Win Over and Retain More Customers With Auto Repair Estimating Software
Smooth inspections and estimates can help you win over and retain customers. There are various solutions for inspections and estimates, but some are better than others.
When it comes to expensive things in life, like medical procedures or a new home, getting a preview of the price tag is immensely helpful.
Picture yourself at the dentist’s office, the best place on earth. We kid, we kid, but hey, if it’s actually your favorite place on earth, no judgment.
You’ve taken your X-rays, and now it’s time to find out if you need any work done on your teeth. The moment of truth: you likely need your wisdom teeth removed, and your dentist refers you to an oral surgeon so you can get a specialist’s opinion.
So, you trek over to the oral surgeon’s office for a consultation. They confirm that, yes, your wisdom teeth do need to get pulled out. You need wisdom tooth removal surgery. They explain what your medical options are, and what the risks of each choice are. You start asking about the cost: how big of a hole is this surgery going to burn in your wallet?
The oral surgeon tells you their staff can put together a dental estimate for you, so you see exactly how the costs will break down—what your insurance will pay versus what you’ll have to cover on your own. They send your information to your dental insurance company and give you the estimate once it’s ready. They’re on-hand to answer any follow-up questions you have and are happy to explain specifics in the estimate.
Wanting to get a second opinion, you go to a consultation with another oral surgeon in town. This oral surgeon takes a look and says they can yank out your wisdom teeth right then and there, no surgery required. You ask them how much it’ll cost, and they say something like, “Oh, around a thousand bucks, but we won’t know the final total until the very end. It just depends.”
Which oral surgeon are you more likely to trust? Who are you more likely to go with?
We’re guessing the first oral surgeon because they were more professional. They explained what was going on with your wisdom teeth, prepared an estimate for you so you knew what to expect financially, and were available to answer your follow-up questions. In contrast, the second oral surgeon gave you rushed input and didn’t give you a clear answer on the cost. If that second oral surgeon couldn’t break down the cost for you in a direct way, how could you trust them with your health?
The truth is that estimates tie into professionalism. When the first oral surgeon gave you an estimate for your wisdom tooth removal surgery, they helped you:
Wisdom tooth removal surgery isn’t cheap. Neither is auto repair work.
Just like a professional oral surgeon’s office explains to patients what their options are and how much they should expect to pay for procedures, a professional auto repair shop shows drivers what their repair work options are and how much they should expect to pay for repairs.
That professionalism is what helps you win over and retain more customers. If your customers are deciding between different auto repair shops, they’ll likely stick with the business that shows the most professionalism.
At auto repair shops, high-quality inspections and estimates:
Let’s focus on that third point.
Imagine that a customer calls your shop and complains about a job on an estimate. They claim they never signed off on it and want a refund. If you keep high-quality records of all the work your customers authorized, the jobs your shop provided, and the parts provided on each job, you can prove otherwise. You have evidence on-hand that the customer was shown that the issue with their vehicle was uncovered during the inspection process and that they approved that particular job related to the inspected task on that day. If the customer opts to go the chargeback route, those records will help you keep your hard-earned money.
What do we mean by “high-quality”? In our experience, the building blocks of high-quality records are inspections and estimates that:
But before we explore these characteristics further, let’s look at the different types of inspections and estimates.
There are three main ways to put together inspections and estimates at auto repair shops:
We know there are different variations of all three of these methods. For example, with pen and paper, you may use pre-printed inspection forms and have technicians check boxes and scribble notes as they work. As for digital, you can use emails or spreadsheets. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll be sticking to the email method in examples. And of course, there are different options for auto repair estimating software on the market.
Auto repair estimating software is the best method if you want to leverage the benefits of high-quality inspections and estimates. But not all auto repair estimating software solutions are built the same.
There are several features that make auto repair estimating software truly high-quality:
The most important feature? Digital vehicle inspections. At a basic level, digital vehicle inspections enable technicians to quickly punch in inspection details into software via their tablets or smartphones. And by going with auto repair estimating software like Tekmetric that has a well-built digital vehicle inspections feature, technicians will be able to:
And thanks to Tekmetric, service advisors can email or text customers those inspections and estimates. Customers can then approve or decline specific jobs from wherever they are, be it waiting at the coffee shop next door or lounging on their couch at home—there’s no need for them to hang around at your shop. Of course, if they want to wait at your shop, they’re more than welcome to. But many customers will appreciate staying in the loop about their repairs if they do decide to do something else. And because this all happens through auto repair estimating software, the service advisors will be able to see exactly which jobs customers authorized, minimizing the chances of miscommunication and customer frustration.
Clarity refers to how clearly your shop’s inspections and estimates communicate expectations to customers. In other words, how easy is it for your customers to understand your shop’s inspections and estimates?
While the pen and paper method gives customers something tangible they can hold and read, details can get lost in the mix. A customer might not be able to read a technician or service advisor’s handwriting, and both parties will spend valuable time clarifying details—that time can really stack up! And if a customer later wants to clarify an inspection or estimate detail, they might have to wait longer than necessary while the service advisor ruffles through the day’s paper inspections to find the right one.
Sure, your team members can type out all the inspection and estimate details in an email and send it to the customer. But typing out a new email for every estimate takes a lot of time and will lead to inconsistencies. Also, gathering direct approval can become a hassle because you never know what a customer considers as “approval.” You could get an email back that just says, “sure,” so you get to work only to realize that the customer didn’t actually read every job and gets upset when they have to foot the bill.
Or you can call them and try to get approval over the phone, but they might also misunderstand what you’re selling them unless they have a clean, clear DVI to look at as you go over your findings. Come payment time, the customer is upset that they have to pay for a job on an estimate they thought they didn’t approve, and your service advisor will have to navigate a challenging situation that could harm your shop’s reputation in that customer’s eyes.
Keeping track of estimates in various email chains can also become time-consuming and cumbersome. If a customer wants to clarify a detail during the repair, they might have to wait longer than what’s ideal while the service advisor sorts through multiple emails to find the applicable one.
Auto repair estimating software significantly increases the clarity your customers have about repair work at your shop. With the right solution, customers will be able to read specific findings on an inspection, understand exactly what work they need done, and directly approve the repairs they want on the included estimate. No more struggling to read the handwriting on a paper estimate, nor will they have to repeat themselves over the phone to make sure they’re understood correctly after reading the email a service advisor typed out.
Additionally, if the auto repair estimating software has search functionality for inspections and estimates, customers will be able to quickly get their questions answered because service advisors can look up details in seconds.
Tekmetric gives customers the ultimate clarity on inspections and estimates.
Once a service advisor sends a customer their inspection and estimate, the customer can see each repair their vehicle needs. As a bonus, customers can also get a transparent look at the urgency of each specific repair, thanks to Tekmetric’s color-coded approach. All repair work, and the urgency of that work, is clearly spelled out.
And, by being able to attach photos and videos to the digital vehicle inspection, customers can see for themselves what’s going on. The saying is “show, don’t tell” for a reason, after all. When customers can see with their own eyes that their car’s engine is seriously rusted, they’re more likely to place their trust in your team. Anything you and your team can do to show customers that you’re acting in good faith will help customers trust you more.
You and your team can personalize the inspection process even more by taking the time to sit down with customers and review the results so you can help them budget repairs more efficiently, like what Aaron Smith and his employees over at S&S Auto Repair do.
According to Smith, “If a technician brings us a digital inspection and there is a lot of stuff in red, we can go through and break them down into the three categories of safety, maintenance, and repairs. In each category, we break it down further: this needs to be done today, this can wait until your next oil change, and this one we can work on in the next six months, but you need to budget for it.”
Not to be Captain Obvious, but accuracy refers to how accurate the details in the inspection and estimates are when customers get access to them.
Picture this: a technician is trying to put together an inspection report. But they get tired of picking up their notepad and pen every few minutes, so they decide to mentally keep track of things and write everything down at the end. Unfortunately, people don’t have perfect memories. The technician forgets to add a finding, and the service advisor doesn’t know otherwise, so the customer gets the inspection and estimate with that job missing. Once the customer is back on the road, they’re in for an unpleasant surprise: it still has issues! The customer will then call your shop, upset, and might leave a negative online review.
Email isn’t perfect by any means, either. For one, formatting an email can be a challenge, and by forgetting to add a space here or having autocorrect get in the way, technicians and service advisors can set the stage for miscommunication with customers.
Not to mention other problems that come with email, like spam filters, accidentally mistyped addresses, and more. For example, a technician might sit down to email a service advisor inspection details, but the service advisor wants to create a nicer-looking estimate for the customer. While copying and pasting the inspection details, the service advisor accidentally leaves out a finding! The same bad situation as above could arise. The customer gets their vehicle back, and realizes it still has the same issues. The upset customer will then call your shop, and then you’re stuck with a negative online review.
Auto repair estimating software is the most effective way your team can ensure that customers get accurate inspection and estimate details. With auto repair estimating software, your service advisors are less likely to forget to copy and paste a line item. Because they can view the inspections technicians put together in one main system, service advisors can create estimates without having to open multiple tabs, decipher difficult-to-read handwriting, etc. And in turn, customers will gain the benefit of inspections and estimates that are as accurate as possible.
Because Tekmetric runs on the cloud, technicians can punch in inspection details on a tablet or smartphone while they work, and color-code each inspection finding by severity. From there, service advisors can view all the inspection details, put together the estimate portion, and send everything off to the customer. The customer can then check off exactly which repairs they want, and decline the repairs they don’t want. No copying and pasting and deciphering tricky handwriting involved—for anyone!
Whether we like it or not, customers judge all businesses by their level of professionalism, and you might be surprised at how the little things add up. Your shop’s inspections and estimates are one of the most effective ways you can show your customers how professional your shop is across the board—and a huge part of professionalism is standardization.
Pen and paper can easily look unprofessional. The paper could crumple or bend, oil might get on it, the handwriting could be tough to read, etc. With paper inspections and estimates that have those issues, customers could view your shop as unprofessional; like things were rushed and quickly put together.
Pen and paper is also not the best choice for standardization. Sure, you could have your team only use stock paper with a fancy letterhead for inspections and estimates, but the reality is that it’s unlikely employees will stick to those protocols during their busy work days. For example, a technician might use a pencil for one inspection and a pen for the next. Although it seems like a tiny detail, repeat customers will notice that you don’t have a streamlined, standard approach.
Email is more professional than pen and paper in the sense that you won’t have to worry about crumpled, oily paper with hard-to-read handwriting, but it’s still not the most professional way to communicate inspections and estimates to customers, primarily because it’s hard to standardize emails. For example, the formatting might be off and there’s no clean, consistent way to send inspection results to customers that makes it easy for them to approve or decline work without emailing you back.
With auto repair estimating software, you can easily standardize your inspections and estimates and give them a professional look every time. Because you’ll have a ready-to-go “template” in the software, your team can put together inspections and estimates with the same general appearance over time, and customers will notice! Customers will also be able to directly approve the work they want done and decline the work they want to hold off on. No confusion.
Tekmetric makes it easy to give your inspections and estimates a uniform look each time. By using Tekmetric’s digital vehicle inspections and estimates, your team will be able to send customers sleek digital documentation with your shop’s logo and contact information included—every time. Your customers will be impressed by your shop’s consistency, the look of the inspections and estimates, and they’ll also be relieved that they can easily access that documentation for future reference. They won’t have to worry about hunting down a paper inspection or trying to remember exactly what they approved over a typed-out email estimate if they need to reference something later on.
A good repair process is one that involves customer choice and feedback. After all, if your customers aren’t on board with a repair, things can quickly go haywire. By building in room for customer input during inspections and estimates, you can maximize the chance that your customers will walk out of your shop smiling ear to ear, ready to recommend your business to their friends and family. You’ll also maximize your chances of upselling and cross-selling work in the future; a good process for inspections and estimates lends itself to that.
With a pen and paper method, there’s simply a lot less customer agency, if any. The customer will have to listen to the service advisor explain why a repair is needed, and give their approvals for repairs in-person or over the phone. At best, the customer is taking essentially a more passive role in the repair process. At worst, the customer might get too involved, spending a lot of time grilling service advisors about the real necessity of those repairs.
Additionally, with a pen and paper method, it’s tough to sell work in the future based on declined jobs. You might find yourself digging through stacks of paper to locate your records, then spend time deciphering exactly what the customer declined, then try to find their number if it’s not already on your copy of the estimate… tedious, right? Additionally, think about all the cross-selling opportunities you might miss because you can’t find the right records, lost a customer’s number, etc.
Email doesn’t really give customers much more agency than pen and paper when it comes to inspections and estimates. Customers will still have to get input from service advisors about the necessity of repairs. And once again, emails are a clunky way for your team to receive approvals for repair work.
Email is slightly better than pen and paper when it comes to storing records of the repair work that your customers declined so you can sell that work to them later, but your service advisors will have to primarily rely on your email client’s search bar. Over time, this could involve service advisors sifting through thousands and thousands of emails, and customers might end up going somewhere else, or worse, forgetting that they need that repair work taken care of.
Auto repair estimating software gives customers more power of saying “no” to certain repairs. You might be thinking, “Why on earth would I want my customers to decline repairs?” Well, sometimes, customers don’t have the budget to fix everything at once or want to hold off on particular non-urgent repairs for various reasons. With the right auto repair estimating software, they can check off exactly which repairs they want to be completed, and decline the repairs they don’t want or aren’t ready to pay for.
By saying “no” at that moment, your shop can later turn their “no” to a “yes.” Auto repair estimating software stores records of those “nos” so you can refer to them later and call up customers to see if they’d like to come in again.
A transparent inspections and estimates process enables customers to feel confident when approving and declining proposed repair work. That confidence, coupled with your shop following up on declined jobs in the future, builds trust and helps your shop maintain long-term relationships with customers.
By being able to directly check off which repairs they’d like to be completed, and indicate which repairs they don’t want to be completed during a visit, Tekmetric gives customers more agency over the repair process.
Tekmetric’s enhanced digital authorizations feature puts customers behind the driver’s seat at your shop… well, figuratively, but you know what we mean. With Tekmetric’s digital vehicle inspections, customers can get a clear picture of how necessary particular repairs are at that moment in time. If they’re skeptical about a repair’s necessity, they can also view photos and videos of their vehicle, and see for themselves what’s going on.
And thanks to Tekmessage True Two-Way Texting, customers can text service advisors their questions and ask for updates directly from their mobile phones. Service advisors can respond from within Tekmetric, and the resulting message will show up as a regular text message on the customers’ side of things.
In turn, this agency makes customers feel like they’re a more active part of the repair process. They’ll feel like they’re collaborating with your team members so they can get back on the road, rather than passively sitting around, doubting the real necessity of proposed repairs.
And remember what we said about how customers saying “no” to a repair gives your shop room to turn that “no” into a “yes” later? Picture this: a customer opts to hold off on a particular repair until later. The repair isn’t urgent, but it could become an issue two months down the line.
With Tekmetric, you have a record of those declined repairs. Specifically, Tekmetric tracks declined jobs on customer profiles and on a special Declined Jobs Report, so you can refer to them later to sell more work. Service advisors can add additional details about that declined work using Tekmetric’s customer notes feature, such as, “Customer declined job because of budget reasons; contact them when there’s a promotion.” You can have your service advisors regularly set aside some time to review the declined jobs over the past month or so, and then make a note to call those customers once the time for those repairs draws closer.
So, with Tekmetric, your team can easily pull up that particular customer’s declined job, and make a note to contact them in two months, which is made extraordinarily easy by the fact that Tekmetric stores customers’ contact information. The great news is that you’ll likely land that sale!
What goes hand-in-hand with increased customer agency? Pathways to effective communication. Part of giving your customers agency over the repair work they approve and decline, and the rest of the process, is making it easy for them to communicate with your team.
Say that after looking at the paper estimate the service advisor handed to them, a customer tells the service advisor which repairs they approve and decline. The technician starts the repair and finds an additional job that needs to get done. Since that job wasn’t in the original estimate, the service advisor needs to reach out to the customer for approval. Perhaps the customer decided not to wait at the shop, and the service advisor has to call them, but there’s a lag in communication. Maybe the customer doesn’t hear their phone ring or they’re busy. Meanwhile, that repair is put on hold, taking up room at the shop, and the customer will get their vehicle back even later than they originally expected.
Email is a slightly better alternative to pen and paper because the customer can respond to an email a service advisor sends, and approve additional work that pops up over the course of the repair. However, it’s not guaranteed that a service advisor will be monitoring your shop’s inbox at that particular moment. Maybe right after sending the email, the service advisor steps away to manage another issue, and the clock will tick away until that service advisor comes back or someone else sees the email. Or, maybe the service advisor calls the customer, but the same situation as above plays out: the customer doesn’t pick up the phone or the audio quality is bad, and by the time things get clarified, it’s way later in the day than ideal.
The right auto repair estimating software opens up multiple reliable communication pathways for customers, especially given that many customers won’t be sitting around at your shop.
Instead of having to play telephone or email tag, for example, customers can message your shop, and every service advisor logged into the system will see it. From there, one of those service advisors can answer the question or give an update. Customers won’t have to deal with disparate communication and can have peace of mind that your team will receive their messages and respond to them in a timely manner.
So let’s return to the example we used above, where the technician finds an additional issue that wasn’t included in the initial estimate. With an auto repair estimating software solution that lets service advisors reach out via email and text, it’s more likely that the customer will see the message, even if they’re busy with errands or in a meeting, and they can promptly authorize the additional work or ask questions before there’s a major hold up.
Tekmetric’s true two-way texting feature, Tekmessage, gives customers the ultimate ability to effectively communicate with your shop. While they’re running an errand or waiting out a repair at a nearby coffee shop, they can text your shop any questions they have, inquire about any updates, or approve additional work right from their phones. After all, text is the easiest way to reach most people, especially when they’re on the go.
In turn, every service advisor logged into Tekmetric will see that message, and whoever is available can quickly sift through the Job Board and the applicable customer notes to get an answer and respond. The response will show up as a standard text message on the customer’s phone. Telephone and email tag, be gone!
In the auto repair industry, many customers will get multiple estimates from multiple shops. Having a smooth approach to inspections and estimates will help you retain more customers, but to strengthen your retention efforts, you need to pay attention to other areas, too.
You should also seek, for example, a way to digitize your shop’s work orders via software. Think about it this way: if the solution you’re considering has features for digital vehicle inspections and estimates as well as work orders, that solution can be called both “auto repair estimating software” and “automotive work order software.” But to keep things simple, solutions like Tekmetric are often simply referred to as a “shop management system” or “auto repair shop software.”
When you use a shop management system to streamline the various processes and operations at your shop, you’ll find that your team will be more collaborative. For example, thanks to digital vehicle inspections and estimates, technicians and service advisors can minimize their back-and-forth with each other. Service advisors don’t have to call or walk up to technicians to ask them about the severity of repairs, and technicians don’t have to call or walk up to service advisors to clarify whether or not a customer gave the go-ahead for specific jobs.
When your team members interrupt each other less, they’ll be able to better enter and maintain a state of flow, which will help them knock out tasks more efficiently. They’ll also get along better with each other, and your customers will notice! When they see that everyone gets along, customers will trust your shop more. Think about your own experiences—when you go to the dentist, don’t you feel more at ease and trusting when you see that the dentist and dental assistants all get along? Your customers feel the same.
As you’re researching different solutions by doing things like determining which features you need, reading software reviews, sifting through common myths, attending demos, and more, keep your eyes and ears open.
Make sure any solution you implement at your shop has all the features you need. Don’t assume that a particular solution will tick off all your desired boxes. Perhaps the solution you’re evaluating is missing a key feature that would defeat the purpose of you even rolling it out for your team.
Also, we can’t stress this enough—get your team involved in the decision-making process! They’ll be using the software daily, after all, and it’s important that you go with something they’ll feel comfortable using.
By modernizing and advancing beyond pen and paper and clunky emails (or other non-software-based digital methods), you’ll open the doors to increased transparency, greater customer agency, more sales, better recording keeping, and enhanced team collaboration—just to name several benefits. You can still keep your notepad and pen around for times when you want to jot down a reminder, and email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But ultimately, you’ll feel more at ease when your business is turbocharged with a shop management system.
At Tekmetric, our goal is to help shop owners like you achieve bigger and better results than ever before. Our premiere features, like digital vehicle inspections, true two-way texting, the Job Board, robust real-time business reports, and more, enable shop owners to attract and retain customers more effectively than ever before.
Ready to boost customer retention at your shop? Schedule a demo today!