Your Rates Set the Value of Your Services

Many auto detailers like to say they’re the best. Others offer cut-rate detailing services for hardly any money just to make a few bucks.

What’s the difference? Actually, it’s huge.

After all, your rates set the value of your services. So what are you indirectly telling prospective customers when they call and you quote them $60 for full car details? You might have low overhead, but if your competitors are all charging $150 or more, you become the fly-by-night detailer.

You Aren’t Walmart

Being the low-cost leader works for Walmart. But you aren’t Walmart.

It’s worth mentioning here that I’m only talking about professional detailers. Those folks with actual fixed location shops or mobile detailing rigs. With overhead like building rental, supplies, utilities, and insurance.

If you run your auto detailing ‘business’ out of your garage at home, that’s a hobby. Not a business. The only thing you are succeeding at is taking business away from actual professional detailers.

If you have a real auto detailing business, then how do you handle wastewater runoff? Do you know how much oil, gas, grease, and chemical degreasers are rinsed off a car engine when you clean it? Where do you rinse off wheel cleaning chemicals? Do you use acid on rims?

These are all important questions.

A Business or a Hobby?

And if your answer is some variation of, “I rinse it down the drain in my garage,” then you really don’t have a clue about how to run a business. Especially in the auto detailing industry.

And you don’t understand the toxic nature of the chemicals you are using to clean and detail cars.

Your residential garage drain was never intended to have those chemicals poured into it.

And I’ll take another educated guess that you haven’t even bothered to check into proper insurance coverage. So those cars you are detailing are not covered by your insurance if you cause damage. You need to decide if you’re running a business or a hobby.

You might not think that’s a problem, but if an unhappy customer files a lawsuit and wins, you could be exposing your home and personal assets to civil forfeiture.

You need to get smart about your business and properly insure it.

Never Compete on Price

And stop doing details in your home garage before your local code enforcement inspector shows up and fines you for operating an unregistered, illegal business from your home.

It’s hard enough keeping customers happy without worry about pricing yourself out of existence. But that’s exactly what is happening in this scenario.

You should never compete on price. Never. Never. Never.

Focus on quality. Promote the concept of how much more your customers get by way of quality service and skills.

Personally, I never had a problem telling my customers, “you get what you pay for with cheap detailers.”

That comment was usually followed by, “did you check to see if they are insured?”

Detailer insurance is a big deal. I discuss it in more detail on our detailing liability and garage keepers insurance posts.

Garage Keepers Liability Insurance

The reason it’s a big deal is due to cost. It’s prohibitively expensive to obtain a garage keepers liability insurance policy.

You need transaction volume and cash flow to cover the increased costs.

Unfortunately, many shop owners don’t bother.

You Have to Have Insurance to be in Business

As insane as that sounds, most car detailing customers don’t even ask if a detail shop is properly insured.

If you don’t believe me, start bringing up the fact that you are insured with your customers.

You will get back looks of confusion and comments like, “what’s the big deal? You have to have insurance to be in business.”

I used to laugh when customers said that to me.

They think there’s some big government agency that makes business follow all the rules.

Anyone that has ever been in business knows better.

Most detail shops don’t get caught without insurance until they get sued by a customer. And by then, it’s too late.

Here’s the thing to watch for with detailing.┬áIf you are the auto detailer, make sure the customer knows you are insured.

Tell all your customers that you are the person doing the work or at least supervise it directly.

Nothing is worse than having a bunch of teenagers doing the detailing and then having to explain to the customer why something wasn’t done correctly.

Also, it pays to actually do the work you say you are doing.

Here in our area, there was a local detail shop that made the news with a bizarre story. Seems the shop owner 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.

They were getting paid $150 to detail the car. The problem is after doing this for a while, the customer caught on when one of the stupid teenagers left the receipt for the car wash in her car.

It cost them $25 for the “Supreme” wash and they didn’t do anything else in the car. Sounds ridiculous, right?

The customer called a local TV news station and they followed the teenagers when they picked-up her car again and did the same exact thing with the car wash.

They got it all on tape.

Simple Customer Satisfaction Program

When confronted the shop owner still demanded to be paid even though they had proof of what he had been doing. It was really bizarre.

He’s out of business now. He obviously had bigger problems, but how much better could his business had been if he would have implemented a simple customer satisfaction program.

He would have noticed quickly that his customers weren’t thrilled with the job they were getting from him and he could have taken steps to correct it before he got too far along with the horrible system I just described above.

Let your customers know that the services you are doing are exactly what they are expecting.

Any good detailer satisfaction program makes customer communications one of the centerpieces of the entire system.

If your customers know exactly what you are giving them and you offer an easy way for them to give you feedback, then you will always know how you are doing in their minds.

And if your pricing sets the value of your services, then wouldn’t it be nice to know what your customers think as far as the rates you are charging? So ask them.

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

Care, Custody, and Control

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.

If you don’t think insurance is important enough to protect yourself, consider it as a marketing ploy. That’s how we used it.

Not many shops in our area are actually insured. I heard that from my customers all the time. So we really pushed the fact that we were insured in all our advertising and marketing.

We also made it part of our customer satisfaction program by adding it to our feedback questionnaire.

It’s up to you to make sure your customers understand how important having insurance is and why you feel they need to know about it.

Your goal is to influence your customers to ask your competitors for proof of insurance before going to them.

The question I would ask everybody is this, “why would you want to mess with a small, local shop that may or may not have insurance coverage and probably pays employees under the table to detail cars cheap so they can still make money at the ridiculously low price they are charging?”

If you want to be a little more aggressive, try this:

“At our detail shop, we offer a safe and very professional service that you can depend on to get the job done right the first time. We maintain full insurance and training, full-time W2 employees, not summer help or 1099 contractors like our competition. We may charge more, but in the detailing business you really do get what you pay for.”

When your customer picks-up their car make sure the services you sold them are completed to YOUR satisfaction.

If you are like me, you are probably pickier than they are. So go over it like it’s your car and you will catch anything wrong before they do.

It takes a few extra minutes that you probably don’t think you have, but it’s better than dealing with a ticked-off customer after the job is supposed to be finished.

If you are the end-user customer reading this, then you know what to look for now when dealing with your detail shop owner.

Your car is your baby, so make sure everything is exactly how you want it done. Otherwise, you are doing the shop owner a disservice by telling them you like the job they did.

If you don’t like the job and you neglect to mention anything about this when picking it up how can you honestly be upset with the detailer?

Part of being a satisfied customer is actually saying something about being unhappy with the service provided.

A good auto detailer will have a customer satisfaction program in place.

I hear from friends all the time how they were at a restaurant and didn’t like something but didn’t say anything about it. So now that restaurant owner thinks the food he’s serving is great and is going to lose more customers which helps absolutely nobody. Tell the business about the problems you have and let them make you happy so you come back and tell others about their business. That benefits everybody.

Things Get Missed

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.

So make sure you, the shop owner, are looking at every inch of that vehicle before the customer gets a chance to see it.

And if you are the customer, give your detail shop owner a chance to fix any problems that might arise. Participate in their customer satisfaction program by giving them feedback.

That detail shop owner worked hard to earn your business and they want to keep it.

I can guarantee you he would rather keep you as a happy customer than have you telling ten other people about his bad service. Keep that in mind in your interactions with that business.