Shops use standard inspections to help boost repair orders

Jensen: "No sales pressure"

Published in Automotive News May 5, 2014

Over the past four years at Dublin Toyota in Dublin, Calif., the service department has increased its average customer-pay repair order by $105.

Not through high-pressure selling or pushing unnecessary repairs onto customers, says Larry Tate, fixed operations director for the San Francisco Bay Area store, but through a better system of inspecting and tracking vehicles in for service.

Tate says it took a third-party software system to identify and capture sales opportunities that were falling through the cracks. The average customer-pay order at Dublin Toyota was $365 last year, up from about $260 four years earlier.

"Until you have complete visibility of what's really going on all over the shop, you can't truly know what your sales potential is," Tate says from his office in the 50-technician Toyota dealership.

"You can tell your techs to make sure to do a thorough inspection of every car. But it's hard to hold them accountable without a standard reporting system. We thought that with a clearly defined process for it, we'd reach a better closing ratio in upsells."

Dublin Toyota relies on a system from AutoPoint, a software company in Las Vegas. The system generates color-coded reports that are easy for customers to read.

Tate credits the reports, which also are used by a Volkswagen and a Hyundai store that Dublin Toyota's owners have acquired, for his shop improving its closing rate on recommended services from a percentage in the mid-20s in 2009 to 33 percent last year.

The reports show customers and service advisers the status of more than 50 vehicle conditions, down to tire wear and fluid levels.

A green code indicates that a part or system is fine. Yellow cautions that an issue needs attention soon. Red means that the part or system requires immediate attention or repair.

The technician e-mails the inspection report to a service adviser within minutes, and the adviser immediately presents it via e-mail or in person to the vehicle owner.

A color-coded inspection report shows the status of 50-plus vehicle conditions.

Jim Jensen, senior director of product development at AutoPoint, formerly known as MPi, says, "It's a transparent report that simply says, 'Here is the condition of your car,' No sales pressure required."

The report also shows service opportunities, Jensen says. Last year, the Car Care Council, an aftermarket industry consumer education group, reported that its research showed that 77 percent of all vehicles on the road need some type of repair. And an estimated $70 billion worth of needed vehicle service went unperformed last year.

"When we talk to dealerships, we try to make the point that you don't have to sell unneeded services," Jensen says.

The inspection report remains in the shop's data files and can be used to remind customers that past service issues need to be addressed, Dublin Toyota's Tate says.

John Willoughby, service director at Kuni Automotive's Lexus of Seattle, which also uses the AutoPoint system, says the system can help build trust with customers.

"It shows the owner that we care about their car," says Willoughby, who oversees 20 technicians and nearly 12,000 customer repair orders a year. "It shows them that we're keeping track of their parts issues and our conversations about them. We tell them whatever they choose to do is their decision, but here is what's happened to your car since you were here last."

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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