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Success with express detailing

July 21, 2010
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Editor’s Note: This article is included in the March 2009 issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing®.

If you want to see how it’s possible to marry the ideas of speed and also quality in auto detailing, then look no further than Waves Car Wash in West Roxbury, MA. It is here that owner Adam Korngold has perfected a system for providing customers a fast, reliable service that also meets their high expectations.

The location

West Roxbury is a part of the Boston area in the same way that Queens, NY, is part of New York City, according to Korngold. It is a unique marketplace, and yet it shares many attributes with the metro area. The detail center has also earned the stamp of approval from some famous Bostonians. Korngold said players for the Red Sox are among his customers.

Korngold bought the carwash in 2003 while he was in college studying business. A few years later, he was itching to grow the location into a more profitable site.

“After doing some research visiting other carwashes and speaking to experts, I decided that I had enough land to build a detail center and that detailing was growing faster than the overall carwash industry,” he explained.

In 2006, he built the 3,000-sq. ft. detail center with four bays for express services. He also added a waiting room with windows allowing customers to watch their cars getting cleaned, as well as an accessory store.

Crossover customers

The carwash is the main source of generating detail customers at Waves. According to Korngold, 40 percent of the customers that bring their cars to his tunnel only intend on purchasing a full-service carwash package. So, how does he get them out of the tunnel and into the detailing bays? Well, it’s done through good old fashioned marketing.

“I heavily promote detailing. I have many signs, banners, and pricing menus throughout my property and retail stores,” Korngold said. “I also have coupons offering discounts in local papers and on the back of supermarket receipts. In the past I have offered detail customers a free month of unlimited carwashes.”

Korngold recommended keeping an up-to-date customer database. He uses his list of e-mail and home addresses to send reminder cards every three months. He also gives away a free microfiber towel with each detail job “which allows the customer to easily touch up something in the vehicle, such as wax left on the exterior or a smudge on a window.”

Confident salespeople are golden

The most important factor in selling detail services is having a confident salesperson, said Korngold, “who can show value in the price and have confidence in the quality.”

Korngold has three sales employees who work outside to greet customers. All three sales employees have worked in the detail center and understand the process and benefits of the services they are selling. The sales employees have to demonstrate the value of the service, according to Korngold, who currently has 24 employees including nine detail employees.

“My employee will look inside the customers’ vehicles and point out stains and additional services that will benefit the customer,” Korngold explained. His employee then gives an estimated completion time and explains the price — “making sure to charge appropriately for heavily soiled vehicles or for pet hair.”

Following the service recommendation and the sale, the employee prints a ticket with the price and hands the customer a form to fill out before work can begin on the vehicle. Inside the accessory store/waiting room, the customer fills out his or her name, address, phone number, and e-mail and hands the cashier the form.

The cashier then enters the customer’s contact information into the wash’s point of sale (POS) system. “The information is necessary so we can contact the customer if we leave anything out of the vehicle or if the customer leaves personal property in the waiting room,” said Korngold.

Go fast and still do a good job

To run an express detailing center, it is important to stay away from the “fast food” mentality where quality is sacrificed for speed. To do this, Korngold has implemented some key ingredients at his detail center.

“We have two employees working on a vehicle at all times. Our detailing center is equipped with a central vacuum and pumping station, as well as a Detail Plus chemical dispensing stations that are located on both sides of the vehicle,” he said. The two employees are responsible for checking the other’s work.

A set target time is 15 minutes per service (carpet shampoo, seat shampoo, interior clean, and hand wax) and an additional five minutes is added per service for oversized vehicles and five additional minutes for each $10 in surcharges above the standard price.

Korngold emphasizes speed by entering the time started and finished for each service in a customized database application that tracks the employee’s total time for the task. The program keeps track of the employee times and a full time detail supervisor updates employees continuously.

“At the end of the month, the fastest employee without any quality issues is awarded $200. The second fastest employee is awarded $100,” Korngold said. Last month, his fastest employee averaged an 11 minute and 30 second turnaround per service.

Key components to working expressly

A complete express detail at Waves includes compound and wax, an interior clean, a carpet shampoo and a seat shampoo. Products that help you to work faster may be more expensive, but they’re worth it, according to Korngold.

“I pay more for products that increase the speed of the work. The higher price of the product is more than offset by the labor savings,” he explained.

Korngold said they currently use an aerosol vinyl dressing shine product that saves significant time over a liquid vinyl dressing. His employees spray all cloth material with an enzyme that breaks down stains without having to use brushes on upholstery.

Debra Gorgos is managing editor of Professional Carwashing & Detailing®.

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