Inspections Worth the Effort

I was working at a store in Battle Creek, MI in the early 1990s. We had just implemented a 27-point inspection process. The technicians were having fits. They worked flat rates and thought they were wasting their time doing inspections that didn't pay them a penny? Most shops have at least one employee who has to prove a point to peers. One technician had an older car on his rack and he reviewed the

I was working at a store in Battle Creek, MI in the early 1990s. We had just implemented a 27-point inspection process. The technicians were having fits.

They worked flat rates and thought they were wasting their time doing inspections that didn't pay them a penny?

Most shops have at least one employee who has to prove a point to peers. One technician had an older car on his rack and he reviewed the car as outlined in the inspection process.

He spent two or three hours preparing an estimate of 14-hours work plus parts. The customer, when the advisor called him for work authorization, responded: “No!”

Well, the customer's response was like pouring gasoline on fire. The technician gloated. He had the entire department in an uproar about doing inspections.

The next morning, I visited each technician to reassure them that it was a good program and they needed to stay with it and give it time. At 9:30 a.m., the customer called back and gave the go-ahead to do all the cited work. He had decided to keep the car rather than trading it in.

This made everyone in the shop say, “Maybe this does work.”

Done right, vehicle inspections generate additional sales, parts and labor, period. The industry has taken notice to the point that just about every manufacturer has its own inspection report. The return is huge for dealers. Yet some dealers are still not using vehicle inspections consistently. The required steps are simple:

Establish a Policy

Your service manager should develop a written policy outlining the entire process from start to finish. Have them write and forward you a copy. The policy should state the following and provide answers to the points listed:

  • What are the benefits to the customer? A comprehensive inspection presented correctly will be viewed by the customer as a real value.
  • What are the benefits to the dealership? Additional parts and labor sales, customer retention, established credibility.
  • What are the benefits to the technicians? More work and increased earnings potential.

All steps need to be identified from the time the service advisor interacts with the customer to the active delivery.

Each person's responsibilities should be spelled out in detail to eliminate any questions about who should do what.

Provide sample presentations or review statements.

Carry Out the Policy

All customers should be offered, at the time of write-up, an opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to the inspection.

Some managers have set a policy to inspect only vehicles over a certain mileage, but I do not agree with this. If you tell the customer for the first 5 or 6 times that their car is in good shape, and on the seventh time you tell them they need muffler bearings, do you think they will say yes?

The advisors should offer the inspection during the write-up process, explaining that it's a courtesy for customers. I do not recommend that you charge for the inspection, but if you do, you must tell the customer the fee for the inspection.

Should the technicians be paid for completing it? I don't think so, but a lot of managers do pay. If you do, consider paying only when a certain additional number of labor hours is sold.

My view is your best technicians have completed this inspection for years. All you are doing is formalizing the process.

Each block on the inspection sheet should have a detailed description of the actions required. Provide a written example of a properly completed form.

This may seem to be a lot of writing for the average service manager but it is well worth it. The bottom line: the multi-point inspection process works.

Your managers must lead the effort to find additional sales. Your job as the leader is to keep them focused. Your efforts will be rewarded with increased net profits and happy customers.

Lee Harkins, president of ATcon in Birmingham, AL, is a dealership management consultant and industry speaker. He is at 800-692-2719 and [email protected]

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at [email protected].

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