There are multiple mobile options for car detailing services these days. A customer can schedule a detail job at his or her home or workplace with the touch of an app on a smartphone. So, how can you make customers — and their money — come to you? An existing, free-standing carwash operation offers multiple advantages over mobile detailing service. To broaden your detailing options and increase your cash flow, you need to leverage your existing storefront and its customer service options.

One thing that I learned in my journey from a franchise owner to a franchisor with more than 60 locations across the world, however, is that customers actually prefer to patronize brick-and-mortar stores rather than some stranger in a van. Franchises can offer the systems, technology and marketing help that will keep customers coming back.

In general, people are more confident doing business with an existing store that has a full business model. Mobile detailers are not part of a national brand in most cases. And, once you get the customer in the door, there are limitless options to upsell accessories and other services.

Here are some guidelines and tips for adding a detailing team to your carwash.

Know your customers

Customers want different things in a detailing package. Some people just want a clean car, and they aren’t that particular about specific services as long as their rides are clean. Then you have the car fanatics. They are obsessive about their cars and very proud of them, so they want every component to shine. Their detailing packages might include added features such as degreasing the engine and applying a nanoceramic coating to protect their paint over the long haul.

Make sure all of your franchisees follow protocols for everything from answering the phone to greeting walk-in customers. If a customer feels recognized and appreciated, he or she will in all likelihood become a repeat customer.

Offer tiers

As mentioned above, different customers have different needs and wants, and it’s largely predictable based on the type of cars they bring in for service. Car fanatics might want the gamut of offerings, including a sparkling interior, undercarriage wash, trunk detailing and degreasing. Others just want a spiffy ride.

The former wants a supreme package that includes waxes or protective coatings along with all other typical detail services. The latter is content with an economy package that includes a good interior cleaning and window washing.

Appearance counts

One quality I strongly stress with store owners is the need for a very pleasant business environment. You always want to have a clean, attractive and well-lit waiting area. Offer coffee and magazines, and pipe in pleasant music. My experience is that this can really leverage your offerings above and beyond what a typical mobile detailer offers.

Related: Practical appearance enhancements to attract carwash business

If a job will take longer than an hour or so, offer your customers a ride home or to work, and then pick them up when their cars are ready. For customers who choose to wait, make sure you have a front office staff that is friendly and can help sell accessories if the customer expresses interest. If you have an expanded accessories inventory, make sure it is arranged attractively and in a way that prompts waiting customers to browse.

Highlight your team and technology

When a customer comes in for a detail job, make that person feel like there is not just one guy with a dirty rag in his back pocket servicing the vehicle. Ideally, a customer service representative will personally introduce a customer to the technician performing the service. The tech can then evaluate the vehicle and the job.

This interaction makes the customer feel as if he or she is being serviced by a team, and that further leverages the personal touch and personability over a mobile detailer. You also want to have the best products available on the market and use this as a selling point. One way to do so is by using trusted, branded chemicals.

Let the customer watch

Some people enjoy watching their cars being serviced. Many stores are configured differently, of course, but the desire to watch the work can be accommodated via large windows or from beneath an overhead awning outside the shop. Customers can be escorted onto the shop floor in some instances, but for safety reasons it’s generally best to let them watch from afar. This intimacy builds on a customer-centric philosophy.

Offer appointments and walk-ins

Sometimes, the decision to detail a car is spontaneous, and you want to accommodate those customers. As mentioned, you can offer rides to those who may want to leave their cars behind for a while. Appointments have their advantages, of course — mainly ease of staffing and scheduling. But, do your best to accommodate both types of customers. Customers who make appointments and can be serviced quickly are more apt to browse inventory aisles as they wait, increasing ticket sizes.

Know what customers want

It’s important to discuss the desired outcome before selling or commencing a detailing package. If a customer simply says, “I want it cleaned,” he or she might not be happy with the outcome. Are there any specific things customers want your techs to pay special attention to? Is there an upholstery stain they presume will be removed at the lowest tier of service?

Set expectations in advance, and encourage the customers to provide details on their detailing jobs. But, make sure jobs are priced correctly. You don’t want profits to evaporate if a job takes much longer than anticipated.

Market aggressively

Typically, successful franchisees receive a lot of marketing help and support from a home office. There are so many social media marketing opportunities — as well as traditional marketing opportunities, such as earned media, bylines and media placement — that franchisees need this support more than ever.

My experience as a franchisee reinforced my belief that the home office should provide marketing services and guidance as aggressively as possible. Ultimately, this not only helps individual franchisees, but it also helps your brand. I recommend hiring a professional agency to handle the in-depth marketing opportunities available today.

Gauge satisfaction

When the job is complete, a technician or customer representative should look over the job with the customer. You want nothing short of full satisfaction. If the customer asks for additional work or is not happy with the job, do it again to his or her complete satisfaction. This might dilute the value of the job for your company, but it’s worth it if they commit to returning again and again. Failure to fully satisfy a customer can also have a negative perpetuating effect: That person may leave bad reviews online or poor-mouth your business to friends and family. Avoiding these black eyes is well worth investing some more of your technician’s time in the job.

There is no shortage of business for either mobile or brick-and-mortar detailing services. But, if you properly leverage your existing facilities and business models, you’ll definitely outgun the guy with the van and the spray bottle who is wearing his mowing shoes.

One final note drawn from my own experience as a franchisee and franchisor: People will pay a premium for professionalism. That is where you come in, and that is why customers come into your shop.


Charles J. Bonfiglio is the founder and chief executive officer of Tint World® LLC, a privately owned franchise chain of independent retail window tinting, mobile electronics, auto accessories and appearance centers. His company also offers branded nanoceramic coatings, a state-of-the-art product that can provide long-lasting showroom luster to your customers’ vehicles. He can be reached at [email protected].