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Setting Customer Expectations for Detailing Services: Overall Service Philosophy (Pt 1/4)


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In the Auto Detailing Industry, successful businesses are built upon superb craftsmanship, quality products and tools, and top-notch customer service. These businesses are set up to stand the test of time and always carry a positive reputation.

Effective customer service identifies a client’s exact wants or needs and matches that with services of appropriate value and quality which are fully explained to the customer.

For successful detailing businesses, this process heavily relies on client education. Therefore, in order to close a sale, and set the stage for a successful transaction and long-term customer relationship, setting clear customer expectations for specific services is a core component of success. This is vital because some clients will not have realistic knowledge about specific services.

This series of articles will help auto detailers understand how to set customer expectations, for some common services, and demonstrate some ethical and helpful practices that will best serve customers.

The first article will examine Overall Service Philosophy. The second will examine Paint Correction. The third article will explore Ceramic Coatings. And the final article will focus on Paint Protection Film. To view all articles in this series, click here!

What is a Business Service Philosophy?

A business’s service philosophy is how: a business views everything offered to the public, categorizes how services are offered, and understands why it’s beneficial to clients. These elements are foundational to long-term success and structure.

Generally, businesses fall into two camps on the subject:

  • A) They have a clearly defined service philosophy.
  • B) They think they have a philosophy. But when asked, it’s not easily articulated, if at all.

Business Impact of a Defined Service Philosophy

When a business understands its service philosophy and delivers on it, then clients feel as if they were helped through a process that was important to them.

When a business has no clue about its philosophy, then clients tend to feel as if they are sold to and not understood.

These internal company beliefs trickle down into all aspects of the business, including:

  • Service Offerings
  • All Customer Interactions
  • Customer Service Standards
  • Employee Management
  • Employee Procedures

Reasons for a Philosophy of Understanding Client Expectations

Communication is a huge component of successful service philosophy. If a business doesn’t understand the needs & wants of clients and effectively explain their professional services then it will be almost impossible to satisfy clients. This is due to a lack of communication between the client’s wants and the reality of what a business may offer in relation to that clients wants.

If a business includes a standard process to uncover client expectations and communicate their service capabilities, then it will greatly help them to better explain their expertise and to land clients. But, even if the process does not land all clients, (which it will not) clarifying realistic expectations for a job, before work begins, helps avoid most potential labor and customer service issues.

How a Service Philosophy Helps with Unrealistic Client Expectations

Sometimes client expectations are too high for some projects. For example, if a vehicle has 30 year old paint and they want it to look pristine like a new vehicle, then it’s just not going to happen.

If this is the case, then inform the customer why specific factors prevent the level of result they desire. The key is to explain the situation fully so the client understands why the expectation they are looking for may not be achievable in certain scenarios.

At times, some jobs require significantly more labor than customers are willing to pay for. If they are fixated on price, educate them on why more labor is required than what they believe it to be. Try to frame it in the way that is best for that individual person to understand exactly why the cost is more.

If potential clients do not agree with your professional opinion or estimate, that is okay. Remember, not every business is a fit for every customer. However, by effectively understanding client expectations, and effectively communicating how services work for every service on every job, business can confidently know their estimating process is true and accurate for each project according to their quality standards and service philosophy.

A Solid Overall Service Philosophy For Detailers

Since auto detailing businesses greatly differ in many ways, including their business model and size, there is no singular philosophy to rule them all. Therefore, each business needs to truly understand itself and create a philosophy best suited to them.

However, a guiding principle that is true of all service based businesses is a helpful philosophy.

A simple way to test if helpfulness is implemented into a philosophy is to ask the following question about anything inside the business:

“Does this fill in the blank subject directly benefit the customer?”
If the answer is “Yes”, then it’s on track to helping the customer and the business as a direct result.

If the answer is “No”, then the subject in question may need to be rethought until it can be reworked in a way that is beneficial to clients, if at all.

This is a very quick and effective way to audit the philosophy of anything inside a business.

How to Implement a Service Philosophy Into a Business

Some may be thinking, this sounds great and all… “but how do we put philosophy to action?”

Try these simple steps:

  1. First, find the principals that are essential to the business and list them out.
  2. Find ways to deliver the message of these principals to customers that naturally fit within the business.
  3. Apply them into every area of the business.


Service Philosophy is seemingly a simple topic that is seldom spoken of, yet has a lasting impact on clients and employees. Implementing this tool into a business can be the difference between a shining successful long-standing business and one that dims as it quickly fades away.

Most importantly, a cohesive philosophy helps customers and potential customers feel as if they are listened to and personally helped in their search. Whereas, customers who interact with businesses who have no philosophy often feel as if they are not heard and are treated with zero care.

Gregory Gellas
Signature Detailing NJ
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
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2 comments on Setting Customer Expectations for Detailing Services: Overall Service Philosophy (Pt 1/4)

  1. Tony Pies says:

    You got to find out early if client can afford your service.. If you feel client is not buying you must exit .. no need to waste time on somebody who wont buy..

    • This is true, I believe the problem comes when the detailer has the urge to sell and ends up selling his/her work cheaper just to satisfy the client and to make some money. I found myself in that situation when I started detailing and I see that on a lot of new detailers

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