Beyond a reasonable doubt: evidence of detail dept. benefits is clear

The body of evidence undeniably shows that auto dealerships that do not sell auto detailing to service customers are missing out on profits.

If there was ever a Cinderella in an auto dealership, it is the detail shop.

It seems that dealer principals and/or general managers pay so little attention to detailing that they cannot conceive that it could ever be considered a profit center. To most, it is a problem center.

But, as the price of automobiles has increased, so have the franchising terms and the length of ownership. What this means is that the motorist has a need to maintain the cosmetic appearance of the vehicle, as well as its mechanical condition.

Certainly, the dealer should know the value of cosmetic maintenance. Hasn't it been the dealer, who for years, has detailed used cars before resale to increase their value? Why then shouldn't the motorist, who pays an average price of over $20,000 for a new car, not want to keep its value by maintaining its cosmetic appearance?

And with today's high-tech paint finishes and leather interiors, the motorist feels ill-equipped to handle this maintenance. Besides, they really do not want to spend a weekend “detailing” their vehicle, even if they had the correct equipment and knew how to do it.

Are you guilty?

With the motorist having the need for the service, all evidence points to the dealer as the most likely to take advantage of this opportunity:

Adequate facilities

Customer confidence and respect
— Experience and knowledge
— Existing sales staff

Existing technical staff

Those who do not take advantage are guilty of not cashing in on a pre-paid investment already being made in facilities, staff and expertise.

What about competition?

Most of the existing independent detail shops primarily do work for the auto dealer. Most are ill-prepared for the commitments needed to sell to the retail customer.

Besides most are “12 and Out Shops.” They start in business, fail to make a go of it, and shut their doors within 12 months or less.

Certainly, a great deal of the failures is due in part to the fundamental lack of knowledge about how to run a business. But most have insufficient capital when starting; have little or no equipment to properly detail cars; and the demand to comply with EPA and OSHA requirements make it nearly impossible to be in business. Add to this the need for competent and skilled personnel; the typical detail shop owner just cannot handle it.

Your prepaid investment

At the risk of repeating myself, let's look again at the prepaid investment that you already have made that gives you a head start over anyone else who wants to be in the detail business.

  • Customer confidence that you know what the vehicle needs, whether it is mechanical or cosmetic maintenance
  • Facilities that can accommodate a professional detailing department
  • Capital with which to purchase modern detailing equipment
  • Financial ability to hire and pay for top quality technicians
  • An in-house need for the detail service

Despite these advantages, the number of dealers with professional detailing departments, or who even market detailing to their service customers, is dismally low.

It just does not make sense for the auto dealer to not have a professional detailing department. They have an in-house need for new-car get-ready, used-car detailing and a huge customer base who want to purchase detailing services from someone.

Many consumers would prefer to take their vehicles to the dealer for detailing services because they have the confidence the dealer will know exactly what is needed and how to do it properly.

Dealers who do not take advantage of this built in preference are simply throwing money away.

One-stop services

Studies indicate that a dealer who offers mechanical repair, body repair, painting
and detailing is able to gain market dominance because that dealership becomes the place for one-stop automotive needs from a new-car purchase through mechanical repair, collision repair, detailing, and finally, trade-in for a new car.

In a study done by Christopher Chung of the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh on body shops in dealerships, he developed a model called “the Simultaneous Service System.”

This system is intended to emphasize concurrent efforts, minimize customer inconvenience and maximize customer satisfaction.

If any part of the system is missing, the whole process is disrupted and less efficient. To function effectively all departments in the dealership have to be working together for a common goal, more profit for the dealership.

For example, when a customer brings a car in for service or warranty work, the service writer should have a keen eye to see if the vehicle has any need for body or paint work, or at the least, a polish and wax or interior shampoo.

The customer could be encouraged to have the repair or detail done while the vehicle is in the shop. This is simultaneous service that does not inconvenience the customer.

In most dealerships that have a detailing department there is very little attention paid to the department. It is located in the back of the lot “out of sight” and usually “out of mind.”

But, as the detailing service continues to grow in popularity with the motoring public it should occupy a more prominent position in the dealership.

It is one department that can attract customers outside the dealership’s normal customer base. As such, it can be an excellent marketing tool for selling the dealership to new-car customers.

For example, suppose you advertise a “Selling Your Car Special Detail” to motorists selling their vehicles. Emphasizing that detailing will increase the resale value.

Once in for a “special” detail you have a hot prospect for a new car.

Remember, a well-operated and promoted detailing department can be a window to a world of new customers you could not otherwise reach.

Beyond any reasonable doubt, the evidence is clear; a professional detailing department in a dealership means big profits.

If you have questions on how to make this happen in your dealership, you can Bud Abraham at [email protected].

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