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Autotrade valeting: Cinderella service can help dealers clean up.

Competition is stiff in the motor industry and, with less differentiation between the quality of products, the customer experience has never been more important.

But declining profits have meant a squeeze on the available money to provide added services and, like most of the motor industry, extras such as valeting are suffering from a downward push on cost.

Valeting represents a massive expense.

It’s often one of the biggest within a dealership, and when seen as a requirement rather than a business opportunity, it doesn’t always bring big returns.

The low perceived value is reflected by valeters’ wages which are among the lowest in the dealership.

The Sewells Automotive Industry Pay guide 2007 revealed that just 28% of in-house valeting staff are given contributions to their pension, compared to 59% of dealer principals.

But these staff offer an essential service which can help all areas of the business.

Their job helps create a professional appearance for the dealership, boosting the value of used stock and presenting new vehicles to customers in the condition they expect.

It’s just as valuable for aftersales.

Now a requirement for many manufacturers, service washes have found favour as a way to improve the customer experience by adding value and soften the blow of rising labour rates.

Improve retention and profits

In turn, returning the vehicle in a visually and mechanically better condition can help improve retention and profits in an industry where both are slipping.

But valeting can be an effective revenue stream in itself and help offset the heavy investment required.

Motorclean, for example, now encourages its clients to use the free service wash as a basis to upsell Car Care Plus, a more thorough clean.

Trialled at Marshall Motors in Cambridge, it has doubled in popularity since it was introduced in the first quarter of 2007.

David Warren, managing director of Motorclean, says: “Normal requirement for a service is a wash, leather and vacuum.

We suggest that dealers ask customers if they would like to apply Aquawax.

It’s quick to apply and doesn’t take much longer than a service wash.

“The customer has a perception of added value, and if the dealer charges around £15 then most will go for it.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# “We have a group spending £150,000 per year on service washes at 14 sites.

They’re now able to sell Car Care Plus, which will negate some costs and mean money for their bottom line.”

In order to give the customer better value, more advanced washes also need to be convenient.

Customers expect timely completion of work, and it’s up to dealers to ensure it does not delay returning the vehicle.

Effective marketing is also important.

Aftersales staff must be encouraged to sell the benefits of more thorough valeting to customers when they book their appointment.

Marketing requires good knowledge of the customer base, demand and the acceptable price for the service will differ between brands, but also between geographical areas.

Sales can also be bolstered by discounting, attracting customers by offering better rates if they buy more.

Valeting can also function as a platform for dealers to sell car care products.

Renault’s Ixtar range of valeting products includes retail and trade lines, which allows dealers to return vehicles looking clean and offer them the products to keep it that way.

The manufacturer encourages dealers to have customer-facing promotions in the parts department or showroom.

Valeting is often outsourced to a third party, such as Motorclean or National Car Cleaning, who are subcontracted to take care of the valeting usually on a per car basis.

But the tide has changed recently, and is tipping back in favour of in-house teams.

From a situation where sub- contractors controlled 60% of the market two years ago, dealers are now opting to run their own valeting facilities.

Roughly half now do so, according to Justin Macal, managing director of National Car Cleaning, and bigger groups are using their size to leverage lower rates.

“The bigger groups are looking for bigger deals – one big company which can drive down prices, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the best service,” he says.

  • Read this story in full in the 13 June issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.
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