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So what exactly is “Auto Detailing Business Best Practices”?  It’s a fairly simple concept actually.  All of these “best practices” actually contribute to developing more business and building a great reputation.  Our shop doubled our sales and tripled our profits after implementing this for only 2 months.  Those kinds of results made it worthwhile to keep promoting and improving these ideas.

Auto Detailing Best Practices

To start out, Auto Detailing Business Best Practices in a greatly simplified example is:

  • Doing what you say you will do;
  • Being honest with your customers;
  • Admitting when something goes wrong that is the fault of you or your employees;
  • Paying bills on time and making sure you build good relationships with your vendors;
  • Properly classifying your workers as W2 employees instead of 1099 independent contractors;
  • Being honest in how you treat and pay your employees, etc.

It is so much more than that, but I think you get the point. Implementing a program like this takes focus and top-down leadership regardless of the size of your business. Running a business is like a rapidly spinning globe with all kinds of things happening all the time.

Bring Your A Game

Each time you make a decision regarding your business you should ask yourself, “If this was on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper, would I be proud or embarrassed by what I did?” That is basically how I have always made decisions and it has served me well.

There’s a saying that goes “Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s watching.” Both of these concepts are essentially the same thing, but I think you probably see where I am going. Implementing auto detailing business best practices forces you to bring your A-game because anything less than that is unacceptable.

Pricing and Competition

All of these things contribute to the overall concept of auto detailing business best practices.  Many auto detail shop owners like to say they’re the best.  Others like to offer cut-rate detailing services for hardly any money just to make a few bucks. Pricing and competition are some of the more important aspects of your business. Price too low and you’ll eventually go out of business. Too high and the same thing will happen. So which one are you? 

  • Are you the “discount details shop” in the area, killing your employees with low wages, hard work, unhappy customers, demoralized workers and barely scratching out an existence for yourself? Do you often wonder what the hell you were thinking when you started detailing cars? Or do you fondly remember when it was just you and you took home a lot more money, but now you grew your business and suddenly you have a lot more bills, a lot more employees and a lot less money for you? This is definitely NOT the way to run your business.
  • Are you the greatest detailer in the world? This is the other side of the coin and it’s almost worse than being the cut-rate discount guy. This one is the “I’m so great you should sign over your house to me for this detail, but I’ll be generous and take $300 from you.” You are definitely on the right track here as long and your work is worth what your customers pay. Usually, it helps if you add extras for them to pay more money. Offer free pickup and delivery at their house or a discount if they drop off at your shop since you would never want to ask one of your customers to do this. People love perks, especially if they’re paying top dollar.

GT by

Two Types of Shops

I don’t care what anybody tells you about having 17 different types of detailers, etc.  It boils down to these two types of shops:

  1. You are NOT comfortable with your skills so you’ll take any business that comes in; OR
  2. You know you are “that” good and are probably worth more than you charge, but being the highest price in town just makes you the best.

Initially, I was the highest-priced shop in town. I figured out quickly that the customers who were shopping around on price eventually found there way over to me once they saw the level of quality that the cheap guys did.

We did the super high-end details and when we added mobile detailing we did those cars at our customer’s houses. We still charged a bunch of money for both services but we added so many freebies in that our customers still felt we were the best deal in town.

I also created a separate crew with my newer, less talented, guys that needed more experience. We sent those guys over to the dealerships and commercial work that were paying us for volume cleanings and not as worried about everything being perfect.

It’s all in how you market and brand your business. Our dealers loved the fact that we did super high-end details and still could fit their volume business in at less cost.

Marketing Tip: Every six months and especially on holidays, take care of your big volume clients with high end freebies. Give each of the dealership service manager guys, the head service manager and the sales manager a certificate for a free super high end detail. Tell them they can use it on their own cars or give it out as a gift. Price it at around $300 and put that price on the certificate. They LOVE these! It makes them look like hero’s when they give them to friends, relatives or even charities and contests. They won’t even look at other competitors after a year or two of getting these deals from you. It’s works amazingly well!

How NOT to Build a Detailing Business!

Here’s an example of not using any idea of even reasonable auto detailing business best practices.

There was a local detail shop in our area that made the news with a bizarre story.

The owner obviously never asked himself the newspaper question or he wouldn’t have been doing this. The shop owner in this news report thought it was a good idea to have two teenagers that worked for him pickup the customer cars and then drive them through a car wash before heading to the shop.

And no he wasn’t even insured for the transport of the vehicles.

He was charging $150 to detail his customer cars. The problem is after doing this for a while, one of his customers caught on when an absent-minded teenager left the receipt for the car wash in her car. It cost them $25 for the “Supreme” wash and they did some quick additional wiping down of consoles, shaking rugs out, etc.

Sounds ridiculous, right? That customer called a local TV news station and got them on a slow day. So the station sent a camera crew to follow the teenagers when they picked-up her car again. And the teens did the same exact thing with the car wash.

They got it all on tape.

When the news reporter confronted the shop owner, he had the gall to demand payment for the detail. Even though they had proof of what he had been doing. It was really bizarre. This guy was completely shortsighted and didn’t have a clue about how to run a business. He’s also out of business now.

Under Promise and Over Deliver

That is such a great saying. Under promise and Over deliver. Under promise your customers what you will do for them and then wow them when you over-deliver much more than what they were expecting. Let your customer know that the services you are doing are exactly what they are expecting, but you add that extra part that makes them appreciate what you do for them.

Make sure you have a check-in sheet so there are no problems with damage that you find after washing or moving the car.

Do you have garage keepers liability insurance? General liability won’t cut it, you need garage keepers liability to cover the vehicle while in your care, custody, and control. Ask your insurance agent about this or check out our page on liability insurance for more information.

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Make Sure Your Customer is Happy

This should be the basis of any best practices process. Make sure your customer is happy. Ask them questions. Ask them if the detail was perfect enough to tell their friends about how awesome their car detailer is. Ask, ask, ask! Most people won’t bother to tell you anything unless you ask. So do it.

And when you get the customer that raves about you, ask if they would be willing to write you a reference or recommendation that you can put on your wall. Or on your website with just their first name and last name initial only. If your customers like you, they want you to stay in business. So usually they’re willing to help out as long as it doesn’t cost them anything or cause them any inconvenience. So let them help you build your business.

Get Over It and Move On

Detailing a vehicle is a hard, labor-intensive process. Even though you strive for perfection, things get missed, sometimes often. Phones ring, other customers walk-in and you always have problems with poor attitude employees who would rather be home sleeping off their hangover than doing their job.

You can do everything possible to make sure everything is perfect and you will still have one of those days where everything falls apart. It’s ok, stuff happens, get over it as fast as possible. You need to roll with the punches because some days they come at you hard and fast. You just keep getting up.

Handling Crisis Situations

How you handle crisis situations speaks volumes about the type of person you are. So figure out how to do that in a positive and productive way. Get over whatever problem is blowing up fast or your employees and customers will notice and that doesn’t help anybody. Make sure you, the shop owner, is looking at every inch of that vehicle before the customer gets a chance to see it. And if the customer is irate about something, listen to their concerns and be respectful. How you fix a bad situation will show that customer and your employees how good of a business person you really are.