and dressing, is both time consuming and expensive.

Our new method of interior dressing calls for a ratio of 3:1 parts water and water based dressing, mixed in a plastic container. A micro fiber towel is then submerged in the mixture, removed, and squeezed to extract excess dressing. All interior plastic and vinyl trimmed areas are wiped with this mixture, resulting in a factory matte finish.

This method greatly reduces the man-hours related to a full interior dressing service while delivering a nicely finished product for our customer.

Express detail: A gap filler and referral builder
While we have enjoyed the benefits of our express detail within our business, our vehicle audit assures and maintains that vehicles are detailed at the required level.

It is important to note that not all vehicles are eligible for this entry level or maintenance detail service. If a customer’s vehicle is filthy, that customer is directed to start with our full detail service followed by the use of express detail as maintenance.

Remember, you are the professional and need to use a diagnostic approach to your detailing sales efforts.

By offering an affordable option within our menu of services, we have achieved several benefits from this level of service. The amount our average customer spends with us each year has doubled, referrals have increased, and the lifetime value of our entire client base has increased.

Overall, the express detail has increased the satisfaction of our customers and has added to our profitability. Our hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly profits have increased dramatically within a market that had been struggling up to that point.

Offering express detail could work for you. Simply take the time to properly design an express detail that fits your local market.

Renny Doyle is the founder of Attention To Details, a company that trains and consults with a wide range of carwashes, car dealerships and car care professionals worldwide. Doyle can be reached at:

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