"What is Detailing, Anyway?"
Prentice St. Clair
is the first of a three-part series of articles that
examine the profession of detailing--who we are, what
we do, and how we do it. The goal of this series is
to provide information that individual detailers can
use to help upgrade of the professional image of the
detailing industry as a whole.)
In the detailing industry, most of the information that
we receive from trade magazines and seminars focuses
on specific everyday detailing issues--how to remove
over spray, what kind of polisher to purchase, or how
to market your business. Sometimes, as in any profession
or endeavor of life, it is necessary to take a few steps
back and to view the whole picture and remind ourselves
of who we are, what we are doing, and why. Doing so
helps us to re-focus our goals and re-determine where
we are going. This is important because, if you do not
have a vision of where you want to be in five, ten,
twenty years, your business might not be around in five,
ten, twenty years!
First, it is necessary to define "detailing."
Each seminar that you attend and each book, article,
or detailing manual that you read will have a slightly
different dictionary-style definition of detailing.
Which definition that you put into use is not important,
just so you have a definition in your head that both
defines and guides your day-to-day operations and also
helps you explain to the customer what you do. More
importantly, the definition you use should also demonstrate
to the customer that you are a professional who has
a clear understanding of the business.
The definition that I propose here is the one I use
on a day-to-day basis and helps me answer the nearly
daily customer inquiry, "What is detailing, anyway?"
It goes like this: Detailing can be defined as the systematic
rejuvenation and protection of the various surfaces
of a vehicle.
Let's break this definition down into its components.
"Systematic" refers to the fact that, as we
detail a vehicle, we use specific procedures and place
those procedures in an order that allows us to do the
work in the most efficient and effective manner. "Efficiency"
is a measure of the quickness of the procedure whereas
"effectiveness" is a measure of how well the
procedure actually works. For example, anybody can wash
and wax a car. Most home detailers, however, would spend
an entire Saturday doing so. Because we are systematic
in what we do, we can (1) complete the same activity
in two hours or less (efficiency), while (2) yielding
a product that is far cleaner and better protected (effective)
than the average home detailer would have ever dreamed!
"Rejuvenation" refers to the procedures that
we use to return the vehicle at or close to showroom
condition. These procedures range from removing the
excess dust from a collector's vehicle that is permanently
stored indoors, to all that is necessary to re-vitalize
a never-cleaned mini-van that has taxied four sloppy
kids for ten years (ugh!!!). I purposely do not include
"restoration" in that range of activities
because detailing activities on a restored vehicle (e.g.,
a '62 Corvette pulled from a junk yard) really occur
only after the restoration activities (repair, re-construction,
and re-surfacing) are complete.
"Protection" refers to the procedures that
we use that will help to keep the vehicle looking new
after we leave. That is, when the rejuvenatory activities
are complete, we apply protectants that, for example,
keep the paint from oxidizing, keep the leather from
drying, and keep the tires black.
"Various surfaces of the vehicle" is in reference
to the fact that a vehicle is made up of dozens of surfaces
(e.g., paint, exterior trim, wheels, carpet, seating,
interior trim, etc.), each of which has any of a number
of possible compositions (e.g., paint: polyurethane,
lacquer, enamel, clear-coat/base-coat, conventional).
It is the responsibility of the professional detailer
to understand how to rejuvenate and protect each of
these surfaces, regardless of the specific surface composition.
For example, leather seating is rejuvenated and protected
in a completely different manner than upholstered seating.
With this definition, we have a way of communicating
and educating the public (potential customers) as to
what we do. Hopefully, this examination will also provide
you with an overall view that will allow you to analyze
your specific activities in the context of an overall
definition of detailing. That is, "how you detail
depends on how you define detailing." A real-world
example of utilizing your definition of detailing: If
your definition of detailing includes the word "systematic,"
then you are constantly balancing efficiency and effectiveness
to satisfy the customer while at the same time maintaining
an acceptable profit margin.
In conclusion, whether or not you use this definition
or create your own, please have one that will allow
you to both think clearly and also project a professional
understanding about what you do.
1998, Prentice St. Clair
This article first appeared in the October, 1998 Issue
of International Carwash Association Update