Here’s Why to Add This Service
By Emmariah Holcomb
If you’re not offering ceramic coatings and you’re a window tinting and paint protection shop you’re going to lose a lot of business. People are going to go to one place where they can get all three services [paint correction, paint protection and ceramic coating] done,” says Mike Burke, founder at Sun Stoppers Window Tinting (Sun Stoppers). With 30 locations in several states including: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, Burke knows firsthand how to keep customers from going elsewhere.
Adding additional services to your business can be challenging. For some industry pros, making the jump into ceramic coatings was natural. Here’s what to look out for as well as tips to educate your customers before getting started.
“Ceramic Pro created the market and is still the industry leader because they were the first ones in the game,” says Burke. “It’s like Tesla being the first battery powered car and now you have multiple [options]. Now you have everybody jumping on board to build bigger, better and faster and now the industry is catching up to ceramic coatings,” he says.
Don’t Sweat Detailers
Kyle Owen, owner of Clear Bra Indy, located in Carmel, Ind., says his business was small in 2016 when he subleased out a quarter of it to a detailer. He says the detailer was doing only a handful of jobs each month before Clear Bra Indy started advertising his services. “We were selling more than what he was willing to do and we had a couple of instances where we had to apologize to the customer because the deadline wasn’t met. I hate apologizing,” Owen recalls. After a time Owen no longer wanted to subcontract to the detailer and the relationship ended. Owen decided to do ceramic coatings in house with his staff and eventually found a supplier.
Owen says the business grew rapidly over the years, which resulted in moving to a bigger location and expanding into additional units. Initially, Owen hired one person specifically for ceramic coating, but quickly expanded to its now nine.
“The ceramic division is one third of our business and PPF and window tint make up close to two thirds,” says Owen.
Although Sun Stoppers offers ceramic coating, paint protection film (PPF), window tinting and more now, Burke says he began as a window tinting company, then evolved and got into paint protection.
“I started window tinting in 1988 and started doing PPF in 1996. Ceramic coating became popular about four or five years ago,” says Burke. “There’s a huge market for this [ceramic coatings] and I recommend window tint businesses call three or four mobile detailing shops to compete for your customers. This way you don’t need to be loyal to just one.”
He started out by partnering with a detailing company and outsourcing their labor. According to Burke, they would come in and do the paint correction and detailing portions.
Tips to Think About
Documenting each vehicle before and after a ceramic coating installation should be high on your list, according to Owen, who learned that customers don’t always notice everything at first glance.
“We realized that people usually look at their car from five feet away before they bring it in and after they work with us they’re looking inches away from the car,” says Owen. For that reason, the company documents each vehicle as it comes in.
Burke’s business works mainly on cars that are less than a year old and, for them, paint protection and ceramic coating goes hand in hand. “This is because you have to do a mild paint correction on newer cars, just to prep the existing paint for paint protection,” he explains. “You’re already going to be doing a little of what you need in the paint protection and I put ceramic coating on, because it’s a hydrophobic.”
Burke describes it as a liquid that’s pretty easily applied to the surface, but one that’s also labor intensive.
“Honestly anybody can do it, but we basically took over a mobile van of a person who was hungry and ambitious,” says Burke. “This guy is catering to us and we have him on a percentage where he’s now responsible for prepping our paint protection cars.”
He returns after Burke’s team finishes the car’s paint protection and does the ceramic coating.
“Starting out I didn’t think about the requirements or tools needed for the job,” says Owen. “Having a lift for ceramic coating for your coaters is a must because nobody wants to be bent over a car all day long.”
Keeping your business model very simple is key, according to Burke, who says he hired people who already knew what they were doing.
“I didn’t make money on ceramic coatings two years ago,” explains Burke. “Any profit I make off ceramic coating is from my existing client base and I’m adding another service to the ticket. I just got a 50% revenue increase on a product I never offered before. It’s so easy.”
Training employees can eliminate inconsistent applications, something that Owen is well aware of. “We have had a really great detailer who’s a great trainer and isn’t too far from us. Whenever we bring on a new person we bring this guy down to train them,” he says. “Trial-and-error is what taught me that. I wanted a standardized process and I didn’t think about that before. It [turnover] was kind of mentally draining to start over with new employees often and I know some of that is not always having a great technician pool to pick from.”
Hiring an outside sales representative who is knowledgeable can also be a good strategy. “You’re now dealing with more intelligent customers than you have with a window tint installation,” says Burke.
“A window tinting customer can be a guy who’s 17-18 years old, a 60 year-old guy or a Mom. Everybody knows about window tint on their car, but not everybody can afford and knows all of the ins and outs of ceramic coating and PPF,” explains Burke. “People who have tint shops normally aren’t great at selling paint protection because they’re used to the rapid approach. Ceramic coating needs to be scheduled, cars need to be dropped off, and you might need two to three days to do the process. It’s going to be 30 minutes to sell a paint protection and ceramic coating. When you are tinting and trying to sell this stuff [at the same time] you don’t have 30 minutes four times a day to sell it.”
Once you’ve created a demand for ceramic coating installations at your shop, you can start looking to hire a team.
Customer education is at the forefront with any offered service, ceramic coatings may be the exception, as Burke finds customers are knowledgeable about the benefits. “By the time the customer comes in they just want to know if you can give them the level of quality and service that goes with it because they’ve already done their research,” he says.
Burke has acquired and partnered with an employee who has been installing ceramic coatings for years to his customers. “I’m making money on something that I don’t need to hire a lot of employees to do. I basically have one guy who hired someone who uses a van to service all of my stores and cater to just me.”
“We do very little selling when it comes to ceramic coatings, most of our customers already know what they want,” says Brian Brown, owner of Exclusive Detail, located in Charlotte, N.C. “For many of our clients the car comes here before it goes to their house.”
Brown mentions that his website does “half of the work for him,” as it details each service the company offers.
Exclusive Detail doesn’t currently have a team designated to ceramic coatings, but Brown says it could be a possibility within a few years with continued growth.
Most of Clear Bra Indy’s customers have a basic understanding of what ceramic coating is, because their friends or co-workers recommended it. This is when the consultation begins.
Owen says there are always multiple finished products available for potential clients to view. Once the walk-through finishes, he asks the client how they mainly drive [mostly city or highway] before a desk consultation or prepping begins.
“It’s a very easy sell when the customer can see a finished vehicle with the same services their looking to have for their own,” says Owen. “The now educated consumer will think that it makes perfect sense and we
haven’t even talked about price yet.”
Currently Sun Stoppers charges $800 to do a ceramic coating installation, which includes the glass, wheels and paint. It averages 20 ceramic coating installations each week. “I felt I had to add on ceramic coating services to my business because the market demanded it,” says Burke. “You have to do it yourself because the scheduling, and work needs to be controlled to have high customer satisfaction.”
“In 2016 we really didn’t make much money because we were pushing that detailer along, and he needed that bulk income,” Owen explains. “In November, we brought on the product. It was probably the middle of December before we really started to climb.”
According to Owen, in 2017 Clear Bra Indy did about $80,000 in ceramic sales. In 2018, when a second ceramic coating installer was hired, the company was close to $275,000 in total ceramic sales. 2019 was very similar, as it was about $325,000. “In 2020 although we has a lull in the second quarter and were down about 26% with COVID, we ended up doing about $350,000,” says Owen.
Emmariah Holcomb is the assistant editor of PPF magazine.
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