When you think about the most exciting aspects of being in the auto repair industry, it’s unlikely that the invoice and estimating process comes to mind. Drafting up invoices and getting approval on estimates can be a tedious process when all your team wants to do is get things rolling with the repair! And if you have a small team, it might be tough to find someone who can squeeze in the time to create an estimate and invoice for every single repair.
However, the auto repair invoice and estimating process is one of the most important parts of your business. By fine-tuning it, you can keep better track of repairs and sell more work, increasing your shop’s ARO.
Here are five main reasons why you should fine-tune your shop’s auto repair invoice and estimating process.
1. Meet Any Relevant Compliance Standards
Depending on which state you’re operating your auto repair business in, you might be legally required to give customers an estimate before the technician begins working on the car and an invoice when the work is completed. Some states with a variation of this law include California, North Carolina, and Washington.
No matter which state you’re in, it’s a good idea to brush up on the latest applicable laws to make sure that your shop is in compliance. When you’re managing your team and growing your business, the last thing you want to deal with is a legal hurdle.
2. Provide Better Customer Service
Legal compliance aside, fine-tuning your auto repair invoice and estimating process helps you provide better customer service.
Think about it this way: when you go shopping, you want to see the price tag on an item before deciding to make a purchase. For your customers, getting an estimate is akin to seeing the “price tag” on an item before committing to a purchase. When customers get an estimate from you, they’ll feel more at ease and secure with getting a repair from your shop. In addition, they’ll know that you care about their experience and will be impressed by your team’s professionalism.
When a service advisor sends a customer an estimate, both parties are essentially signing off on a contract, stating that they understand the nature of the repair work to be performed and the cost. If a repair doesn’t go as planned or the cost is higher than expected, the customer will hold your shop accountable. Likewise, once the customer receives the invoice, if they walk back on a repair they signed off on or don’t pay, you can hold them accountable.
3. Minimize Chargebacks and Loss of Money
A major benefit of that increased accountability is that you’ll minimize chargebacks, and your shop will lose less money.
Imagine that you don’t have a refined repair invoice and estimate process in place. Your customer might have fuzzy expectations going into the repair. Then, once it’s time to pay, they gawk at the price—they didn’t think it would be that much. They might argue back-and-forth with the service advisor, and you might get dragged into the argument. Finally, things settle down, and the customer pays. You think everything is okay. But a few days later, you see: a chargeback!
Suddenly, you have a new headache on your hands that you need to solve to ensure that your team is compensated for their hard work and that your shop doesn’t take a financial loss.
By providing each customer with an estimate and invoice, you’re showing them exactly what to expect. They will have transparency into the repair process and aren’t surprised when it’s time to pay. As a result, you avoid wasting your valuable time and energy on chargebacks and safeguard your shop from financial loss.
4. Use Declined Jobs to Keep Better Records for Future Repairs
A fine-tuned auto repair invoice and estimating process not only safeguards your shop from chargebacks and financial loss but also helps your shop upsell work in the future. Any repairs your customers decline on an estimate can be sold back to them at a later time.
When a service advisor gives a customer an estimate, there’s a chance that they may not approve every listed job, especially the non-urgent repairs. They might decide to come back to your shop in a few months, once the repair is necessary. However, customers might forget to do so, and your team might, too. But with a structured invoice and estimate process in place, service advisors can keep track of declined jobs. From there, when the time rolls around for those turned-down repairs, the service advisor can notify the customer.
5. Increase Your Shop’s ARO
A transparent, effective auto repair estimate process starts with a digital vehicle inspection (DVI). When a service advisor sends a customer a DVI, the customer will be able to look at the attached photos and videos of their vehicle, as well as the proposed repairs and the urgency of those repairs.
Because the customer will see exactly what’s wrong with their vehicle, they’ll be more likely to sign off on all the work, rather than just what they think they need. The photos and videos paint a clearer picture of the necessity of each repair. As a result, you’ll sell more work per individual ticket, and your shop’s ARO will increase.
How to Start Fine-Tuning Your Auto Repair Invoice and Estimating Process
While paper invoices and estimates might work in the short term, they’re not sustainable—and we’re not just talking about the environment. An ever-expanding paper trail means that service advisors will have to hunt down individual estimates in messy file folders, customers might misplace their estimates, and more.
A shop management system like Tekmetric can streamline your auto repair invoice and estimating process.
With Tekmetric, a service advisor can create a repair order and dispatch it to a technician to run an inspection. Once the technician conducts the inspection, the service advisor can send the customer a DVI, which will outline the exact repairs their vehicle will need. From there, the customer can approve or decline individual line items on the repair order, directly from their phone.
In order to prevent sticker-shock, Tekmetric separates the inspection and estimate sections. When customers open the DVI, they will first see the photos, videos, and other repair details. Once they scroll down, they’ll see the pricing.
Here’s why Tekmetric user Bryan Jewett of Casey’s Automotive appreciates that structure:
“A huge benefit to the customer is to be able to go through the inspection and then the estimate. When you provide pictures and the estimation and dollar amount, the only thing a customer sees are the dollar amounts.
If you're focused on helping the customer, you need to put an emphasis on, ‘Here are the conditions of the repair. Here are the conditions of maintenance.’ And providing that in a separate function—the courtesy inspection—allows them to digest that. Then you can go over what things cost, what is important, what they can hold off on, and what they need to do now.
The fact that Tekmetric has the courtesy inspection and the estimate as two separate functions is a game-changer.”
Once customers finish clicking through the estimate, designating the jobs they approve and decline, the shop has the go-ahead to start the repair. There’s a digital record of exactly what the customer approved, so when it’s time to pay, there are no surprises—and the customer drives off happy, leaves a good review, and refers your shop to their family and friends.