Customer POV and digital inspections

June 4, 2023
Build trust and repeat customers by building a wear history.

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Your shop exists because of your customers. Every decision you make, no matter how insignificant, ultimately affects your customers. Not keeping your customers’ wants and needs in front of all else will probably result in the closing of your business. Still, I think that it is accurate to say for many of the decisions you make for your business, the customer isn’t considered. Ultimately, the advantages and disadvantages of the decision are weighed against the cost and return on investment. 

On the other hand, there are decisions where the customer is at the forefront in the decision-making process. These include looking over your property for cleanliness, accessibility, lighting, signage and more, including the overall condition of the restrooms, especially for the women who use your shop. 

The reason for this line of thinking is that you should consider adding another customer-centric decision for adopting a new process in your shop. That is, if you haven’t done so already by adding digital inspections to your workflow. For those readers who already have digital inspections in place, read on, as I am sure you will learn a couple of new things about inspections from this article. 

Create positive experiences for your customers to keep them returning 

A positive customer experience for every visit to your shop is the foundation for a continuing relationship with each consumer. Statistics show that repeat customers are the core of profitability for any business. Not only do they spend more with your business, but it is also cheaper to keep them than it is to get new customers in the door. 

Repeat customers trust your shop. They’ve had a good experience and feel comfortable returning for additional service and repairs. But it can be difficult to make that happen. Trust is fragile, and it may take only one miscommunication to shatter that hard-earned trust. 

The way we have done and still do the service process makes it very difficult to build trust with the customer. Think about it. The vehicle disappears into the shop where customers are forbidden to follow. Customers are under the illusion that a tech pulls a code and he or she immediately knows what is wrong with the vehicle. The customer gets the call and now the issue is discussed with him or her in what might as well be a different language. 

How digital inspections build trust 

Using digital inspections can help your shop overcome many of these day-to-day issues by building trust with the customers, helping them to “see” the why and what of anything you are suggesting and requiring them to get done on their vehicle. 

You can begin to build trust by starting with the courtesy or safety inspection. Digital inspections give your technicians a variety of ways to record and show a driver what was found on their vehicle. By using photos, video, and clear descriptions, the customer is directed right to the concern the tech is documenting.  

This digital access to the vehicle is similar to walking a customer into the shop to show him or her what was found. My experience with this approach usually resulted in the customer authorizing the needed work. Best yet, the digital approach eliminates possible insurance and accident issues that can result from a customer walking through the shop. 

To make the digital inspections even more effective, you can sell a baseline inspection to new customers. (If you are just starting to use digital inspections, you can present this opportunity to all your customers.) The inspection should be a complete top-to-bottom, front-to-rear, and left-to-right inspection where the overall condition of the vehicle on this visit is documented.  

This comprehensive inspection will have many points for the tech to inspect and document. The inspection is going to take time. The tech should be paid, and the customer should be charged for the inspection. 

You read that right; charge the customer. Explain to the customer how in-depth the inspection will be. Stress how everything will be documented in its current condition to set a “baseline” to be watched and checked on in future visits. Inspections that are performed in the future will be less in-depth but will be at no charge. The results will be compared to the documented baseline, helping the customer prepare for upcoming service and repairs. You will be building what I call a “wear history” with each inspection. Keeping wear in front of the customer allows him or her to be a part of it and less surprised when it is time to deal with it. 

With a wear history in hand, the advisor can have a conversation like the following with a customer: “Today, your brakes are at 3/32”. Six months ago, they were at 8/32”. If you look at the pictures, you can see the difference yourself. We recommend you return in three months for possible replacement. Or we can do them today so you don’t have to worry about them, and then you can return again in six months for regular service.” 

A wear history allows the customer to make an informed decision to plan for repairs

The customer’s point of view of this conversation is totally different than he or she would typically expect. He or she was aware of the brake wear and knows not only where the brakes are today but also how the replacement of the brakes will affect future service on the vehicle. He or she has control of the situation and can make an educated decision to either get the brakes done today or return sooner to have them done in the future. 

Many digital inspection packages allow for resending previous inspections to customers via text or email. Being able to give customers this insight into the wear on their vehicles will build trust. This also gives the customer the ability to prepare financially and mentally for any upcoming needs, reducing the number of “surprise repairs” and the distrust that they bring. 

Because of how in-depth the inspection should be and that the tech will be paid for doing it, the customer should be charged for this service. Shops across the country have found that charging small amounts (under $50) for the inspections doesn’t sell. Charging higher amounts, sometimes over $100, seems to build value in what the inspection is. Be sure to make the inspection meet the customer’s expectations for what you are selling. Additionally, doing less in-depth inspections in the future for “free” helps take the sting out of the initial charge. 

Note that this process not only builds trust and transparency with your customers; they also must come back to your shop for this to work. No other shop has access to your baseline and other inspections. Doing this process locks in your returning customers. 

When customers call to make appointments, your staff can access the inspections and see what items might need to be addressed on the next visit. Instead of having to dig through file cabinets hoping that the last inspection was even saved and filed, with just a few clicks the previous inspection can be sent right to the customer allowing them to make a more informed decision on what services to get done. 

These are just a few of the advantages that using a digital inspection can give your shop from the customer’s point of view. It is a fact that shops that use digital inspections properly can easily increase their average repair order dollars, all by building better trust with their customers and putting in place a system that requires customers return to your shop for it to be effective. 

So, if you are still putting off moving to digital inspections because of costs and changes to your processes, I recommend you see how they can change things for the better by giving your customers a more transparent look at the “what,” “when,” and “why” their vehicles need for your recommended services. 

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