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Top 5 Mistakes Pro Detailers Make


As a professional detailer, there are many different areas that require your time and focus to do them right. From paint correction, headlight restoration, waxing, coatings, choosing the right product out of the plethora on the market, customer service, even managing a website and social media pages, the list goes on and on. With this ever-growing list of areas that need your attention, it is easy to see how some can fall through the cracks without you noticing. We asked our Ask-A-Pro Blog Authors about some of the mistakes they have made over the years or they have seen being made by peers in the industry and below you will find a list of the top 5 they could come up with. Some of these areas could be considered sensitive subjects, but we here at DI hope you take an objective view when reading to either better your business, or reinforce the exceptional job most of you are doing already!

  1. Over Confidence: This can be a touchy topic but many of us have had experiences that we look back on and wish we handled differently. Whether it is how we handled a customer, quoted a job, or what product or process we decided to use. There can be times when your ego can get in the way of your better judgment. Take the time to step back and assess the situation, it can only help the outcome.
  2. Coatings: Overselling and over-hyping coatings is an issue. They are great, but they are not impervious magic. A lot of damage has been done because of coatings. We now have many consumers looking for a service opposed to finding the right guy. I think coatings would be at the top of everyone’s mind and the overselling could come back to bite detailers in a few years.
  3. Inspection Lights: Another would be the lack of good and various inspections lights. Halogens are a cheap and effective at producing light, but they are not very good for showing DA haze. Multiple light types should be used to ensure the paint is properly refined.
  4. Paint Correction: We see many skipping intermediate steps when heavy correction is performed (Rotary / wool / compound straight to finishing). While the new technology and products do finish better than previous years, many people still skip this important step when it is needed. While the paint may look good even after a wipe down, often it is several months before the true condition shows through.
  5. Assessing and Quoting Work: We have seen many professionals (mostly those who are newer to the business) who do not take the time to either meet with the customer ahead of time or during drop off to determine the condition of the vehicle and the customer’s expectations for the final result, and therefore end up spending WAY too much time trying to make a vehicle perfect for $200 when a customer was only expecting a wash and wax. That’s an extreme example, but you get my point…inspect the car, determine the customer’s concerns, charge accordingly for your time and expertise required to meet the customer’s expectations. A related issue is trying to compete with lower quality detailing and educating the customer. It’s hard to be able to say, “that’s not a customer for me”, instead of racing to the bottom, especially when starting out. But we will go deeper than that. We yell at friends for using bath towels and shirts to wipe their paint. Some people can’t be educated. More specifically, some people DON’T WANT to be educated. And that often includes the perceived target market of a high-end detailer. That person who owns a $80,000 plus car that is saying all of the things that seem congruent to car enthusiast who wants a concourse level service. But that person may have unrealistic expectations, may not value the work you put into a car or is not always aware of existing damages. Same can be said for a customer who brings in a much lower valued car as well. So, what I would suggest is that if this person has never had your service; make that person jump through the hoops of communicating in person with the vehicle to set expectations. Do this even if it is a personal acquaintance that says they have seen your website and is okay with the service recommended. Protect yourself from liability, with inspections pre and post service. Take lots of pictures. Have the confidence and self-respect for your work and skill to charge accordingly. Don’t passively agree with people’s perceptions of your trade by undercutting yourself, to try to prove something to a customer in the long run. Trust your instinct and walk away if you feel that is appropriate, especially if you had one bad experience with a customer. To run a healthy business, you have to resist that approval seeking urge and say ‘I am NOT your customer’ so you can focus on growing a business around people who appreciate your work.

Do you have other mistakes you have made over the years? Something not mentioned that you have seen others make? If so, leave it below!

8 comments on Top 5 Mistakes Pro Detailers Make

  1. Larry Bishop says:

    #5 has been the main point of contention for me over the last several months. I have a tendency to perform the same level of detail regardless of service the client actually purchased. Leaving well enough alone in a service that wasn’t purchased is difficult because I at least want to put the effort forward to return the vehicle in the best possible I can, in the allotted time. I feel it’s a trade-off between over delivering and valuing my time. I am fearful that I’m creating a precedent for returning clients that they’ll routinely expect the same level of service for what should be smaller jobs.

    Either way, these blog posts are great and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  2. Billy-Bob says:

    Hi Reece,
    Could you please elaborate on #–Coatings. Why is over-selling and/or over hyping an issue? What damage are you referring too?

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Billy-Bob – Check out this article by Zach McGovern. He covers wild coating claims in depth –

    • Kevin George says:

      The real issue isn’t the over-selling the coating, the real issue is establishing realistic expectations of what the coating is actually going to do. There are still many detailers that are providing clients unrealistic expectations of what the coating is actually capable of doing. It is just as important to access the owner of the vehicle as it is to access the condition of the vehicle. One of the first questions I typically ask a client when they inquire about a coating is if they maintain their own vehicle or take it through a car wash. I am not going to sell someone a full blown correction and coating if they are going to take it somewhere that will mess it up after the first wash. If they are going to continue to use a wash and still want a coating I will typically recommend an entry level coating along with one-step polish. This way they are still getting the benefit of long term protection but at the expense of not having a flawless finish.

  3. Billy-Bob says:

    Thank you for elaborating on coatings issues.
    One more question–what is considered an entry level coating?

  4. Nikos says:

    As for no.4 ”often it is several months before the true condition shows through”, can u explain it a bit further ? Greetings from Greece

  5. Mistake #1. I have a business partner and if he quotes a customer that comes in for an interior detail with vomit for over $200 and the customer proceeds to walk or drive away, I will say “Why you didn’t sell them only that concentrated section for $100”?. The customer agrees to the $100 for that section only. However when I talk to a customer with the same situation, it’s not easy for me to come up with that same idea and the customer is lost. So I definitely understand take a step back. In due time I will master it as of now I will continue to struggle but I will work on it.

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