Understanding your customer’s needs and setting expectations are some of the most important factors in a successful detail. It can also be one of the hardest things to get right. There is a lot that can be done in modern detail shops today and it can be confusing for customers and hard to explain for business owners. I have come up with 3 questions we ask every detailing client in order to help us understand their needs and recommend the appropriate services. The goal is to optimize the service selection/recommendation and ideally, delight the customer. Before you even pick up a wash mitt, you have some homework to do.
Question 1: How do you feel about how your paint looks right now?
(Image from blog article and video Where do Swirls Come From by Reece @ DI and James Melfi)
To me, this is the most important question. We all are trained to spot paint defects and as detailers, we tend to be extremely picky about our paint. We want to provide the best for our customers and it is natural to want to chase perfection. I have seen it in myself and many of my best employees. We feel the need to go overboard and chase perfection, no matter the customer’s desires or the service booked. That’s all well and good but if the customer is not paying you to do the work, or worse yet, if they can’t tell the difference or have no desire to perform proper maintenance, you are hurting your livelihood and your business.
If a customer complains about his swirls during the inspection, well right on, you can pair him with a 1 or multi-step correction depending on what you see and go on your merry way. This question is designed to identify the following situation. If, however, they say that they are thrilled or pleased with the way their vehicle looks, but your trained eye can see that the paintwork is hammered, you know the customer will need some extra education and guidance on what is right for them. It is important here to know that your goal is to educate, show them the damage and explain how it can be remedied at your shop, but this by no means indicated that you indeed need to sell your customer on a correction. In fact this situation required that you do some more homework to better understand what will be best for your customer. Show your customer the imperfections, explain what can be fixed and what cant, and prime the next question by explaining that the damage can be prevented by preventing bad contact with the paint.
Question 2: How do you maintain your vehicle?
Image from Blog Video – How to Properly Wash your Car – Reece @ DI and James Melfi
This question is important for the customer who is actively seeking correction and also the one you just educated about paint imperfections. It does nobody any good if you put an expensive show car shine on your customer’s vehicles if they plan to hit the local tunnel wash twice a week. The answer to this question will help finalize your recommendation on whether to pursue paint correction or how much correction to recommend. This also gives you an opportunity to clarify and solidify the recommended care routine. If the customer is not used to safe 2 bucket washes and touchless car washes you will need to help them with all the resources they need. Don’t skimp on this education as it can be very confusing for clients who are new to proper car care. Make the information simple and easy to follow. Don’t get them lost in the weeds and fine details. At the end of the day, if your customer is not willing to adopt a 100% safe wash routine, nix the extensive and expensive multistep paint correction recommendation. You will be doing your customer and yourself a disservice. Believe it or not, there are people who do not care about swirls and even after your paint imperfection education, are still willing to accumulate swirls and scratches for the convenience of a tunnel wash or free dealership wash. Don’t worry, its not the end of the world, they are there to see you because they like their vehicle to be clean and they are in the market for convenience. This customer will make your coating pitch a breeze!
Question 3: How do you use the vehicle?
This third question we ask all our correction and coating clients exists to help us recommend a paint protection option. A daily driven car may benefit from the most durable coating offering you have. A weekend car with soft black paint for a picky customer may benefit from a periodic light polish and the best protection may actually be a high-quality wax or sealant. The answer to this question is not fully deterministic, meaning this part of the conversation is not black and white. There will be lots of other information you will glean from your client’s answers, stories, body language etc. that will help you with this recommendation. They may want the best of the best no matter the price or circumstances. They may seek the best value, or minimum maintenance, etc. etc.. What I am trying to say is, you can’t take answers to these questions by themselves and spit out a recommendation. These questions provide a framework for a conversation where you can educate and qualify your client while gaining a better-understanding of their paint points and their desires. With that information you are in a much better position to recommend services for your client that you can complete profitably while exceeding your customer’s expectations. You will be poise to create a creating a raving fan. Businesses with client lists full of raving fans has an unpaid sales team out there promoting them. Ooooooh baby, who is ready to make some super fans?! I’m already getting excited for my next consult!
I have an example I want to share where asking these or similar questions led to a nonstandard recommendation that thrilled the customer and created a super fan for our business. A client actually approached fellow AAP blog author Zach McGovern with an incredible Brabus Mercedes SUV. This thing oozed class and luxury… and the paint was HAMMERED. No joke, it was one of those where you look at the odometer, then the paint, then check to make sure you didn’t miss a zero on the mileage then scratch your head. Well, Zach framed a similar conversation to what I described above and understood that the client loved his vehicle when it was glossy and clean but did not care about swirls you can see in the sun and had no desire to do anything but dealership washes. He realized a coating would serve him well and any money he spent on correction would be wasted. Now, you don’t completely neglect the correction conversation in this instance, you explain how the paint could benefit and be transformed by correction but that it will be undone by the tunnel washes. Then of course explain the money you are saving them by not blindly booking service that makes no sense in their situation. At the end of the day, a light polish and coating was booked and myself and my business partner Nick Whitaker showed up on a Saturday to complete the work. The entire time, I wont lie, it kind of hurt to leave the defects behind we knew we could have demolished. We completed the work as it was booked without letting our OCD override the service selection. And when all was finally done and coated, we had to admit, the thing still ended up looking pretty amazing. I will let the customer review speak for itself.
2014 B63 Widestar
I’ve heard about “paint correction” and “nano coatings” before, but never really knew what they were. I just wanted my car detailed and came across Attention to Detail from a friend and Google search. I sent Zach numerous emails about his services and also random car questions – he answered them all promptly. Zach took the time to educate me what he does and never felt like I was being sold. He even discouraged several services based on my actual needs. Finally after meeting Zach, I knew he was a car enthusiast and loves what he does. I felt comfortable leaving him my car and knew it was in good hands. The entire process was simple – Zach worked around my schedule and I was able to drop off my car when I could. When I picked up the car, the car looked better than new. And to top it off, it’ll stay looking like that with basic maintenance. Now I truly understand what a difference a professional detailer can make and will be bringing all my cars to Zach.
You exceed my expectations – car has NEVER looked better. I feel like I could drive it to SEMA. It not only looks amazing, the car is silky smooth to touch.