Detailers have long taken pride in the personal touches they put on their customers’ cars. Many work on classic automobiles, boats and even aircraft, while others service the everyday vehicles people rely on for day-to-day transportation. No matter its purpose, detailers know how to take care of a car’s finish and materials. They make cars look brand new again, no matter how old the vehicle may be.

More consumers are seeking out detailing services now than ever before, according to Greg Swett, president of Classic Appreciation World Class Auto Detailing, and president of the International Detailing Association.

“I think 2015 will show one of the strongest years of growth overall in the detailing industry,” says Swett. “Not just high end vehicle owners, but the general public are finally very aware of and seek these automobile services for all the cars in their families. We have to be ready to provide service to many different people, each with different reasons and expectations.”

Innovate and train for quality

In addition to using scheduling and invoicing software in their offices, Swett has also noticed advancements in detailing polishing tools, media and other equipment.

“I am still amazed at the excellent results I see using orbital polishing equipment with the right pads and compounds verses rotary polishing for rather extensive paint correction,” shares Swett.

He has also noticed managers getting serious about teaching employees specific systems to consistently clean and polish vehicles.

“Many owners have hired professional detailing consultants to come into their shop to organize, equip and train technicians with very good results,” notes Swett. “Consistency is so important and not easy to achieve when you think of how different each vehicle’s condition is when it comes to you.”

Establish a correct pricing strategy

Like other businesses, detail shops should also review where money is coming from and where it is being spent. “Detail operations should really take a look at what their costs of providing services are over the entire year verses what they charge for each service offered,” explains Swett.

“I think a lot of detailers are still doing work too cheap because they have not taken the time to look at all the resources involved and to figure out how much it really costs to consistently perform a certain level of service,” he adds.

While coupons and promotions can increase traffic, Swett cautions against offering rock-bottom prices.

“If a detailing operation plans to ‘build its client base’ by offering their services at low prices,  that starts their customer off thinking the work can be done inexpensively and the customer is then reluctant to pay more to make it profitable for the detailer,” Swett states. “I have seen a great many detailing operations go out of business because they never charged a proper amount for the good work they provided, thinking they would ‘make it up on volume.’”

Positioned for growth

Swett says the detailing industry over the past year has changed more than in any of his previous 29 years in the business. He explains one reason for this is that people are keeping their cars longer now than in years past.

“They need to get them cleaned and polished to stay in love with driving them that long,” he notes. “I think the big percentage of leased vehicles we saw through the 90s and 2000s took a lot of retail work away from retail detailers. People would get a new car every two years and never even need to get it cleaned up. Luckily, many people are back to owning their cars rather than leasing for a short term now.”

According to Swett, an entire generation now exists that grew up with the word “detailing” as a common term.

“Think about it, 25 years ago hardly anyone knew what detailing was. We had to educate most every person that inquired about the benefits of this ‘new’ professional car care,” explains Swett. “Now I am working on my customers' kids' and grandkids' cars! They use the term detailing like it's familiar and already know many of the benefits.”

The retail side of detailing has experienced more growth than the wholesale market, believes Swett, for these same reasons. Busy lifestyles could be another factor. “Also, people realize they don’t have the time or experience to properly take care of their vehicle’s appearance needs,” he notes.

Resources for success

Increased business and interest in detailing services require detailing professionals to keep up with industry changes.

“Detailing technology, products and techniques are constantly changing and improving, now more than ever,” says Swett. “Detailing professionals need to stay on top of this fast-changing industry in order [to] keep up the quality of their work, increase efficiency and customer satisfaction and to grow their businesses.”

The International Detailing Association (IDA) offers resources to professional detailers to empower them, and promote the value of professional detailing services and the recognition of professional detailing as a trade, states Swett.

“The IDA provides professionals in the industry a place to network, share ideas and tips, and access educational materials and programs,” he continues.

Detailers can take part in the Certified Detailer (CD) program, which evaluates technical knowledge and proficiency through written exams. Swett says the program can be taken online or at “CD-In-One-Day” events hosted throughout the country. IDA will also introduce a hands-on, skills validated exam in 2015.

“In addition to the CD program, IDA offers training throughout the year via webinars that cover everything from marketing tips, instructional sessions for specialized detailing skills and technology, customer service ideas and more,” continues Swett. “IDA strives to provide detailing-specific lectures and demonstrations at several major industry trade shows in the U.S."

Go to www.the-ida.com for more information on the IDA, its events and resources.

Greg Swett is president of Classic Appreciation — World Class Auto Detailing Centers. Swett has been involved with several national and regional carwash and detailing associations over the past 30 years. He is currently president of International Detailing Association (IDA).