If you have put off offering express detail services at your existing business, you may want to act now. There is a perfect storm for such a venture. Gas prices are low and consumers have ancillary money to spend.

The last economic downturn has taught many to take care of their investments — specifically their homes and vehicles. Coincidentally, the retail sales figures in the “do-it-yourself” automotive aftermarket have been steadily declining. Retailers are reducing the shelf space dedicated to such products. Consumers are more likely to pay someone to perform routine maintenance services on their vehicles than perform them in their driveways.

Why add express detailing?

Many factors contribute to the above scenario. Consumers either lack the space, time and knowledge to perform the services, or they simply would rather trust someone else to perform them. Businesses around the world have been reinventing themselves in order to stay convenient for today’s consumers.

This is why we live through mobile apps. This is why grocery stores have evolved into supercenters that house banks, pharmacies, liquor stores, gas stations, butcher shops, bakeries, delis, office supply centers, etc. This model gives the consumer one-stop shopping.

The addition of express detail services at the carwash makes detailing convenient for the carwash customer. Express detailing allows customers to receive these services in a quick and convenient time period — sometimes while they wait.

Express detail services are merely individual sections of a full “bumper-to-bumper” detailing, including: a wax service, a polish service, a clay service, carpet shampooing, upholstery shampooing, leather cleaning and conditioning, headlight restoration, interior cleaning, etc. These services are offered individually to the customer.

Generally people do not have the patience or luxury to function without their vehicles for a lengthy period of time. Customers do, however, appreciate clean cars, and they view carwashes as professional services. The addition of detail services aids in this credibility, and with the proper training, the carwash staff can become auto appearance experts. 

What do I need to get started?

To ensure success when adding an express detail operation, there must be a commitment. If you want your facility to be a trustworthy resource, you cannot choose year to year when to offer these services.

Though the startup costs are minimal, these services should be performed at least under a canopy, if not in a detail bay. There should be compressed air, ample light, electricity and some key tools and products to ensure a great finished product. There should be a commitment by your staff to look the part and learn the business. Staff will welcome the knowledge, recognition and responsibility. Beyond commitment, there are some key components to longevity and success. 

Training is one of the vital ingredients to a successful detail operation. No longer does the fact that someone can operate a high-speed buffer designate them as a detailer. To be honest, I have found that most of these self-proclaimed “detailers” should not approach these tools until much is learned.

Detailers should have a working knowledge of products, techniques, automotive materials and paint as well as time management, focus, analysis and sales. These are all things that can be taught and will be utilized on a daily basis in business operations. Having the knowledge to grab the correct product the first time or analyze a paint imperfection to determine the best course of action — or even if action should be taken — will speed operations and limit damage. Through training, a carwash/detail operation can streamline vehicle processing, as well as client interaction, to ensure customer satisfaction. 

Process is another important factor to a successful detail operation. Process ensures every technician performs the services in the same manner and with no inconsistency. Further, there is no downtime or explanation needed when a technician has to leave in the middle of performing a detail service. Another technician can pick up exactly where the other left off just by observing the location of the tools and products as they correspond to the vehicle.

Process builds in quality control, as the more routinely the services are performed, the more difficult it is to stray from the steps. The more a technician bounces around a vehicle, the more likely areas will be missed.

Products used in an express detail operation are also important. It goes without saying that they should be effective and safe for the materials to which they are applied. That means they should not be so strong they actually damage a surface by removing dye or adhesives.

What is often forgotten is the customer experience. The fragrances in the products should be mild so as not to cause alarm or issue to those with sensitivities. Returning a vehicle with wet carpets and upholstery to the customer is not ideal either. The products should be formulated to dry quickly in standard shampoo situations. The products should perform as advertised.

A focus on sales and promotions is the last key to a successful detail operation. It is needed to fuel this business (much like any other business). Every member of the staff who comes in contact with customers is a salesperson. It is the responsibility of the salespeople to analyze and know what services can be performed and the timeframe in which they can be completed. They are the individuals the customers hold directly responsible for their vehicles.

The salespeople who are the trustworthy resources in the eyes of the customer. The sales staff’s role should be considered as important to the success of a detail operation as the technicians’. Those who sell set the customer's expectation. It is up to the technicians to exceed these expectations. 

As spring arrives, and those of us in colder climates who have been hibernating in our vehicles begin to defrost, detail season will be underway. The time is now to add express detail services. Your customers will be anxious to purchase detail services whether you offer them or not. 

Thomas Palancia is manages the international division, detail operations and training for Simoniz USA Inc. He has been with Simoniz for almost eight years and is responsible for the development of detail and retail product lines, international sales and support, the Simoniz Detail Division, detail training and The Simoniz Garage R&D and training facility. Palancia is also on the board of directors for the International Detailing Association (IDA), and he is an IDA-recognized trainer and IDA- Phase 1 and Phase 2 detailer.