So I run and operate a detail shop in Chicago, IL called Simon’s Shine Shop where my reputation around the city (and wider) has grown based on the customer’s experience. For me it’s not about turnover and how many cars I can get in and out, it’s about the quality that goes into the cars and how they’re properly worked on. But furthermore, it’s about treating the customers right and providing for their needs so that they can leave happy. In turn Simon’s is spread by word of mouth around the city as the place to go for a quality car wash/detail and quality experience.
Whether at a detail shop or mobile business, good vibes go a long way to make sure a customer feels welcome. Follow some or all of these steps to improve your business based on customer experience.
1. Clean, comfortable waiting area ― A thorough detailing takes time and 1 hour isn’t enough to complete a paint correction job. Unless you offer a pick-up and delivery service, your customers may be waiting for a while, so make sure the waiting area is clean and neat with sufficient comfortable seating and maybe even access to snacks, water, soft drinks, coffee, or tea. It should be air conditioned during the summer and have heat during the winter; and it wouldn’t hurt to have reading material and Wi-Fi if possible.
2. Clean and spacious work area ― Detailing a car is an art. You need room to maneuver with machine buffers and plenty of space for multiple detailers to move between cars. To clean your vehicle effectively, the area where they do the work should also be clean. Cleaning a car is different from taking one apart, so beware of dirty work areas.
3. Employees should present a clean, professional appearance ― Detailers are clean technicians! If your uniforms are dirty and your hands are greasy, why would would a customer want you crawling around on their leather seats? Detailers should be wearing clean logo wear, either T-shirts or polo-style shirts, and preferably work slacks or khakis. This adds a level of professionalism to the shop that reacts well to the customer.
4. How is the customer service? A good detailer cares as much about their clients as they do their vehicles. Someone should greet the customer at the door with a smile and ask how you can help them. The detailer should show some knowledge or at least interest in your vehicle, and invite them to walk with you while inspecting their vehicle, pointing out things along the way.
5. Invest in the demeanor on the phone ― Answering the phone is imperative to building a business and should be answered quickly within five rings. Always be friendly, courteous, and willing to listen to the customer. Although you may not be able to quote a price or give them a full answer over the phone, you should encourage them, even incentivize them, to come by for an assessment as soon as possible. This at least gets them in your door.
6. Offer a wide variety of services ― There are many services a detailing shop can offer to give their customers a more comprehensive experience. Concierge services that pick-up and delivers cars for detailing are popular with executive clientele. Any respected detailer will always offer both interior and exterior detailing with capabilities for odor removal and steam cleaning the carpets, and multi-stage paint correction. Some detailing shops offer window films and vinyl wraps; headlight and windshield repair; and some even perform minor dent and hail repair.
7. You Should Carry Quality Products. A good detailer uses professional products that may not be available over the counter. Others sell professional grade versions of an over-the-counter product that is more durable and lasts longer. This is especially true of waxes, sealants, and coatings. Detailers also use special brushes and cleaning mitts, industrial-grade buffers and polishers that require experience to wield them; a wide array of abrasive products and pads for sanding and clay bar; dozens of microfiber towels for washing and drying; and special ecofriendly cleansers, degreasers, and protectants.
8. Are you Licensed and Certified, or part of a bigger organization? We wouldn’t recommend a non-licensed or non-certified detailer to do a good job. So if your are an experienced detailer, you should be licensed and certified in automotive detailing. There are special licenses for advanced services like applying coatings or detailing boats, motorcycles, and airplanes. If you are a part of a chain or a franchise, you should be displaying their licenses on the walls where customers can see them. Some notable organizations are the BBB and the IDA
9. What is Your Market? Most detailers are in business to serve a large swath of the everyday driver market, but some do specialize in luxury vehicles, exotics, classic cars, and the car show circuit. Whichever market you’re going after, promote it with website design, social media, and the types of services you offer.
10. What Was Their First Impression? First impressions are always lasting, so provide a good one. Were you nice on the phone or did you greet them with a smile when they arrived? If the detailer enjoys their work, they will show sincere interest in the vehicle. Do the technicians seem to know what’s wanted or needed? Investing in the customer is key to making them happy and provide referrals.