Looking for an expert to give us the lowdown on valeting, two suppliers, Assured and Kärcher, gave us the same name: Mark Tyers, aftersales manager at Sytner Leicester.
Clearly something of a front-runner in this sector, Tyers describes valeting as ‘very important’ to running a successful service division.
He said: “We are a drive-through dealership with a throughput of 85 vehicles a day – it is a slick operation. We offer our customers three or four different valeting options at the point of sale.
“These range from a complimentary mechanical wash to a basic hand wash (which includes tyres and ‘blue tint’ on the windows), a mini valet and a full valet.
"When a customer gets back to their car they will find a cardboard hanger on the rear view mirror detailing exactly what has been done.”
Tyers said the proliferation of hand car washes has changed peoples’ perception of what you can get for your money.
“There is no resistance to the idea of a hand valet – people understand that an automated wash is different to personal detailing,” he said.
“We expect to achieve over a 70% hit rate on upselling to a hand wash.
“Our customers love the hand wash results and this is reflected when the manufacturer rings them up for our CSI ratings. It is a pretty low cost service with a high impact, so it puts us in a strong position.”
In terms of service providers, Sytner BMW works closely with the Assured Group. “Assured looks after all our valeting services, both in the service workshop and also for our new and used car preparation,” said Tyers.
On the mechanical side, Sytner Leicester has plenty of Kärcher kit.
“Kärcher supplied our car wash, three pressure washers, a floor polisher and loads of other cleaning tools,” said Tyers.
Formed in 1995, Assured’s dealer clients include HR Owen, Inchcape, Listers and Vines. Asked how franchised dealers can increase their profits in this area, regional sales manager Gary Peasnall said: “Traditionally dealerships will offer their aftersales customers a complimentary wash and leather after the vehicle has left the workshop.
"Assured was the first contract valeting provider to offer ‘service mini valets’, where the client could offer an enhanced wash at a premium price.
"By upselling as little as five service valets per day an aftersales manager could cover the daily cost of his service department valet team.”
Peasnall empasised that docket books and check sheets are a thing of the past. “We were the first valeting company to introduce an online browser-based management system which allows live job instructions in time and priority order, with a complete electronic audit trail,” he said.
“This system also allows for electronic invoicing.”
In terms of industry trends, he added: “We have noticed a significant increase in dealerships seeking to transfer existing PAYE employed valeting staff across to Assured under TUPE legislation.
This enables the dealership to reduce the headcount on payroll as well as the headache of recruitment and training.
“Recent reports of dealerships being raided by immigration officers highlight the necessity of using reputable valeting companies.
"Assured is a member of the Safe Contractor Scheme.
"By working closely with the Home Office we can be certain that any non-UK citizens have full clearance to work legally within the UK.”
As one of the most respected equipment suppliers in the valeting industry, Kärcher offers a wide range of ‘mechanised cleaning solutions’, from high pressure jet washes and vacuum cleaners to biological parts cleaners.
David Austin, UK business development manager, said: “For many dealerships, valeting is a service they have to provide.
"Customers expect a complimentary valet, which dealers build into their costs, although some dealerships have success in upselling.
"From my point of view, the main thing dealerships can do to increase profits is to reduce their labour costs, which can easily be done through automating the process.
“To minimise costs, dealers need to complete the valeting process as quickly as possible.
"However, because dealers often fit a car wash in wherever they can, the machine might be at one side of the dealership while the finishing is done at the other. This greatly slows the process.”
Labour or equipment?
Austin asserted that the main question dealers have to answer is whether to invest in labour or equipment.
“The automated approach is making a comeback and gathering momentum,” he said.
“Investing perhaps £40k in a rollover car wash will increase efficiency and enable a dealer to reduce the number of staff in the valeting team.
"Thanks to the reduction in the labour cost, the machine will probably pay for itself within a few years.
“Compared with other industry sectors I oversee – supermarkets, petrol stations and fleets – it is the dealers that have the capital to invest.
Some want the lowest spec machines to take on the bulk of the washing task, while the chamois or waxing is done manually.
Others say ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and up-spec with enhanced features such as ‘spot-free rinsing’, which removes the need for a chamois wipe down at the end.”
Austin noted 2011 has already seen records broken for lack of rainfall.
“Our water recovery systems can result in 95% of waste water being made useful again,” he said. “Investing in recycling equipment means that even in a ‘drought order’, dealerships can continue to offer excellent customer service, including the complimentary valet. They can also proudly state their environmental credentials.”
Martin Peters, sales director at Autoclenz, said Trust Group UK provides a good case study for his company’s services.
Trust was initially looking for a new valeting supplier for its Wolverhampton site. That was in 2008.
In 2009, Autoclenz was awarded the valet contracts for its Stourbridge and Redditch sites. Autoclenz has now added Smart repair to its Dealercare portfolio at all three locations.
Praising Autoclenz’s ‘customer first’ philosophy and the transparency of its paperless vehicle management system (PVMS), Andrew Hockedy, managing director of Trust Group UK, said: “Autoclenz is now an integral part of our business.
“Having Autoclenz on site guarantees the highest standards of vehicle preparation, linked seamlessly with absolute cost control across core areas.”
Dealers must maintain their focus on paint protection
Jewelultra’s sales and marketing director, Lance Boseley, says that ‘maintaining the focus on paint and fabric protection’ is the best way for franchised dealers to increase profits from car care.
The company has just issued some impressive new take-up figures for its Diamondbrite paint sealant.
In March, Bristol Street achieved 45% penetration on new cars and 29% on used.
“We picked up Thurlow Nunn and Wilsons in January of this year and their figures have increased by 20% since moving over to us,” said Boseley.
“When times are hard the focus on extras such as paint and fabric should increase as the salesperson should, in theory, have more time to spend with the customer.
"They should ‘love them up’ and really explain the benefits.
“We have a new best practice selling skills DVD, which demonstrates the most successful way of selling.
"By being more confident in the product they should be able to sell it at a higher price and therefore make more money.”