Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Express detailing: The tools to sell it

October 11, 2010

If a wash owner has the space available, adding express detailing services can be a great money maker.

However, express detailing does require constant management and involves more than just marketing and signage. Successful express detailing demands absolute employee buy-in, and systematized delivery.

Express detailing: What is and is not
Professional detailing services can take several hours to complete, but express detailing should never exceed 20 minutes.

Professional detailing requires extensive training. Express detailing does not. Do not confuse express detailing with professional detailing.

The goal of express detailing is not to be all things to everyone. Rather, the goal is to provide a consistent product at a great value with little potential for variation.

To do this, create a work cell that is intuitive, well labeled, and always stocked with every supply used for the services offered.

You may want to try using laminated letter size signs indicating each step of a detail package including:

  • The supplies used;
  • Approximate time needed for completion; and
  • A photograph of someone that is performing the task.

Automating communication
The greeter is one of the single most valuable assets at a successful site with an express detail center. Therefore, it is also important to automate communication with customers.

First, standardize the message employees deliver, and second reduce the importance of how the greeter delivers it. This is accomplished with two mechanisms: signage and verbiage.

When designing the titles of the express detailing packages the customer should know exactly what they are getting without explanation.

The second component, signage, should be equally self-explanatory. For example, if your detailing package is an express wax, then there should be a picture of a car getting an express wax.

In a nutshell, a customer should be able to understand and select the services they want with nothing more than a finger point, even if English is not their primary language.

Automating management
Setting up an express detailing center requires little investment but demands systematized delivery and absolute employee buy-in.

There are many formats designed by creative operators across the country that have produced astounding results. One popular plan is based on express detailing dollars-per-day (E.D.D.).

Expectations and compensation
It is critical to the success of a car-care center to explain to every employee at the site the importance of getting customers to buy express detailing packages.

Publish very specific and realistic expectations for each and every day. Whether they are posted above the cashier or at a time clock, if asked, every person who works at the site should know the exact express detailing dollars-per-day (E.D.D) that must be sold.

Why E.D.D? It separates the expectation for express detailing sales-per-day and compensation from up-selling online wash packages while maintaining a relationship between the two.

If there is historical information available by week or day use it. If not, just knowing the annual car count is a sufficient place to start.

Simply divide the annual car count by the number of days open and multiply it by the days-per-week of operation to calculate the average daily and weekly car counts.

Then establish a target amount of express detailing revenue to determine per car. This number will vary across markets.

Now simply take the average weekly car count, weighted and distributed per day of the week and multiply by the targeted express detailing revenue-per-car. That is the target E.D.D. for the day.

The upsell recommendation
Did you ever stop and think about how customers learned to embrace the 3,000 mile “preventive maintenance” oil change to such an extent that it is now the rule rather than the exception?

The reason was that it was an honest recommendation and an inexpensive way to protect their vehicle. Express detailing services are very much the same — except the customer hasn’t yet learned the necessity or the frequency that they need the services.

The greeter’s approach in express detailing should be casual, non-threatening, and focused on the exterior of the vehicle first. The greeter should be presenting opportunities rather than identifying problems.

  • If a customer’s car has a nice finish, the employee should compliment them on it and recommend an express wax to help preserve it.
  • If a customer’s car has a dull finish they should ask when the last time it was waxed. If the customer doesn’t know, or it’s been more than three months, the employee should recommend an express wax.

The pitfall to avoid is trying to sell every customer everything. Nothing can erode trust in a detailing center faster than telling a customer who got an express wax the week before that their car doesn’t look shiny.

The fact that many customers do not fully understand the importance of preventative maintenance of their cars appearance is a great opportunity to develop a consistent revenue stream for your wash.

Retaining good greeters
Retaining quality greeters with a consistent salary and with compensation that is not so excessive as to destroy the profit incentive is tricky.

The premise of the compensation program is that it is purely in addition to the compensation a greeter receives from selling online services above the base wash package.

The plan is structured so that on high volume days the incentive for the greeter shifts towards selling online services, thus maximizing revenue-per-vehicle while avoiding an unmanageable flood of vehicles to the express detailing center.

On poor weather days, the greeter has an incentive not only to show up for work, but to maximize every customer encounter and truly sell express detailing services.

Talented greeters have the opportunity to earn excellent compensation across changing weather, holidays, and days of the week.

Anthony Analetto is the chief operating officer of SONNY’S The Car Wash Factory. Anthony was previously the director of operations for a national carwash chain and has over 25 years of experience in the carwash industry. He and can be reached at