Vehicle inspections driving sales and customer satisfaction

Oct. 13, 2022
'The real reason we do vehicle inspections is to exceed the expectations our customers have for us and to provide them with the complete comprehensive service that communicates our care and concern for them and for their vehicle.'

In searching for ways to improve their businesses, many of the shop owners and service managers I speak with are determined that there must be something more exciting and exotic than the lowly vehicle inspection. Many of these shop owners and service managers are determined that car count and marketing are their primary issues and are equally determined that doing vehicle inspections is a waste of time.

The fact is without spending one dime on additional marketing, without seeing one additional car, you can dramatically improve both sales and profitability by doing more and better vehicle inspections. I can promise if you are not looking at the cars that are coming in your shop, to include checking service history, you are not going to find pending services and needed repairs. By the same token, if you are only looking at the items your customers are asking for when dropping their car off, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities and doing your customers a huge disservice. Try that with your dentist or your plumber some time. Our professionalism and expertise demand we inform and recommend. 

Why do we do vehicle inspections? The easy answer might be to drive sales and profitability, but I believe this is more the result than the reason. The real reason we do vehicle inspections is to exceed the expectations our customers have for us and to provide them with the complete comprehensive service that communicates our care and concern for them and for their vehicle. Most of our customers come to us as they would go to their doctor and expect us to inform them of the repair and service concerns we have. With this, they expect we are ethical and honest and will make recommendations only for repairs and services that are needed.

A lot of the shop owners and service managers I speak with have a real problem with this and even think that doing vehicle inspections is nothing more than digging for dollars at the expense of our customers. I strongly disagree with this. If we can honestly say the repairs and services are needed now or will be needed before the next service interval, we are obliged to make our customers aware.

Who do you think your customer will blame when a week after we do a major brake overhaul, their muffler falls off? More importantly, who do you think is to blame when, in doing the brake overhaul, we notice a broken exhaust hanger and fail to inform the customer?

I promise they are blaming you. You need to inform your customers of your concerns. They have the right of refusal and many will refuse, but you have an obligation to inform them.

Almost as difficult as buying into the necessity of doing vehicle inspections is getting technicians to do them. Though in doing a vehicle inspection we benefit the customer, the tech, and the business, I often run into imaginative excuses as to why we can't do them. I hear they are too time-consuming, that "we are too busy" to do them, and that they are a rip-off for the customer. A vehicle inspection should take 10 or 15 minutes, rarely more than that. I have seen and insisted upon this over the years, and it is entirely reasonable, especially with the many great electronic resources out there, to just point and click! No more pens and paper and no more greasy inspection sheets.

I have come across shop owners and service managers who were doing compression tests and checking the alignment and pulling spark plugs in their effort to be thorough and cover the most unrealistic possibilities. A good, reasonably thorough vehicle inspection will allow the tech to give a quick visual inspection to all the major systems and sub systems on the vehicle, and in nearly all cases, yield a clear picture of required repairs and services, especially if we are checking service history.

It does not pretend to identify every potential defect on the vehicle but does a good job of pointing out the vast majority of these and allows us to make recommendations that will ensure the safety and reliability of the vehicle. If other items are subsequently noted, we inform the customer and move on. After performing a vehicle inspection, we write an estimate, not a final bill (remember that!). 

Above and beyond the merits of vehicle inspections, we have great difficulty in changing our habits and behaviors, and the vehicle inspection can represent a big change for many of us. As shop owners and service managers, it is our job to assign this task to our technicians. We set standards for the process, numbers, and quality.

Up to this point, most of the shop owners and service managers I talk to do okay; the problems start when we do the follow-up and make sure our techs are actually doing the vehicle inspections, and our expectations are being met. Often, the owners give up in the face of resistance, and the program sputters and stalls from the start.

Overt and determined leadership is required here. This does not have to be loud or threatening, but it does need to be firm. From time to time, you will need to verify what is being done, and from time to time, you will have to remind your techs of expectations and enforce your standards. It is extremely important that you stick to your guns here and insist that we do vehicle inspections in nearly every car, in a nearly identical way.

We are only talking vehicle inspections, not programming your remote or updating your privacy settings on Facebook.

Don’t complain to me about car count. According to Forbes (December 2021), consumer vehicle neglect has now reached $69 billion in annual unperformed and underperformed vehicle maintenance in the United States. We need to do a much better job with the cars we are seeing. 

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