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5 Mistakes Customers Often Make Looking For A New Detailer



I have received quite a bit of feedback from clients in regards to why they picked me to detail their cars.  As I hope you do, they often invested quite a bit of thought and time researching me before handing over the keys to their cars.  Some of my clients have told me about unfortunate past experiences with other detailers.  I have also read on social media groups and listened on the phone to people who have vented frustrations about other detailing experiences.

I was once just an enthusiast, who is empathetic about not feeling completely comfortable entrusting my car to most people.  When it comes to detailing it can be such a mystery that many people choose not to have anyone other than themselves touch their car because they are afraid of having a bad experience.  That is understandable.  But many times bad experiences can be avoided, or at least the likelihood significantly reduced, if these 5 common errors are not made.

Not Communicating Expectations

Not all detailing is the same and not all shops are the same.  But they all exist to make a unique customer happy.  So what are you looking for?  Just thinking about this question, may lead to you being able to decide if a particular detailing shop is a right fit for you!

Let’s look even deeper than just purchasing the right services options for you!  Let’s also explore your expectations.  What service are you thinking about purchasing, what do you want the detailer to focus on, and what are you looking to have accomplished?  It is okay not to know detailing terminology!   But if you smile and nod mindlessly to whatever a service manager or detailer says, that is on you. If you care about your car I strongly encourage you to be curious and have a conversation.

Even categorized by skill level, if I asked a group of detailers what is their definition, package for a particular detail, the idea of express detail, paint correction, full, interior, etc, I promise you I will get a minimum of several different answers.  In fact, I do not use nor encourage other professionals to use the word FULL for this reason.

Not Doing Enough Overall Research

As a customer when I have a specific or even general inquiry, if I start hearing cliches and a generic script I will quickly lose interest in that product or service.  It should take more than hearing ‘we’re the best, etc’ to impress you!

Many of my new clients who have booked with me have followed me on my social media sites, read thoroughly my reviews, and looked at my website.  I have talked to many customers on the phone not used to having their car detailed.  Many of these people, when asked about my website, will respond, “I did not even know you had one, etc.”  Not to scare you, but this industry is not the most regulated.  Do you have a good idea of the quality of work of who is actually touching your car, not just the owner of the business?  Is this business licensed and insured?

If what I am suggesting is foreign to you, then you may have overlooked several red flags.

Not Communicating At All

I had recently booked a mid-level detail with a client.  After booking, we had talked for an additional hour.  I have had lengthy conversations with clients before, which does not bother me.  Building a rapport tells me how serious this person is about this experience and their car.  It also, more importantly, tells me how much time was spent doing research on me, in order to have comfort in communication.

I have consultations prior to booking with my clients for a variety of reasons.  One of the main reasons being, I want to be present with a potential client looking at the problem areas on his or her car.  I want to point out and explain what can, may, and can not be accomplished with each level of service.  I do not just explain what I am doing but the ‘why’.  I encourage you to ask why.  This is also a great time to listen to your gut!  If something does not feel right, trust your instincts!

Do you have an auto repair and maintenance shop you are comfortable going to?  Can you imagine the service manager engaging in cryptic communication over what they were doing with your car.  I am not going to give people a how-to detailing tutorial, but I do not believe in being secretive about the process.  Most high quality and high integrity detailers do not operate from a scarcity mindset, in other words, ‘my secret detailing technique/product’ attitude does not align with my values.  Detailers who are not transparent should make you uncomfortable.

Focusing on the Wrong Things (One Magic Pill Syndrone)

Someone asked me if I had an extractor.  I was told she asked because the detail shops were not getting the dog hair out of her car.  She did not book with me, but if I was to take a guess she likely picked up her car disappointed thinking the use of an extractor would solve all of her problems.

I hear chatter and debate on social media over ‘which coating should I choose’.  Whenever I involve myself in these discussions I always redirect them to ‘what detailer do you want touching your car.’

I am proud of the products I use.  But knowing first hand what goes into a quality detail, I hope it is me and not one product that has won over my clients.

  • The latest coating?
  • Do you steam clean?
  • Do you use this particular wax or sealant or coating?
  • Do you have a Rupes?
  • Rotary or DA polisher?
  • You use a pressure washer?
  • The two bucket?
  • Shop or mobile?

I promise you whether I answer yes or no to anyone of these questions has absolutely no effect on how good of a professional detailer I am.

I am very discerning with my choice of products and tools in an effort to maximize the level of service I provide.  I can guarantee no one product I carry defines my thought, care, and level of attention to detail when working on a vehicle.  I can also give all of my detailing supplies to a detailer who performs very substandard work and that person may very well continue to put out an inferior product.  There is no love, pride, and knowledge product in a detailing toolbox.  There is no magic pill for finding a business that fits these criteria.  It is a process!

Getting The Wrong Opinions

Can you imagine asking someone who owns a scratched up car with a food-stained and heavily soiled upholstery for advice on car care?  He or she drives her car through an automatic car wash a few times a year but gives out advice on social media who is the best detailer.  You have a black car, you care about swirls and scratches.  You have leather seats.  You want protection that will last longer than two weeks.  Why would you take the recommendation seriously of someone who is not like-minded!  What I am suggesting is to think critically about the merit of any recommendation.

I was often more impressed by the negative reviews. Because I asked why I often found qualities someone else did not appreciate that I would in a good or service.

Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
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3 comments on 5 Mistakes Customers Often Make Looking For A New Detailer

  1. Ron Ayotte says:

    I think the biggest mistake a customer makes when looking for a detailer is “price shopping”. On the other hand, oe of the biggest mistakes a detailer can make is to lower their pricing to get the job.

    I have looked at potential client vehicles (I always look at the vehicle prior to quoting a price, people tend to say “it’s not that bad” when it is a “Lazarus project’). When I do offer a quote, a couple of the reactions I get are “There’s another detailer who said he/she could it do it for $XXX”… or “everything is negotiable”. I thank them for their consideration but stay firm in my pricing.

    • Rodney Tatum says:

      Ron I and much of the industry are completely with you on this. Because I have written (some not revealed yet) so many articles on that will touch on that, I really wanted to try to get to the root of the problem.

      Detailers who feel desperate or percieve themselves to always being in a position of weakness, tend to make regrettable decisions that actually takes them away from their ideal customer base. A lot of customers SAY they ‘get it’ that you pay for what you get, while complaining about the lack of value in return. The elephant in the room I want people to see; “do you have the trendy magic pill. If yes, are you the CHEAPEST with that hot item.” While being still unapologetic provactive, I still wanted to point out your very agreeable point in way where people can really see the fault in their logic.

      • Ron Ayotte says:

        I had a gentleman with a $100K Maserati come to me for a quote. The interior was in good condition, the exterior had been abused by tunnel washes. I quoted him a price, and his first reaction was “are you out of your mind? What can you do for $100?”

        I told him that to wash, compound, polish and seal the vehicle (when he balked at the quote, there was no way I was going to mention a ceramic coating) would take about five to six hours or more, he told me that “there’s a kid in my neighborhood who will do it for $100”.

        He had the car done by the neighborhood kid… the car wash swirls have been replaced with rotary/wool pad holograms.

        You can’ win them all…

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