Digital inspections ramp up efficiencies
Overland Park, Kan.—It takes some adjustment to move from a paper inspection form, but with the tablet-based “digital inspection,” repair shops can confidently sell additional repairs.
Husband-and-wife team David and Lauren Keeton, who started Keeton Auto Repair in August 2016, went completely digital in November with Bolt On Technology’s auto repair software and Samsung tablets after spending some time customizing it to their needs and validating it. Instead of the possibility of a technician noting a vague “valve cover leaks,” for example, Bolt On prompts him to take a photo of the problem and suggest the remedy, which can be done either by writing it down or using text-to-speech. The technician can also write notes or circle the problem area on the photo.
“The customer may not understand what the part is, but they can see, “Oh, it’s leaking. It looks like we need to get this fixed,” David Keeton said.
Just as some customers waiting in the lobby would like to be shown in person, for customers who have dropped off their vehicle or who need to show their spouse and discuss it with them, the photos and report – which can be emailed or texted with a link to repair order online — help build trust, Lauren Keeton said.
Photos are required of each technician before he can turn in his tablet to Service Advisor Mark Stimac, who can now “see how bad that leak is,” David Keeton said. “Some may write, ‘It leaks slightly,’ but he can determine it’s only halfway down the engine block and hasn’t made it to the ground yet. We can keep an eye on it, but it is getting there. We went ahead and priced it out, so they know about it and can start saving and preparing for that repair.”
“Customers like getting the visual in their hand,” Lauren Keeton said. “They still get the green/yellow/red checkmark, but they’re also getting an explanation from the technician and the recommendation in the same place, as well as a picture of whatever the issue is. And it will also attach a video that is based off of the AutoNet TV system that will explain that vehicle system and the importance of everything operating properly.”
Checklists can be customized, from a basic courtesy inspection to a thorough used-car pre-purchase inspection, Keeton said, and any repair recommendations not purchased at that time automatically transfer to the shop’s Mitchell 1 TeamWorks SE shop management software, from which she can mail out reminder letters. And when the vehicle returns, those previous recommendations will show in a yellow box as a reminder that “these things are important; you need to get this done,” she said.
With “canned jobs” loaded into Mitchell, common services such as brake flushes or most brake jobs can be loaded with less typing required to price them or bill to the repair order, she said.
“There is a lot of integration, and we’re trying to save time and get communication linked between the techs, advisor, and customer so we’re not losing it in translation from one person to the next.”
With some guidance from Lauren Keeton’s father, John Anderson, who owns Anderson Automotive in Olathe, Kan., the couple bought a repair shop in August 2016 that was in a prime location but was managed poorly, including attracting loss-leader coupon-chasers who were not converted into loyal customers, they said. It’s grown steadily since then, and is meeting financial expectations.
With a current staff of three technicians, plus David Keeton – who also spends much of his time as a technician in the 10-bay shop – there is much capacity for growth, and eventually, they’d like to implement the schedule used successfully by Anderson. His shop is open six days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with service advisors working four 11-hour shifts and technicians working four 10-hour shifts, with a five-day weekend every three weeks.
Because the digital inspection allows easy clocking in and out on each ticket as the technician works, Lauren Keeton said she can accurately track time management.
“Are we waiting on customer approval a long time? Are we waiting a long time on parts to arrive? And we can see how efficient our techs are — are they getting everything done in book time or under? Or are they double time?”
That may help the Keetons spot where a technician could use additional training. David Keeton and Lead Technician Gary Hall are both ASE-Master technicians, with others progressing toward certification. Training comes from a number of sources, including the CARQUEST Technical Institute and the annual ASA-Midwest’s Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo event. CDX Automotive, from Jones & Bartlett Learning Systems, is interactive computer-based learning, and is capable of simulating, as an example, the act of placing a multi-meter’s leads on wiring terminals within a circuit to test for proper voltage or resistance.
“It’s pretty much like sending them to school, and they can work on it on their own time,” David Keeton said.