It has been a busy day at the shop. You are exhausted from the day but you feel like you are getting a lot done. As the day winds to an end, you total the invoices. Looks like about 13 cars went through the shop today and you are sure that you made some money today. The day’s invoices amount to $1879. This is not even close to the $4000/day goal you have set for the shop. You think to yourself, “Maybe our car count is too low”. Just as this is soaking in, the phone rings. It’s Phil, one of your regular customers who was just in your shop. As the conversation unfolds, you ask him how his new tires are doing. Phil replies, “Those tires are doing great”, and you breathe a sigh of relief. “However, I’m halfway through my trip to visit my daughter and my brakes are grinding”. You ask yourself, “How can that be?” Phil wanted you to know that he is having his brakes repaired at a national chain store that has a location in your town. You apologize and hang up the phone. You decide to go back through the paperwork and find his repair order. Phil’s inspection is attached to his repair order. The repair order clearly states, “Check for road trip”, but the inspection sheet is not filled out at all. As you go through the last few days of inspections, you realize that more than half of the inspections are either incomplete or not done at all. It now seems that the problem is not low car count, but making the cars count!

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Many shops have a low average repair order. As the average repair order goes down, you tend to take in more cars to make up the difference. This creates a mindset in the shop to hurry and get ‘em in, get ‘em done, and get ‘em gone. This quick pace leads to less time for inspections, less attention to detail, and less of a quality job. It is not enough to just address the customer’s concern. The things that you miss will come back to bite you.

The solution is to evaluate the entire situation. Take a close look at what is happening in your shop and why. You want to be your customer’s trusted adviser. That kind of trust means you must always be looking out for them. They count on you to keep them informed about everything on their car. This creates trust and loyalty. You and your employees have an obligation to earn and keep that trust.

It is time to implement a comprehensive vehicle inspection program. Once you begin the inspection program, you will eventually have a history of recommendations for the cars that come through your shop. Your customers will be much more likely to come back because you demonstrated you do a complete job of inspecting, making it understandable and prioritizing it for them. You put them in position to make an informed decision. Most customers will opt to do the needed repairs. The repairs that your customers elect to pass on will probably resurface and they will think of your shop in a positive way. If and when that happens, they will bring their car back to you.

Begin by having a meeting with everyone on your staff. Tell your staff that simply addressing the customer’s concern is not enough. Explain to them that to improve our reputation and provide an added value to our services, we are going to inspect every vehicle that comes in the shop every time. The 300% rule, 100% of the vehicles will be 100% inspected and 100% of the results will be presented to the customer. Additionally, tell them that in order for this to work for everyone, you are going to develop a new inspection form and create inspection procedures with standards.

Look for an inspection form that would work well for your shop. It should be properly completed in 15-20 minutes and clearly communicate details of those deficiencies. For example; cv boots that are beginning to crack, or have deep cracks, or are split open and hurling grease. Use the inspection form to develop written procedures that are performed the same way by all technicians every time. Use the new belt manufacturer’s wear gauge for EPDM serpentine belts because newer belts no longer crack, they wear away. Define the difference between damp, seeping, leaking, and hemorrhaging. Measure brake pads with a brake lining gauge so that the remaining friction material is recorded exactly. Remove all the subjectivity from the inspection process and replace it with objective facts and provable measurements.

Tell your technicians you will pay them .3 hours to do a proper inspection. The reason you should pay your technicians is simple. They will take it seriously as part of their job and not just pencil whip it because it’s just “free work”. A proper inspection is very valuable to your shop. It is well worth paying the technician to achieve the results that are going to follow. Train your technicians on doing inspections. Demonstrate the procedures by inspecting customer’s vehicles with them. Learn how your technicians inspect and decide if you want to use some of their methods in the new inspection program. See how the form works while filling it out. Is there room enough for notes? Are there items missing from the form? Doing this will help you develop a program that works well for everyone at your shop. Giving your technicians input makes them part of the process and impresses on them just how important this is to you and to the shop.

Time to get your service adviser on board. Take the completed inspections you did with the technicians and show your service adviser how to prioritize and estimate with everything that was discovered during the inspection. Always address the customer’s concern first and then share the results of the inspection. However, the inspection should be given to the service adviser as soon as it’s done so they have more time to prepare the needed estimates. What you do not want is the technician to hold on to the finished inspection for an hour while he evaluates the customer’s primary concern. Remind your service adviser of the 300 % rule. Remind them that they are going to present everything to the customer. Explain that we are not pressuring anyone to buy anything, that we are simply presenting all the information so the customer can make the best possible decision. It is important to get your recommendations organized and present them in the following order:

  • Primary customer concern

  • Needed repairs

  • Reliability concerns

  • Preventative Maintenance

Make sure that you present all of the recommendations to them while the car is still in the shop. All too often this is presented when the customer comes in to pick up their vehicle. The purpose of inspecting and presenting it to them is to sell the work today. All recommendations that were declined should be noted on the customer’s invoice and stored under their name in your operating system for future reference.

Once you have the inspection program working, it is very important to monitor it closely. Old habits are easy to fall back on. Stay involved in and pay attention to how the program is working to make sure it becomes permanent change. The latest digital inspection systems could be a good fit, depending on your shop. I recommend having an inspection program mastered before considering going digital. After all, it’s the inspecting and not the technology that makes it work. Be sure the technicians are performing the inspections correctly and completely. Spend time up front with your service adviser. Confirm that all the recommendations are being presented properly. Grab the day’s inspections and read through them. Look for patterns. Do the recommendations make sense for a vehicle with that mileage? Is one technician constantly recommending one particular service or repair? If you see a pattern, address it right away.

It is a fact that if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. You need to monitor your average repair order. You should see your average repair order improve substantially. You will see that it is not about car count, it’s about making the cars count with INSPECTION PERFECTION!

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