Running a Shop

How a DVI Service Can Boost Ticket Averages

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What’s going on with a customer’s car while it’s in the shop?

Lube-plus operations and other shops that offer additional services might be fielding these calls a lot during a shift. While customers are eager to get their vehicles back after leaving them at the shop, it typically helps to put them at ease to know where their work stands in the cue.

That’s part of the idea behind adopting a digital vehicle inspection. First, it can cut down on staff time answering those status calls. Second, it can be automated to contact each customer.

Christian Brothers Automotive decided that it would also increase transparency for longer service work.

“Most of our repairs are done within one business day,” says David Domine, vice president of technology solutions for Christian Brothers. “And if they're going to leave a vehicle with us all day, we know they will have questions about what's happening with it. And we wanted to improve the transparency.”

More shops are adopting the technology, and third-party developers are gaining ground in the marketplace with added support, built-in OE recommendations and integration with other software programs.

Christian Brothers ended up going with Autotext.me for its DVI service, and Domine says they’ve been happy with it. But in general, he says the technology has proved to be a boost to shops.

“There are a lot of different DVI tools out there,” he says. “And they all have different functionalities, different price points. I think for the most part, it’s definitely a really good investment.”

Thinking about adopting a DVI at your shop? Domine gave NOLN an inside look at the rollout of the software for its franchise network.

 

How It Works

The basic function of a digital vehicle inspection, or DVI, is to alert customers of a technician’s findings during a more thorough service request.

It automates some of the notifications that can be sent out to customers, which in theory should increase efficiency. But at the same time, it can be an incredibly useful customer service tool that keeps that line of communication open and instant. That was an immediate benefit that Christian Brothers saw.

“We have it set up to text the customer at least three times throughout the process and once when it’s complete,” Domine says.

The basic notifications come when a vehicle is checked in, when a tech has completed the diagnosis and estimate and when the parts arrive for work to begin. A final text is sent when the vehicle is ready for pickup.

Shops can send additional notifications as they see fit and there’s still a phone call to discuss repair options and any other issues that come up. But the baseline text notifications help to let the customer know that a shop is actively working toward completion.

On the customer side, their text message has a link that leads to their own web page describing their vehicle and the work needed. With time, it will also contain previous work completed for comparison.

On the technician’s side, the DVI interface allows them to log inspection information digitally. The tech goes through the same process as any inspection, Domine says.

Christian Brothers also found that having the DVI also works well with another service— shuttle trips.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, you just kind of knew, ‘Hey, I’m probably just going to hang out at the repair shop for four hours,’” Domine says.

No longer. He says that customers are busy, and if they know they will get prompt notification about the work, they will feel better about leaving on the shuttle while the shop does its thing.

 

Getting Started

Christian Brothers piloted the DVI program with 30 shops beginning in early 2018, and the company is looking toward the end of next year to fully transition.

Techs are experts at a quick inspection process. But Domine says that shops should still expect a learning curve at the beginning.

“The implementation of a DVI—getting technicians to take the time to take photos, to take videos— it is a significant time investment on their part early on,” he says. “It becomes faster as you learn it. That’s one of the areas that we’ve experienced some obstacles.”

Techs, especially the younger ones, might learn the program in an hour or so. The time investment comes from incorporating it into the workflow, especially when transitioning from a paper inspection. 

There could be logistical hurdles, like whether or not the tablet has a flash function. If not, shops might have to purchase an external flash that clips onto the tablet to illuminate those undercarriage spots. 

Domine says it’s prudent to set aside some transition time, but set a firm deadline to implement the new system.

“Give the tablets to the guys; let them learn it on their time,” he says. “Take some photos. Get more comfortable with it. But then set a date on the calendar that says all paper inspections go away on July 1 [for example].”

 

Show the Bad

As the name suggests, digital vehicle inspections are set up to identify and convey what’s wrong with the vehicle—digitally.

The inspection process might be the same that techs have used for years, but it’s the customer service aspect that’s improved here. Domine says that it’s one thing to tell a customer where a leak is, but it’s much more effective to show them.

“That’s been a great tool for us to communicate,” he says. “I don't have to explain that your shocks are worn out or that your transmission fluid is extremely dark, that it shouldn't be that dark red. We’re able to explain it with pictures and video.”

Domine says that customers picked up on it quickly, but that doesn’t mean they knew the ins and outs of auto parts right away.

“Especially when you're looking at leaks, when you take a picture of something underneath the front end, the customer doesn't necessarily know what they’re looking at,” he says.

Their digital tools through the DVI allow techs to point to certain parts and add annotations to lead customers through the different parts. They can even go so far as to include animations of how certain vehicle systems work.

 

Show the Good

One thing that Domine recommends is for techs to show the good parts to customers. Brakes are a good example. Techs can show customers a good brake versus a worn brake to show them why the service is needed.

In an industry built on trust, that goes a long way.

“What we found is that customers just tend to recognize the need of it,” Domine says. “And they also trust that it’s going to be fixed correctly. It allows them to make better decisions with their vehicles.”

And over time, customers will have that same DVI interface from the shop that shows their old inspection photos. When a brake does go bad or a leak sprouts, the customer will be able to see for themselves how things have changed beneath the fender or under the hood.

All this is aimed at having the added benefit of boosting ticket averages.

 

Good For Business

Domine says that one benefit of the DVI is that techs are able to show their work rather than explain it over the phone. This helps to reduce the urge to sensationalize an inspection finding in order to impress the importance of repairs on a reluctant customer.

“We want to explain it. We want you to understand it, but we want to make sure that we’re reasonable in how we explain it,” he says. “So being able to show a photo of what it’s supposed to look like versus what it does look like.”

All this is to educate the customers and give them more agency in decisions on their vehicles. And it sows trust with the shop, so that drivers know why they’re being asked to pay for a service.

If it’s all working correctly, Domine says that the transparency and communication improvements will make their investment in DVI worth it.

“Customers, when they have more trust in what we’re doing, they tend to purchase more,” he says. “They understand that that investment is going to have a good return. That’s what we’ve found. Our ticket average has increased.”

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