Make More Money per Vehicle

Dec 3, 2009

For more than a decade now, the car wash industry has embraced and taught the virtues of multiple profit centers at one location.

The concept is simple: You have a customer who has voluntarily driven into the car wash and is ready to spend money for that service, so why not offer other convenient services and products to that customer while he or she waits for the car to be processed?

Some of these additional services are directly related to the care of the vehicle, like windshield repair, express detailing or fast lube. Other items are completely unrelated to the vehicle, but appeal to the waiting customer, such as premium coffee, snacks and other convenience items.

The bottom line is to capture as much money from each customer as possible by offering a wide range of products and services. This concept plays very well for the automotive reconditioning industry as well. In fact, in many ways, it makes more sense for us than it does for the car wash industry.

Increasing Revenue per Vehicle

Each time a customer leaves a vehicle with us for service, we have the opportunity to provide multiple services to that customer.

The customer has already willingly consented to allow us to provide a service. This initial service request will bring in a certain amount of money, depending on your price structure. But, you are limited to that amount of money per vehicle, unless you find ways to offer other services as well.

With each converted customer, there is already an implicit trust, especially with repeat or established clients. So, increasing the revenue per vehicle is simply a matter of educating the customer about your other service capabilities.

This can be accomplished by conducting a vehicle inspection in which you check out the different areas on the vehicle that you can service.

Additionally, you can simply inform the customer about your other available services. This is especially important if you have recently added a new service. Even if the customer’s car does not require the service, he or she may have another vehicle in the family that might.

Moreover, once your customer is armed with the knowledge of your service capabilities, he or she can pass it along to friends, neighbors and co-workers.

My personal experience with offering additional services has been quite rewarding. I started out as exclusively an automotive detailer. After a couple of years of this, I started adding other services like paint sealant application, odor neutralization, and convertible top sealant. These services are relatively easy to perform and were an easy way to add to the per-vehicle revenue.

Later, I learned services like windshield repair, spot blending [bumper scrapes, etc.], and vehicle upholstery repair. These additional services can easily add a 50 to 200 percent increase in the revenue collected for detailing alone [assuming, of course, that the detail job requires one of the additional services].

Marketing Additional Services

Additional services can be marketed by either notifying your current customer base about your new services, or by using traditional advertising techniques to attract new customers.

If you have an established business with a list of customers, you can simply contact that customer base and announce your new service.

Make sure that incoming customers are briefed on the new services as well. It’s kind of like when you go to your favorite fast-food place and the order taker asks, “Have you tried our new Triple-Whipple Chocolate Shake?” Except our approach might be more like, “Thanks for allowing us to detail your car today. Are you aware that we now can remove minor dents and dings?”

This question has the potential for opening up a dialogue with the customer that can end up with more work for you. For example, the customer might show you something on the car right now, allowing you to say something like, “Well, we can take care of that while we have your car, Mr. Jones.”

This type of convenient, one-stop shopping experience is very appealing to many customers, especially when it comes to loss-of-use of their vehicle.

I believe that it is also important to market your individual service capabilities as separate lures for each potential customer base. For example, if your shop offers both paintless dent removal and windshield repair, an advertisement for each would be appropriate in different sections of the phone book.

Those customers who have windshield star cracks would never look in the auto body section of the phone book. By the same token, those customers with minor paint damage would never look in the auto glass section.

One advantage of cross-marketing services is that a customer may be attracted to your business for one service, and then, upon arriving at your shop, discover that you provide another service of interest. You can offer the customer the convenience of one-stop shopping and a package price to take care of all of the needed services during one visit.

Service Options

There are a myriad of services that can be performed on new and used vehicles. They can be broken down into three basic categories: enhancement services, restorative services, and repair services.

Enhancement Services. These are often [but not always] performed on new vehicles, and include accessories installation, custom trim [interior and exterior], protective applications like paint sealant, clear paint protection film and bedliners. It’s amazing how much money people will spend on a brand-new vehicle to keep it looking good and to distinguish it from others.

Some enhancement services, like sealant application or convertible top sealing, require only a minimal initial investment in chemicals and a minimal amount of training, which might be as much as reading the label. Other enhancement services, like clear bra application, take a more significant investment of money and time to learn, but can bring a great rate of return.

Restorative Services. These are services provided mostly [but not always] to used cars, and include automotive detailing, deodorization, headlamp clarification, paint perfecting, trim restoration and seat dyeing.

Auto dealers have known for years that rejuvenating the appearance of a vehicle can greatly increase its perceived and actual value, not to mention the fact that a clean car is more fun to drive for the owner.

Most of these restorative services require some initial investment in supplies and training. Of those mentioned, detailing requires the greatest investment. On the other hand, headlamp clarification is a relatively simple process that is easy to learn from instructions included in the available reasonably priced kits.

Repair Services. These are services to fix damage to the car, and include PDR, windshield repair, interior surface repair and spot blending or panel repair. A large percentage of the vehicles on the road right now have at least one example of the damage that can be fixed with one of these services.

Most repair services require significant investment in supplies and training. Windshield repair will require investing in a kit and a few hours of training. Interior repair and panel repair requires a more expensive kit and a few days to learn. PDR is the most training-intensive of the mentioned services, involving several days or weeks of hands-on training and months of practice.

No Time or Money?

Even if you don’t currently have the time or money to create the capability of offering additional services, you can still tap into this market by simply sub-contracting with local service professionals. Negotiate a wholesale rate with a reputable operator and you can still offer your customers the convenience of one-stop shopping.

For example, I do not currently offer PDR, but have three separate companies that I can call on at a moment’s notice, should I have a customer with a PDR need.

These companies offer me a 20 to 30 percent discount off retail rates, so I can still make some money off of a service that I don’t even perform myself.

And, most importantly, the customer, who already trusts my judgment, is completely comfortable with my supervision of the work performed by another technician.

So if your business is in a rut or you are just trying to figure out how to generate more profit with what you already have, consider offering more services-”both to your current customers and to a potentially completely new set of clients.