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Part II: Detail industry certification

October 11, 2010
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In the September 2005 issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing® my article queried the possible need for certification in the detail industry.

In this second installment I will elaborate on the topic and present some common pro/con arguments regarding the certification debate.

Association strength
The biggest problem to overcome with the idea of certification is not just who will develop the standards, but how to implement them and judge who is certified and who is not.

Unfortunately the detail industry has no group that could implement such a national certification program.

Before there can be certification the industry needs to find one united voice. It will take a concerted effort from all segments of the industry — manufacturers, distributors and detailers if there is ever to be certification or a viable association.

An association representing all segments of the detail industry can write the standards, set the certification categories, and use public relations to promote certification. But if individual firms and detailers don’t support the effort nothing will happen.

Questioning the need
There are many detailers who question whether there is really a need for certification in the detail business. A great many arguments can be presented for certification, but the reality is that the industry is growing without it.

Many believe a non-certified detailer could be just as professional as a detailer certified through a quick program. They question what such a program would bring to the table that is not already there.

They point out that they have the same goals and perspectives as a certified detailer would have:

  • To be successful;
  • Professional; and
  • To promote the detail industry.

And people will always argue that there will still be good and bad detailers even with certification.

Certification and education
It is not just certification itself that is key to success, it is education that is the true path for our industry. A detailer needs to:

  • Understand detailing;
  • Attend classes and seminars;
  • Network with other detailers; and
  • Apply what they learn.

Some may attend numerous classes and seminars, but remain uncertified. However, that doesn't mean those who are uncertified aren't qualified or don't do terrific work. If they don’t have certification, they may still have the knowledge.

Then there is the question of once you get certified is that all there is? Do you keep it forever, or do you have to renew it?

Some question why someone should have to keep paying to retake a class every few years just to say they are certified.

In medicine if a person doesn’t stay up to date, they will lose their license. Doctors have to take a series of exams to confirm they are qualified to remain board certified.

Professionals like lawyers, architects, engineers, and interior designers, all recognize the importance of continuing education, and they make that requirement mandatory for continued practice or certification.

Changing with the times
Just because a detailer is certified it does not necessarily mean he or she is qualified.

The fact that many industry professionals have taken numerous technical courses (paint finishes, carpet cleaning, etc.) demonstrates the value that they place on education.

Many detailers also argue that there is no need to maintain certification or pursue advanced education, which also may be true.

But that line of thinking indicates that nothing in our industry changes and there’s no need to keep up.

So many in detailing are still using the same equipment, chemicals and procedures that were common 20 and 30 years ago. If you claim to be a professional it is your responsibility to keep up.

Helping motorists
A motorist will look for seals of approval to determine the quality of a detail business. They consider things such as UL Approval and Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, and affiliations with groups like the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, and other certifications, as discussed above.

For a motorist, certification is a good starting point to identify someone who has some basic detail knowledge and has met basic requirements for education or someone who has completed courses and exams.

It’s still no guarantee of a quality job, but it’s a start. If a detail company displays a certificate or attendance at seminars it is the motorist’s best bet that the company is licensed and insured, and that there is a quality control process.

Working toward success
Everyone in the industry should agree that integrity, honesty, hard work and dedication are keys to success.

The anti-certification advocates counter with examples of detailers with little experience, who take a two day detail seminar and pass a test, but go home not knowing what to do next.

In reality, those who take the time and spend the money to learn and become educated are the types of professionals who practice their trade in a professional manner.

R.L."Bud" Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR. Bud is a 36 year veteran of the carwash and detail industries and currently serves on the International Carwash Association Board of Directors. He can be contacted at