ASE-certified Master Technician John Bradley enters data on the tablet version of the Repair Shop Solutions digital inspection system now in use at Tom’s Automotive Repair in Seattle.

Northwest shops offer digital inspections to enhance customer service, efficiency

Software and systems provide detailed data for shops to use when creating estimates

While digital inspections have been widely used by the collision repair industry for some time, the mechanical segment has adopted the process more recently. From perspectives obtained from repair shops in the region, it appears that the systems being used are efficient and well liked by customers.

Several suppliers offer software and systems that can provide a variety of inspection services that mate to shop management systems, thus providing detailed data for shops to use when creating estimates.

At Valley Automotive Repair & Electric in Covington, Wash., owner Bryan Kelley said that 95 percent of all incoming vehicles receive an inspection with all of those being digital.

“We are using AutoServe1 as the inspection program and we use both cell phones and Galaxy tablets for photos and data input,” Kelley said. “We recently changed from another software system where we just used cell phones because AutoServe1 offered far superior integration with POS software. As a result, we are saving at least 10 minutes per invoice and as much as 45 minutes on larger repair estimates.”

Kelley also said the digital inspections have created a more streamlined estimate. “It has given us the ability to sync information from the technicians to the service adviser. Instead of having to transfer data from hand written notes, once the tech makes a recommendation it is available within the POS. All the adviser has to do is click on the icon and add parts. It has made selling easier since the customer has instant results at the fingertips. It’s expedited our sales process because it’s quick and an easy trust builder.”

With few exceptions, Kelley said customers like the digital inspections and resulting data available to them. “The customer has the ability to see the broken parts or leaking area from wherever they are.”

AG Diesel in Portland, Ore., is performing all of its inspections digitally, said Service Manager Kirk Erickson.

“We use AutoVitals with tablets and it helps sell more work almost 100 percent of the time. The customers like seeing the pictures and videos because it helps them better understand the maintenance and repairs recommended.”

West Seattle’s Tom’s Automotive Repair performs digital inspections on 90 percent of all vehicles being serviced. “We’re using Repair Shop Solutions and we’re very pleased with the system because it makes the estimates more professional and the customers love the green, yellow, and red color systems indicating recommended maintenance or repair,” said Owner Kandie Jenninbgs-Molloy and ASE-certified Master Technician John Bradley, who added that the digital inspections are a new feature for the shop and he likes the tablet format available on his PC. “It helps them make decisions on service much easier. It’s all in one thread and it’s very adaptable; we can actually add recommendations not included in the software’s listings, and the service advisers can prioritize the customer’s copy based on the need for service or repair,” he said.

Auto Tech LLC in Rochester, Wash., began offering digital inspections four years ago and for the past two years all inspections have been digital, said Owner Leon Martin. “We use AutoVitals and the software ties in with our Mitchell and Bolt On Technologies management systems.

“It has made estimates more valid and more user friendly. Our customers like the digital system and we most often email it to them then review it on the phone. Most of the time the customers go with the suggested recommendations, so the digital system works well for our shop.”

In most cases, shops said that using the digital inspection process did not generally add any parts or service to the estimate or final repair order that techs may have missed and provided for free prior to digital.

“We had systems in place before moving to the digital platform to catch those charges,” said Conrad Jobst, AMAM, at B&B Automotive in Aberdeen, Wash. Using an iPad mini running R.O. Touch from R.O Writer, B&B inspects 94 percent of incoming vehicles.

At the upcoming Automotive Training Expo (ATE) in Seattle, Jeremy O’Neal will be presenting a class titled “Mastering the Digital Inspection & Sales Process.” It’s designed to teach shops how to empower consumers in the sales process.

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John Burkhauser of Bolt On Technologies recently wrote about what to consider when selecting an inspection process. His questions validate what will make a system be the most productive:

     • How does the actual inspection work? Is it easy to learn and follow?

     • Do the inspection support photos that can be marked up by the tech to point out the issue in the picture?

     • What are the methods of editing the inspections before sending to the customer?

     • Does all the information from the inspection automatically integrate with the management system, or is there cutting and pasting involved?

     • How can the inspection be shared with customers (paper, email, text, or o a tablet or PC for waiting customers)?

     • How is support for inspection software handled?

     These and other questions are important as shops decide to perform digital inspections.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.