Much like the car care market, casinos have entered a new era of expansion and increased competition. More and more states have legalized gambling, and casino-style resorts in various locations are now gaining popularity. Today, these facilities are seldom viewed as travel destinations; now most are seen as a local event venue or an ideal spot for a weekend getaway.

As the number of legal gambling operations increased, many casinos added new loyalty programs and rewards to attract and appease visitors. Buffet comps and show tickets remain popular, but additional options were added to encourage frequent visits. On the Spot Mobile Detailing in Maryland discovered a unique opportunity based on one casino’s search for boosted “high roller” benefits.

Opening at the casino

Rob Schruefer, owner of On the Spot, is also the vice president, operators, of the International Detailing Association (IDA). He says the casino selected his business for the on-site detailing operation after a round of testing. The casino knew about On the Spot based on the business’ size and community reputation, and it along with two or three other detail shops cleaned test cars for the casino. In the end, On the Spot was chosen based on the results.

“The casino, they came to me originally looking for someone to give quality details to their high rollers,” Schruefer explains. “They didn’t care how it worked, but they wanted to offer an incentive to … their Chairman Club members.”

Based on what the casino wanted Schruefer quoted a full retail price without discounting. Understanding that discount prices often lead to discount service, the costs involved would allow On the Spot to provide the best results for every detail at the resort. After taking time to think about it, the casino agreed to pay full retail. With the agreement, the casino asked for assurances that a full service could be provided with just two days notice.

In a corner of the valet garage, a detail shop was created. The casino installed new lights, storage space and added access to water and power. “They basically built us a little detailing shop in the corner of their valet garage and asked us to make sure that, whatever we did, these customers were happy,” Schruefer says. “That’s what we’ve been doing, and it’s been going well.”

Currently, the operation is dedicated mainly to Chairman Club members. The detail services have also been added to the casino’s employee incentive program. A couple of times each week, a casino employee will bring his or her vehicle in for detailing. Plans for the location’s future may involve offering retail detailing options through valet services as well, according to Schruefer.

Service equals success

Starting with just one van in 2003, Schruefer’s business has grown into one of the largest mobile detailing operations in its region. On the Spot now operates six mobile detailing units, nine dealership locations and a full service detailing shop out of its Columbia, Md., office. The operation recently opened its first satellite office in the Tampa, Fla., market as well.

Schruefer credits his company’s growth and success to exceptional customer service. “I would say that that’s something our industry really lacks,” he states. “You may be the best detailer in the world, but if you can’t speak to your customers, and make them happy, and have them come back … you won’t ever grow into anything more than just you.”

This drive for customer service started with Schruefer’s experience waiting tables and bartending for 10 years. During this time, if the customer was not happy, Schruefer did not get paid. No matter what happened with a customer, it was important for him or her to “walk out of the door happy” so he or she would not badmouth the business or its employees.

In the detail market, Schruefer says the first step to exceptional customer service is finding out, specifically, what a customer wants. “Most of the time, if someone calls for car detailing, there’s something specific they’re after.” Whether something was spilled or someone was sick in the car, or even if a visitor is coming to town, there will be a set purpose for the detail. Operations that take the time to find out exactly what that reason is will be able to provide better service.

“If you take just a minute and ask them: What’s your concern? Why are you having your vehicle detailed today? Then, you can find out what they want,” Schruefer notes. “If that’s what they’re paying attention to, you’re sure to make that part of the detail perfect for them.”

Pricing is another consideration. Since there can be wide gaps in what people consider vehicle detailing — as well as in pricing between detail businesses — Schruefer looks to keep On the Spot’s pricing fair and reasonable. With no desire to be the cheapest or the most expensive option available, On the Spot aims for the average customer looking to spend around $200 for a car cleaning.

The marketing plan

From the beginning, On the Spot was ahead of the pack when it came to developing a quality, informative website and advertising on the Internet. Schruefer says in the mid to early 2000s, that is not what most of the detailing industry was doing, but his operation was. Online marketing helped establish the business and gave it a step up on the competition. “Pretty much everybody since then has been playing catch up, but it’s put pressure on me to stay ahead of that curve.”

Schruefer works to stay up to date when it comes to marketing, and he is always looking for new ways to advertise. With a company the size of On the Spot, it takes a lot of business to maintain success. At this point, On the Spot benefits from plenty of return and referral business, but Schruefer says return visits only go so far. At a certain point an operation will need new business to continue growing.

As a member of the IDA board, Schruefer frequently hears from detailers who say they do not need new business. They have a set group of dependable customers, and they are happy with the numbers they serve. Here the question is what happens when the customers move or sell their cars? “You’re never bringing in new business, so how are you ever going to maintain that?” Schruefer asks. “If you have a set number now, that number can only go down.”

Hiring and franchising

Building the labor base for On the Spot’s mobile and set operations is “always an issue,” according to Schruefer. To answer this issue, On the Spot pays employees well, treats them well and incentivizes the sales process. “I’ve had many employees that have worked with me for years,” he states. “I probably pay more than the average, but it’s worth it to me to not constantly be cycling through and having to train new people every year.”

For employee incentives workers are given a cut of the services they upsell. For instance, if a customer is concerned about keeping a vehicle waxed, but he or she is not likely to do it at home every three months, On the Spot offers an upsell of a year’s worth of sealant treatments. The employee earns a cut of the added service while also solving the customer’s problem.

Looking to the future, Schruefer says his ultimate goal is franchising. To that end, there are now On the Spot vans working in Tampa, Fla. The Internet marketing professional the company uses is based in the area, and he had long been interested in bringing the service to Florida. Schruefer agreed and used Tampa as an area to test out the idea of franchising and see if he could set up and support an operation in a different market.

“It’s been two-and-a-half years now, and it’s been going pretty well,” Schruefer concludes. “They’re already up to two trucks, and they’re going to add a third. They’re continuing to grow.”