As a business owner, your number-one objective should be providing a high level of customer service. The skill of your shop’s technicians plays a significant role in reaching that level of customer service. But, ultimately, how customers feel about the value they received after bringing their vehicles in for repairs or upgrades will determine loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals.
These outcomes are often affected by the cosmetic appearance of the vehicle, both the exterior and the interior. You can guarantee customers will be completely satisfied with your work by giving them a voucher for a free carwash or detail service. Remember, unsatisfied customers will always win the battle, especially now that social media and negative customer reviews are only a click away.
Successful shop owners offer transparency, respect in communications and value. For instance, while handing the customer a bill for over $1,000 in repairs he or she was not expecting, providing a voucher for a free carwash or detailing service could make a huge impact on delivering value.
Starting a carwash or detail business
If you are thinking of adding a carwash or detail service to your current business, or even building an automatic carwash, industry experts would recommend that you reconsider these options.
According to Bud Abraham, a carwashing and detailing consultant with over 50 years of experience in both industries, shop owners who are pondering this decision should not take it lightly. “Even though washing and detailing a vehicle might look like an easy addition to your business,” he says, “it’s not. Nothing ticks customers off worse than getting their cars washed or detailed, regardless if it is free or not, and still having dirt on it. Sure, you can shine your customers’ tires with a consumer tire-shine product, but that’s not exactly detailing.”
Instead, Abraham recommends shop owners should stick to what they are good at and not try to attempt to do something they’re not trained nor skilled at, such as carwashing and detailing. Today, both automated and expert hand wash businesses are skilled at getting a vehicle properly cleaned. Attempting to perform carwashing and detailing services with a bucket, wash mitt and a garden hose can even be detrimental to a vehicle’s paint, not to mention what damage could be done to the interior.
Keep in mind, many motorists today are recognizing that they are not able to properly care for their own vehicles and, in most cases, don’t want to do it themselves. Add to this the environmental concerns of wastewater being discharged into storm drains and the ground, and it is no surprise that more and more of your customers are leaving driveway washing behind and instead opting for professional carwashing and detailing businesses. According to the International Carwash Association, in the U.S., the percentage of drivers who report most frequently washing their vehicles at a professional carwash was approximately 47% in 1994. According to the association’s updated information, released in 2020, a record-setting 83% of Americans washed their vehicles at a professional carwash within the previous year.
With the emergence and growing number of express exterior carwashes available to customers, today that percentage is certainly higher.
Abraham warns, “If you are not fully committed to the business of carwashing and detailing, your efforts will be exposed to business failure from the start. You simply cannot add carwashing and detailing to your existing business model and be successful – there are too many before you who tried and failed.”
Shop owners do have a responsibility to place mat coverings in customers’ vehicles and an opportunity to perform some level of cleaning after service.
“Certainly, buy a shop vac and vacuum out the customers’ car if you want to provide a little bit of service,” recommends Abraham. “But, shop owners are better off partnering with a dependable professional carwash or detail business in their area.”
With automation leading the charge, most carwashes will welcome the added traffic to the site. Today’s modern carwashes offer a multitude of payment processing options — from cash, coin and vouchers to RFID and license plate reader technology.
The good news is that carwash and detailing shop owners are like-minded business partners. “Most carwashes and detailers that I know of are comfortable partnering with local businesses,” confirms Abraham. “Almost all carwashes that I know of offer discounts for fleet accounts. You can purchase a book of 10 or 20 carwashes, and vouchers can be handed out. Customers love it and feel much better going to a professional.”
However, it’s important to partner up wisely, because your customers — who respect and value your business — will expect that you picked a quality business for your team mate. Like it or not, the experience they have at the recommended carwash or detailing business will be a direct reflection on your repair shop, so choose wisely.
Experts recommend that you consider partnering with several carwash businesses, as there are different wash models and formats within the industry, and customers have preferences for each. At the end of the day, after you’ve fixed and upgraded what customers typically can’t see, going the extra mile to offer a clean, shiny car will help make them see and appreciate the overall value.