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With the introduction of The Digital Shop Methods and Tools, many owners and often new technologies offer new opportunities and their use seems obvious, but it turns out they are not, and sometimes they even backfire. A good example is over-texting resulting in opt-outs cutting off this effective channel. Digital Interaction with motorists is more and more about less instead of more. 

Episode Transcript

*This transcript was generated using Artificial Intelligence. Errors may occur. If you notice an error, please contact [email protected].

Bill Connor (00:06):
Good morning and good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor and you’ve reached the Digital Shop Talk Radio. Hopefully you’ve joined us by signing in live by going to and filling out the registration form so that you can go ahead and join us on a weekly basis. We’re all the way up to episode number 144. So we’ve been doing this for a while and today I’ve got Ken Anderson, owner of B & L Quality Repair, LLC with us plus Uwe AutoVitals, very own Chief Innovation Officer. And here today we’re going to be discussing digital shop methods and tools and many shop owners and managers have discovered some new technologies that offer some opportunities in their shop and sometimes their use seems obvious, but they can go ahead and turn around and sometimes even backfire if they’re not used efficiently and effectively. So a good example is over texting, resulting in opt-outs and customers going ahead and cutting off this effective tool because they feel they’re over-communicated with.
So digital interaction with motorists is more or less about getting things right, not doing more of certain things. So Ken’s going to be sharing with us some things that he’s learned in his shop and also as somebody that pokes around in different forums on the industry, he’s going to go ahead and probably share with some things that he’s learned or heard from other people. So you’ll take away some solid information on these important topics and you’ll learn from panelists that are operating shops just like yours. So if you wouldn’t mind Uwe, if you would go ahead and get us started off here. I’m sure we’ve got plenty to cover.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:45):
Oh yeah, thank you and thanks Ken for coming on folks. Friend Friends means basically you think it’s an awesome opportunity and you just apply what you think is right and then it turns out it’s not a good friend because it backfires or it’s not exactly what you were looking for. And maybe I start with an example and I mentioned that in podcasts before, the digital inspection was often seen as a huge opportunity because it’s now digital and I can change the inspection sheet in a few seconds. I don’t need to go to a printer if I want to change a topic here and then throw away my pile of paper and lots of people embrace that flexibility and said, oh, don’t I go from a topic sheet to 90 because I now can add more stuff to it and do a better service for my customers and the technicians will find more and then it backfired for most of them because the technician said, wow, that’s more than twice as what we did before. It takes longer. They were not motivated to jump from 35 to 90 and then all of a sudden the digital inspection got a kind of bad wrap in that shop at least because it was overdone. Right. So the idea of being flexible in your inspection sheet was not accompanied with a process of buy-in by the whole team and getting feedback and so on. Ken, how was it with your shop?
Ken Anderson (04:07):
We did start out, we did not have paper because I didn’t believe in that. My background was from dealerships. I opened up a shop, this shop about 13 years ago and the idea, so having been through that environment, everybody knows you get the red green, yellow little sheets, little paper sheets. We had been paper starting my own shop. I decided initially that was, I did not want because it got a bad wrap. It did like you mentioned, because it was felt like it was not a tool to inform the customer help. It was a tool to sell and make money, which is not, there’s more to it than that. There should be more to it than that. Once we got going in our shop, we actually built it. One of the things important too is to make sure in our case we had a point of sale system that we could utilize and within that system we built our own little canned job, if you will for inspections and we kept it simple and we had a routine that was one of the ruts we’d gotten into for 10 plus years.
It was easy, it was a short list, but we could keep track of it easy and it was always on the repair order so it wasn’t a separate piece of paper, it was in the system. We could pull it up and go. So that was one of the real good. We thought it was a great, and it served its purpose, but we started looking into wanting to expand and go digital. We wanted to have go paperless completely and make it easy for everybody in the shop but also give more information out to the customer. And we started trying out different DVI systems and we started running into finding out that they weren’t the right fit because as you said, you could easily tweak it. Some of the base ones that we were originally given, you have 50, 60 points and you’re trying to figure out that’s not us, that’s not how we don’t operate that way.
And you always hear the line, every shop’s different. It’s not like my shop, my shop’s just, but it is. But in reality, everybody’s, yes, you’re all for the same goal, you’re all going the same direction. It’s just a few little side street difference. You’re block over from block East or Block West, you’re all going the same route. So once we get figured out, a big thing is making sure your guys, your team was part of it and you make sure you’ve got to have a team and one of the big issues like you mentioned with the, well I can update or I can change that inspection sheet so easily now because suddenly it’s a new technology and I can just a few keystrokes and poof I have another another five lines on it. A lot of times you’re doing that as an owner and you many times will fail to include your team with it and so the next time your tech opens up and gets that inspection, they start looking at it, suddenly there’s another line added or there’s another piece added.
And many times you don’t think of it as, Hey, ask what your other guys are doing. Ask the guys and actually if you’ve not been on the line for a while of yourself turning wrenches, go down there and do the inspection with them so you understand well what is it you’re looking at? What are you asking your guys to do? And suddenly you realize that, okay, well that was stupid. I don’t need to check the glove box light on every vehicle. That was a little fufu that I don’t need to have. So we’ve heard it from other shops and other guys, other mechanics I’ve kept in touch with over the years. I did have one guy, he moved back east. We worked with him for many years and at that shop that he had, they had 127 point inspection and it did include the glove box light.
That’s why I brought that up. It’s like, okay, what’s the point of that? You understand it. Yes, it’s a nice little thing to add a caveat for the customer, but that is really over the top. We’re not worried about something like that’s that’d be nice if we come across it and fix it, great, but we’re more concerned with brake lights, parking lights, the things are for customer safety so they can drive the car and they know it’s going to be reliable. Then yes, you can expand and give the fancier inspections, but the big thing, the initial trip up is that you look at it as you say, suddenly you’re just gung-ho and things and you just kind of blow past everybody and then all of a sudden you realize that you’ve got to really yourself back in as an owner and then you’ve got to include everybody else involved in that and get your guys, your team involved, service writers if you have it, your tech especially the guys doing the job, Hey, let’s sit down and figure out a routine that would work good for us and be reasonable. We’re not here to try. Do
Bill Connor (08:33):
You think that whenever you started going down that path, and I’ve seen other shop owners do this, that they’re relying on that initial inspection to tell them everything about the car rather than using the inspection to go ahead and say that there is a system pinpoint test we need to do on this instead and actually go ahead and sell that opportunity to go ahead and test the system or component rather than trying build an all inclusive inspection sheet?
Ken Anderson (08:59):
Yes, I think so. We actually stumbled through that a little bit as well because suddenly you have an inspection that would are going through and you want to check out a particular, I can’t think of a good example, evades me right now, but suddenly your mechanic is looking down like check scan codes, just they see do you have any stored codes in your computer? Don’t check engine light just as a heads up and suddenly you have a mechanic that’s trying to diagnose why that code is there and you realize, wait guys, that’s not, we’re here. We’re doing that to inform the customer. We’re not doing that to fix it at this time. It may have been in there for, who knows, maybe it’s been in there for the last two months and it doesn’t bother the customer. The car runs fine, it’s a ghost code, but it takes a little bit of practice. I mean it’s taken us a bit over a year to really hone down to what we’re doing and even then just this last week we tweaked it a little bit there and it caused some turmoil and then made a minor adjustment and we’re back again to where it’s better. But it’s the change of going to digital as been for us it’s been phenomenal. But as I’d mentioned, some of the startup of their, the start of it was getting texting with our customers and then we went from texting to digital vehicles to DVI. After that
Bill Connor (10:24):
You got more mature into your inspection sheet, did you go in and find out that sometimes maybe less is more and they use the inspection to go in and actually that free courtesy inspection that so many do to lead to paid inspections instead.
Ken Anderson (10:41):
Good point. That is something that your digital inspection is not a do all end all. It’s not going to be suddenly you have this application available and that’s going to be super simple for everything and that’s going to answer all your questions. It isn’t. We do offer, at this point we were looking at doing 5, 6, 7 different inspections and we’ve narrowed down here to two at this point in time we’re doing our courtesy inspection that comes in with every oil change and in a quick look over, it’s not that many points, but it is fairly thorough. It gets a good basics down, it gives a customer a heads up. And then we do have one that’s a paid inspection that we do dig a little deeper into the vehicle. So the first one’s free, then another one we charge an hour for and that means the texts go through everything right down to checking, scanning the computer, checking all the lights, checking hoses, belts, hoses, all the fluids and the car are very thorough front to back and we actually are starting to notice that more customers are wanting to do that than they get the free one if they come in for an oil change anyway.
But there are times they will forego that I want the more thorough inspection, but it’s a different clientele approach that’s part of it as well as how it’s presented to them at the counter.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (12:04):
And would you say that most people who do now the more comprehensive inspection have seen at a previous visit, what do you call pre-inspection and now want more?
Ken Anderson (12:22):
It’s probably a split on all honesty. Many times we do have some people come in, the ones our regular customers come in that do their oil changes, that’s once or twice a year they come through with their vehicle, they see it, but then they, Hey, I’m going to go on a trip. I want my vehicle checked over and they’ll come in and separately do the comprehensive inspection.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (12:39):
I see.
Ken Anderson (12:39):
And it gives them just peace of mind. But it’s also, we have some folks that we’ve never seen people come in, no, I want don’t want kind of baseline my vehicle, so I want as thorough as I can get on it. What can you offer? And then here’s what we have.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (12:55):
Very cool.
Bill Connor (12:56):
You introduce ’em to a good and a best from the first time you ever see them, we can do this or this, you choose.
Ken Anderson (13:05):
That’s the easy approach. We say if you’d like, we can and actually my front counter guys are very good at it. They’re going through and offering it to ’em for one hour labor, we’re at a hundred bucks an hour. It’ll cost you, yes, it’ll be a hundred dollars, but you’re going to have a very thorough list of what your potential needs are on the car and what condition you’re starting with. So we know if you need to prepare for something in the future or save up a little money or what we want to inform the customer and keep them in the loops they know about their vehicle. We’re not trying to upsell them on anything.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (13:40):
And so in my observation, free lowest the value. Right. Have you considered calling it something else like vehicle health inspection or something where the focus on the free is less emphasized?
Ken Anderson (14:04):
We still call it courtesy. We don’t do it by itself. It is always going to be combined with the vehicle with other services on the vehicle. I see. So they don’t come in and just get just the free inspection. I see. At minimum it’ll be the oil change or rotate or if it’s on the rack for need CV axles, we’ll come in and we’ll run, do a quick inspect on it. But that’s the fact that we’ve got it down because we trimmed it down. It took us so much time to fine tune it so the tech guys can do that in 10 to 15 minutes, knock out a decent inspection. It’s going to be I’ll catch anything obvious and let the customer know that, oh, all the vehicle looks in good shape. So
Bill Connor (14:43):
The question becomes is does the title of the inspection make a difference? So let’s say that we’ve got a title that is doing the exact same inspection and is it a customer as far as value, does a vehicle health inspection have a higher value to the customer than a courtesy check?
Ken Anderson (15:00):
I would say yes it does. It is a certain amount of, as you say, perceived value. Even though we can say the same, we can have three inspections that are identical and you name each one differently and price each of them differently and then it’s making money, but it’s what is the customer going to pick? And sometimes you might actually know that this is the same thing, but is that what you want to do to your customers? No, I mean we don’t want to do that, but you can because it’s just like you see in many products in the store, it might be the same exact thing with a different label on it, but it’s the same thing at different price. So we don’t try to package it that way, but there is a value if you don’t name it, watch how you name things, it’s definitely because like you say, it’s not a race to the bottom. You’re trying to offer the customer a service and there’s a reason you are offering this service to the customers because you care about them, their car and you want to make sure they’re safe on the road.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (16:00):
I personally think there’s also a follow-up step to it. A vehicle health inspection suggests more strongly that there will be a discussion about the results and that is about the health of the vehicle. It takes away this potential thinking, they just want to find work I have to pay for, but I see totally where you are coming from. If you combine it with other work, it’s offered as a gesture to keep the vehicle running implicitly. The title doesn’t need to emphasize it because the way you communicate it, it’s already communicated to the customer.
Ken Anderson (16:57):
It’s a value added service, if you will.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (16:58):
Yes, that makes total sense.
Ken Anderson (17:01):
Yeah, that’s the big, if you start offering, as you say, free inspections, you get people in the door, you’re not going to really gain what you think you’re going to gain. That’s kind of like you say, if that’s a false friend practice, right there definitely goes, Hey, come on in, we’ll give you a free inspection and many times you’ll spend all the time doing that. Think it’s a great, you’re going to get customer base and you’re going to really impress a lot of people, but many times that’s a little backfire because they will come in and utilize that free service and you’re trying to do for them and go somewhere else with it or take care of it themselves.
So in the long run you can’t establish that relationship with the customer and then to make sure their car is taken care of, their vehicles taken care of, they just are looking for where they can get the cheapest thing done at. So you’re actually trying to draw in by doing that. It sounds counterintuitive. You think when you’re offering something free you’re going to get getting a lot of people, but a lot of times your clientele base, it’s the wrong clientele base you’re trying to pull in and you’re going to get the shop hoppers that they jump in, shop, shop, shop wherever they can get the job done for free or the cheapest and that’s usually, we don’t want that. None of us as owners want that because, and that what the customer does not often understand is when they do that, they’re not doing themselves any favors either because every shop actually could redo the work that other shop has done, so they’re actually paying more in the long run than just sticking with one shop.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (18:36):
Right. We have a question from Amy. I’m new to AutoVitals and shop management. Are you recommending that we only use AutoVitals on inspections and not all services? I’m not even sure what she means.
Ken Anderson (19:01):
I would take that as a,
Bill Connor (19:05):
We definitely want to use AutoVitals on inspections and we also want go ahead and use the work order part of it to go ahead and increase the value or perception of what we do. So to go ahead and anything that’s pictures and stuff related to the actual work that’s being done today, we can use them on the work order section to go ahead and build value into what we’re doing on these complex vehicles. So maybe that’s along the lines of how that question is directed
Ken Anderson (19:35):
And that brings
Uwe Kleinschmidt (19:36):
Up, that’s exactly the topic we also wanted to cover, right, to focus just on the inspection and the digital experience and keep the work order separate and just treat it like before, right? It’s a new tool, new inspection work order stays the same and that’s a false trend because you are losing a lot of opportunity and it’s also wheeled to the customer, oh, the inspection is digital, but the work order test and other things, and I don’t want to take your thunder away Ken, so help us understand how you determine, I
Bill Connor (20:22):
Want some lightning. With that thunder though,
Ken Anderson (20:26):
Sorry. Clouds are fresh out today. AutoVitals has actually ended up being our third digital inspection platform that we tried, but there was what it offered fit our shop and was what the direction I wanted to go in initially. You’re very right over the fact that you suddenly have, again a false friend if you will, is hey, I’ve got a digital inspection and it’s treated separately and it is kind of like an outcast. It’s not welcoming to the family. Well, one of the things that was so good with having a point of sale system is how could you leverage the technology Now all of a sudden AutoVitals was using and as the other ones they were using potentially iPads or your phone or what have you. They did not seem to, there was no interaction between them and our point of sale system. So they kind of isolate themselves from the get go and the offerings were very slim.
So we were able to, our first goal, our first driving goal was opening another channel of communications to the customer. We had been, prior to Covid, it was always a phone call, people walking in and to some degree a small amount of email. But once we started looking at the DVI options and we wanted to interface a few things, that was a big thing is interface what’s going to make the job easier because having a standalone digital inspection is just actually putting more work on your crew and are you really getting anything out of that? It’s just making people having to do things two or three times over. We actually started once we got into, stepped up through and got to AutoVitals because of some of our bad experiences with the previous DVI, we worked at it a little bit backwards and Bill was kind of rough on me for a while during the initial onboarding, but we did work backwards on a few things.
We actually started using it because AutoVitals was able to, one offered the to just do the text or talk to speech or speech to text, excuse me. So suddenly they could just push a button talk, the notes are there, so novar a greasy paperwork with handwriting on there no more they have to run to the keyboard and start typing up a story. At the same token, they could also take a picture of what they found treating it as a work order because suddenly that was like following, it was a side effect. It was a lot of us, for lack of a better term, was a lot of CYA. They’re proving that we did what we said we did and this and all of a sudden they’re seeing a value and that actually helped the guys in the back during onboarding because suddenly they started to see there was a little bit more value, okay, and ease.
The big thing was the interaction or interfacing between our point of sale system at that time and then the talking, just the efficiency the texts were suddenly they went for it and we weren’t even really doing the inspections. The inspections were kind of secondary or back in the background at that point we did learn that our point of sale system was not up to snuff and we did the change in our case, we switched over from, we had WinWorks at the time and I had that for 10 years. It was a great program. It worked really well for us and that was one of those ruts comfort zone things that we knew how the program worked, we could use it and we switched over after doing some checking into other options and reaching out, figuring out what program best integrated at that time with AutoVitals because of the power on having the guys be able to in the back push a button or talk and it shows up on the work order so we’re not transposing and retyping and suddenly you’re overloading your front end guys because they’re having to translate and retype it and copy and paste wasn’t always working and it was a headache.
Well, once we switched, we actually, we ended up going back in the day over a year ago we went with protractor and for us, that has been it. It’s unbelievable how opened the interface between the two are what the mechanic can do and that just opened up the eyes to the mechanics in the back that they suddenly, I can talk and I push this button on here and that service writer has it up front already on the ticket ready to go, and then the service riders took a while to kind of get them. They felt a little iffy on that, but working backwards from that standpoint, the guys in the back were really liking how well it worked with the work orders. So then we started little by little integrating and pushing the inspections and upgrading our inspections. I’m sorry, name was protractor.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (25:23):
So what did you do exactly on the work order when you didn’t do the inspection? Was it just limited to diagnostic and test jobs or was there more
Ken Anderson (25:37):
Especially on diagnostics or wiring jobs, that type of thing. But even so we try to get ’em to look at, okay, a water pump or even something as simple as, hey, they change out an air filter, just do a before and after, just a real quick picture. Click, click. At the same token, if you’re having to get into something awkward like some of the a cabin filter, well, some of these are real easy. You pop it and you pop ’em out. There are some though that you have to dismantle a good chunk of the interior to get to this stupid little filter in there. So maybe take a picture and because, well, why does it cost so much? Here’s why. So again, we’re trying to inform the customer and explain it because many times the consumer does not understand what we have to do on our side and how the car’s put together.
They don’t know. They just, okay, they come in and they still have a common notion that you plug a scan tool in and that’ll tell you, oh, here’s what’s wrong with it. Put this part on, drive it out the door. And it’s not that way as we know in the field, but if we can inform and let the customer know, they give them a little bit of knowledge in the background that they realize, oh, okay, that’s why. And obviously you guys know what you’re doing. I got my car back, it’s all back together and there’s no noises, no rattles and nothing has fallen apart. So you must have done your job. But that also plays into anything, to any repair on the car, whether it’s the wheel bearings, if it’s even many customers, there are some that don’t care, they just want the car fixed, it doesn’t matter. But there are many customers that are still very interested and curious about their vehicle. They just don’t have any way to get that information through. They very awkward. They are embarrassed to go up and they don’t want to sit into a shop and ask questions like that. With this, we can give them that information and they can learn it and look it up and deal with it on their terms and then come back and feel, okay, I can ask a question now you guys aren’t, we’re not trying to belittled them. So
Bill Connor (27:37):
If you were going to go into a high volume, a huge shop that was operating perfectly, you’re saying that a good way to go ahead and onboard them is to go ahead and explain to the technicians how to use the tablet on the work order, get a tablet in everybody’s hand to remove paper from the shop that same day so to say, and then work into the inspections a little bit at a time with a few people at a time
Ken Anderson (28:01):
That worked for us. We’ve only got three mechanics, so we were not a big shop, but it was getting the comfort level and the fact that we had some bad experiences with a DVI to start with. We worked with what the guys were comfortable with. They were comfortable with our old point of sale system because they were actually typing up their stories, they were typing the notes in themselves. The eye opener was when they could just talk and suddenly that won ’em over immediately the speech to text. They were just thrilled with that because how many mechanics can type or write for that matter and most, how
Bill Connor (28:34):
About the Marco effect? Yeah,
Ken Anderson (28:37):
Effect a greasy thumbprint done seal of approval, but that suddenly realized how much of it freed them up. It was an eyeopener for them working from the working because they were already comfortable because instead of trying to completely kick them out of the comfort zone work with, you’ve got to kind of look at yourself as a owner as well, not just make sure you’re doing it correctly. Because a lot of times we will overlook as owners and look at things incorrectly and push something that we’re saying, Hey, we see this. Here’s what we’re going to do. But we’re tripping over everybody to do it. So if we can keep them, I have one of my front counter guys has a good saying, it’s constant gentle pressure. And so if we can just take that little, everybody’s in a rut, everybody’s in a comfort zone, just a little nudging, just a little nudging and suddenly next thing you know the ruts getting less and you are out of it, but they’re comfortable with using the technology and that’s a big thing because not everybody, I do have one tech that is anti-technology and he’s actually going to be leaving us, but that’s actually because retiring so that’s easy to get out of the field, so that’s a good thing.
But most of the guys that I’ve got, they love the technology when they see what it can do for them and how much time it saves them and then what they hear. Because as mechanics, we want to show our customer and we used to be able to take the customer, go back under the car or back to their vehicle and say, here’s what we’re talking about. If they wanted to see it now, especially after covid hit, a lot of that was not an option. People weren’t coming out. A lot of times now we’re not even seeing the customer. We text them a potential email, maybe a phone call, possibly the car shows up, the car disappears. So you don’t have that human interaction that we used to. I mean in our case up here, that’s not super, I mean I’d say it’s probably about five, 5% maybe of our clientele do that. But most of ’em still come in. We still have after hours pickups and we still have a few other things that we’re trying to work with on them. But it is amazing once you give the customer the information, how that opens them up,
Bill Connor (30:52):
Speaking about giving the customer information, we go ahead and we got these inspections now and it is great that we get ’em done and blast ’em out to the customer and we think that that’s our friend that we could go ahead and pick up the phone and call them immediately and say, Hey, let’s go over this inspection and we really found out that we really need to change that and give the customer time to look it over and then go ahead and call us back. So do we find that as being one of the false friends we have that we can get this in their hands quickly and call them or do we need to change our approach?
Ken Anderson (31:26):
That is actually, it does depend on your clientele. It really does. And how your shop is, what your customers are used to, that makes a big difference. But in our case, we didn’t want to, it worked better to have the customer review it themselves and then wait that 20 minutes, half hour and then touch base with them. One of the other things was unless
Bill Connor (31:50):
They called in, unless they call back.
Ken Anderson (31:53):
Oh, if they call back then, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. We don’t go call and pester them right away. That was one of the big things. One of my pet peeves with some of these, like you mentioned texting. I don’t want to flood the customer with useless information, so I want to keep it very limited communications and just pertinent. Some of the other DVIs that we had tried out. There was a couple that we could go to and we’d send them everything. There was not this, so we don’t know if they even opened it. That was a big thing. We don’t know if they even looked at it, but there was also the fact that the estimate was already on there so they could just pick and choose what they want to have done. And for us, it did not fit our shop very well, and I didn’t really like the feel of that because you kind of suddenly take these pictures, inspection using it as a diagnostic, what’s wrong with your car?
Here’s some pictures, here’s how much it’s going to cost. Okay, yes or no. It’s kind of cold, kind of just blunt. And it’s not really, the customer sees a picture, but do they know what that picture is? Do they understand what that part does do if they even care? But many times they do care. They want to know why is that part important? And then once we said, we switch over to looking at AutoVitals, how the educational things go with the inspections and we can still tie that in with other things. When we send that to the customer, they can look up a video right there all at one. They’re not going to have to call Uncle Charlie and talk to him about on the phone, does this make sense? Or husband, wife, son, daughter, whatever. Hey, I think the shop wants to do this. Does this seem like immediately they just go out and start looking Googling everything, the almighty Google for answers that many times are not correct or comes back or gives false information and actually it backfires. It puts your shop in a bad light because it’s cold. If this doesn’t give you that personal touch and many
Uwe Kleinschmidt (33:50):
Times you have to reeducate them because they found 17,000 answers. Pick the first 10
Ken Anderson (33:59):
And then narrow those down from there. Yeah, exactly. And it’s been amazing. We did not have the feedback from customers with the other. When we did the other digital DVI programs, we had a few that say, oh, that’s nice. This time been about a year. The feedback from customers is huge. We’re starting to get so many more. They’ve never seen this. They love this. This is wonderful. Suddenly you because you’re providing them not just what’s wrong with the car, in our case, we don’t send the estimates to them. We don’t do that. We want them to learn, know what’s wrong with the car. I guess if you’ve been in the business, well called it a soft sell because they will sell themselves on, they’ll read it. If you show them a video of the ball joint that’s loose and sloppy, hey, that’s a safety concern.
Well now you have a picture and a video of it, and then you also have a little informational educational section. What is a ball joint? What does it do? How does it affect my car? Because you look at a picture that we send a customer, it’s like looking at our faces here you have this little blinders and that’s all you’ve seen is the ball joint. How does that fit in with the rest of the car? What does it do for me? And that suddenly the customer actually seems like it puts them at ease that we’re giving them information right in the same, they don’t have to go out and looking for it. They can pull it up, oh, that’s what that means. And then they call back and they want a little more inclination. And if they still want to, they were welcome to come in. We’ll show ’em live if they want to. That’s not a problem for us. But most the time that’s not a case anymore because they see the pictures, they see the video, hear the noises, and then they can do the research right there in what we send them and it puts them at ease. They feel more confident when they call you back and it’s most of the time they call you, you don’t call them,
Bill Connor (35:54):
But by putting them in position to go in and make good buying decisions, your people are no longer any perception at all that you’re trying to sell them anything.
Ken Anderson (36:03):
Right? And that’s something we do not want to have the, again, like I say, my dealership background was always a sell, sell, sell, push, push, push. We’re having a special on tranny flushes this month, so start selling training flushes. No, we don’t. And we were upfront with our customers and we wanted to maintain that. That’s how we had a reputation prior to digital video or digital inspections was we were upfront. Yes, they come in for, your fluid is fine, there’s nothing wrong with it, and it looks like it was just done. You had a sticker under the hood, you had it done 30,000 miles ago or 20,000 miles ago, you still got time left on it. Whatever some of the maintenances are, we will gladly, if you’d like us, we’ll take your money and take care of that for you. But if you’re doing it preventatively, we understand and we’ll gladly take care of that for you if you’re doing it because you think you need to. Again, it’s all about being upfront with your customer so they know that you’re not trying to just empty their wallet once they realize.
Bill Connor (37:01):
So if I get this right, you’ve transitioned from a paper inspection that basically had text only on it and then you went up to another level that had a digital inspection with red, green and yellow and a few pictures, and now you’ve actually transitioned to an educational tool.
Ken Anderson (37:17):
Yes. Actually that’s a very good way to say it because that was the original, as Uwe mentioned earlier, you suddenly have this neat product in front of you that you take pictures of everything and send to the customer and then you end up, like you said, predominantly overwhelming the customer with pictures and not a lot of information. One of the things that we need to do with the education part of things is along the lines is we also send pictures of what’s good on their car. If you’re constantly badmouthing their car or their vehicle, that it kind of sends subliminally a negative message to the customer that I take my car there and every time it’s, this is wrong. And we have walk around pictures like we’re doing and we’re starting to make sure that we have a couple of pictures in. There was a big green check mark.
Hey, your hood struts are in great shape. We didn’t smack this in the head this time, so that’s great. The hood didn’t fall at us, so we’re doing good, but also your tires are in great shape or little things to hit ’em with first to let them know that what they’re doing, hey, they’re taking care of their car, give them so they learn their vehicle, but let them know, Hey, your car’s in great shape. You’re not trying to, they may want to say, I’ve got to get of it, it’s just falling apart. Well, not really. You just to have maybe one bad wheel bearing and maybe a loose axle or something simple, simple CB axle. But
Bill Connor (38:44):
You’re saying your inspection today is part of your retention program for the future?
Ken Anderson (38:49):
Actually it is. Yes, it is the way that we put the customer at ease with it so they know what to expect and it’s amazing. The majority of our advertising is word of mouth, and we do have a few other very little advertising, but most of the time we have people come in, I heard from so-and-so to come and see you guys, or my neighbor said this, or we had one son came up and visited his mom and his mom was driving the vehicle. He says, well, let’s take it down to the dealer over here and get it looked at. She says, no you won’t. You will take it to these guys. I want my Jeep there, take my vehicle there. Don’t go there. So he was very, but then after he showed up, he was visiting after he came in, he understood why she said that because of what we offered to her, and a big part of that was reinforced with the AutoVitals, the opposite it gave us to add to the repair orders and the inspections made a huge difference.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (39:53):
Cool. We have only 15 minutes left. This is amazing. We are learning so much. I would like to get one false friend on the list, which I actually experienced yesterday myself. I had to take care of a recall, so I had to go to the dealer and it drove me nuts as a motorist that they’re still operating in the old mode of you drop off your car and then they say, and then I give you a call later basically when I know more, right? So there’s no, what I would expect is here’s our process we are going through. I give you a call exactly at the time or you get a text message exactly at the time or whatever. I mean maybe not down to the minute, but so I can prepare myself for what’s there to come and I know I get the inspection results while I’m sitting in a business meeting. And so the false friend I’m talking about is only tell customers about the next step. And I believe just from my own experience that a drop off or at any point where you can do it, inform the customer about the whole process. You do an inspection, here’s what you are getting, here’s what we want you to do with it. How do you do that, Ken?
Ken Anderson (41:38):
That is something that we’re working on. We’re still a little bit, because we are predominantly the dropoff, we don’t have a large waiting room at all. We have very, very, very few waiters. But generally we will let the customer know that once we have this, we will be sending you a text with some information on it, and it might be depending on how the flow is in the shop, we let them know. We give them a rough idea. We don’t get, it’s not quite as robust as we’d like it to be, but again, that’s something we’re working on. It’s
Uwe Kleinschmidt (42:13):
Practice. Are you showing your customers a typical inspection result before they leave so they know what they’re getting?
Ken Anderson (42:24):
The ones that come in initially? No, we’re not, to be honest with you, we’re not the ones that repeat customers already know. Oh,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (42:30):
They already
Ken Anderson (42:31):
Know. They already know the ones they’ve come in before. But we do give them a heads up that this is what we’re going to do and we will drop you a text with some information. You’ll be an inspection or the work order and you can look it over and then we can touch base after that.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (42:49):
Yeah. My suggestion is have one of your best inspection results you are proud of bookmarked, and before customers leave, you just show that to them, this is what you’re getting for your car and I bet the phone calls are going to go up, meaning
Ken Anderson (43:09):
I can see that
Uwe Kleinschmidt (43:10):
The phone calls you get back once they receive the inspection results because now they have a picture of what they can expect and are getting excited about it. At least the ones who are interested in more detail.
Ken Anderson (43:28):
We’re finding out some of our customers are, there’s a lot guys, a lot of people that they’re not tech savvy, so they get the text, they get the words, that’s great, but there’s a link on there all of a sudden, well, what do I do with that? So sometimes they will come in, I’m ready to pick up my car. Well, they just show up. They didn’t call. And then we will walk through them through with them with big moderate turnaround and walk them through it and we say, this is on your phone for future reference as well, and explain that to them. And then they learn, oh, basically we’re educating our customer on what to expect the next time coming in. They didn’t realize that that’s what that was because many people are teaching it like it’s spam or they’re concerned they don’t want to push a button. Yeah,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (44:15):
Yeah. Makes sense.
Bill Connor (44:17):
So now let’s flip the script and do what they do in a doctor’s office. Say, Maira, sir, we are going to do a vehicle health inspection on your vehicle while it’s here today. When this comes to your phone, I need you to click on this link because it’s important that we deliver a safe, comfortable, reliable vehicle. We want you to know everything about it today. And that’s how you do it. So if you flip the script around and you’re letting them know what’s coming to them and what to do with it when they get it, now you went ahead and eliminated that because, and we see this quite often with shops are just starting out. If they go ahead and wait till the customer comes in at the end, what they’re doing is you’re actually, you could be pre-selling something for them to do on their next visit or you could be pre-selling them jobs for them to go ahead and find somebody else because they make the assumption that, Hey, they didn’t tell me about it while I was here. Maybe they don’t do that type of work.
Ken Anderson (45:08):
That is a possibility. That’s something that each shop’s going to have to work through their methodologies on that. And I agree it is ideally if we can keep up on top of it, this is what to expect. There is a link we’ll be sending you push that link. It’ll give you the pictures that we take of your car and give you information about your card today and then we can discuss it. We will touch base and discuss it after you have a chance to look it over. They are starting to get that script down. Maybe not word for word, but they are getting to where it’s getting to be more of a more routine, more muscle memory. But again, it’s that part of that, as I mentioned earlier, that constant gentle pressure because it is actually, if you are a paper shop or you’re just getting into the digital stuff, this is a dramatic and drastic change and it can really completely upset the boat dramatically, but just a little by little, get it very comfortable. Take the next little nudge. Hey, this is the descriptors we start using, talking to our customers. The majority of customers, over 50% are just fine. They know what to do. Click that link and away we go. I would say it’s probably even higher than that, but different people, some of ’em we’ve got a lot of customers still have flip phones. They get the text message, okay, great, they’ll stop in and then they want the one-to-one interaction.
Bill Connor (46:31):
But the point really that Uwe I think that we really want to get across here is that we don’t want to go ahead and just rely on the tool to go and send these messages without telling the customer what to expect and when they’re going to get it and what to do with it when they get it. So a lot of times people say, well, I got this great digital tool and I’m just going to go and blast all this stuff to them and they don’t even know what to do with it. Then it becomes an enemy rather than a friend at that point. So because
Uwe Kleinschmidt (46:58):
It’s unexpected, right? Because it’s unexpected. I get inundated with a message or the lack thereof. It’s both. It’s either. So in my case yesterday it was the worst possible example. They had a power outage. It didn’t even know whether they would get to it. Do you think I got a message whether they ever got to it? No, at 5:00 PM they said they were done. I can pick it up and I had to call in. So that’s the absolute worst experience I’m,
Ken Anderson (47:35):
But that is also an experience that often happens at an independent shop for the same reason. Something gets overlooked, something gets dropped, and if this tool incorporating it, especially because we are using not just a DVI portion, but we’re using the workflow portion, that has made a big difference because you have a visual and you can keep informed yourself at the desk what’s going on, where everything is, instead of doing the usual laps around the shop, in the shop and outside to know where everything’s at, it’s a learning curve. It’s a little bit of time. It’s not. You tweak it a little bit to each of your own individual what works for you. But that does happen. We had a similar case the other day. Customer dropped the car off in the morning before we opened. We didn’t know it got missed around the corner and then we didn’t even know that it was here and then we got into it, oh, they found it late afternoon, they wanted to pick it up at four o’clock. We were just getting to it at three 15. So it fell through the cracks. And so we’re trying to figure out, okay, we have cases like that and you got to evaluate each one individually. Okay, what part of the tool did we not use? What part did we miss? We have the tools, we have them. What do we need to do to adjust this and minimize this happening? Again, we don’t want that kind of experience going out of our, and I don’t think anybody wants that kind of experience going out their facility.
Bill Connor (49:03):
So in your fire prevention plan for next week will be somewhere along the lines of apply a smart marker on it that’s going to go ahead and start flashing when this time is exceeded so that people can go and see in advance or you’re using, what part of the tools are you using to go in and make sure that you’ve had a problem that it’s not going to happen again
Ken Anderson (49:23):
Initially, a smart marker is probably the number one thing we go to right off the bat. And then as that we might discover between, we put our heads together and one of the guys might come up with another idea and we’ll give that a shot. But generally speaking, the smart marker is the easiest way, especially like you say it flashes, it grabs your attention and then, hey, what’s going on? Just as important though is to make sure you have a protocol or a policy in place. If you didn’t know, okay, take a moment on your 10 o’clock break or whatever, step outside real quick and walk around, Hey, is this car ours or is this the neighbor’s car? This abandoned car in our lot, most likely if it’s in your lot, it’s there for service. Chances are people are going to drop a car off at a shop.
Just no, it’s a good place to park. Hopefully not anyway, but there’s a chance that you look into your schedule, oh hey, that is Mr and Mrs. So-and-so’s, I need to get that in here. And they did not realize to put the keys in the key box. So there you’re hunting for the keys and that’s kind of a trigger. So all these little policies add up, but you’re constantly changing and adapting and using the tools and make the tool work for you to help you do that. But you have to keep your comfort rut low so you can shift lanes quick enough.
Bill Connor (50:47):
Just to have the smart markers and not know when to use them is kind of counterproductive is what you’re
Ken Anderson (50:51):
Saying. It is. You got a lot of pretty flashy screen, but you don’t know what it means. It looks really pretty. It looks like Christmas up there, but there are, it is worth digging into those for us. It helps a lot. We’re tuning them to our needs and even the ones we’ve made, we go back, revisit them and tweak ’em again to make it work better. And that’s its constant,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (51:13):
Which is actually an awesome plug for our next podcast. Next week we’re going to talk about, I
Bill Connor (51:22):
Wonder how that happens,
Uwe Kleinschmidt (51:25):
Smart markers and other productivity boosters
Ken Anderson (51:32):
And they are, that’s an awesome tool and a thing you could utilize. You don’t realize everybody’s used to the old ways, the whiteboard, the big desktops, calendars. And to be able to see the whole shop in one screen in motion and have multiple people that when someone in here does something that shows up over here, it’s a game changer. Dramatic game changer.
Bill Connor (52:01):
So we’re getting down to the end of the hour here. So I’d like to think about this is we’ve all got those friends that we need to watch really closely, otherwise they cause some problems. So what are the top three things that we talked about today that are on your friends to watch list?
Ken Anderson (52:17):
You have these tough questions. Bill. So many both friends, like those who need enemies. Communications is a big one. Watch that, especially on the marker that starts blinking that we do need to communicate with the customer that we think we potentially relying on the program too much and not doing our due diligence to follow up behind it. Don’t inundate your customer. That’s the other one. Just because we have some new fancy toys and it looks in, we’re really proud of it or we think this is really neat. Don’t blow your customers out of the water. Don’t try to over impress them because it will backfire. Now we think it’s wonderful that we can do all this, but it doesn’t backfire on you. And I think you have another one, Bill. Those two are my two big ones.
Bill Connor (53:12):
Now they got to come from you. Remember we had this conversation, they got to come from you. I’m thinking maybe we should get more people to explore using the work order section of the repair order, which is something that’s unique to AutoVitals to go ahead, build value into the complex things that we’ve got to do on people’s vehicles and we can use that to build value and trust also.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (53:33):
That’s huge. I mean I love this what you described for two purposes, the before and after is kind of the obvious, but also to illustrate that the seemingly high number of hours is needed because it’s complex. You have to disassemble the car before you, in your case can replace the cabin builder and that transparency is going to pay back multifold, right? Multiple times. I love this that you use it for that too.
Bill Connor (54:16):
I think about it this way, and we had this happen in the shop all the time, is their friend or neighbor says, well, how come they charge you so much to do that? They whip out their cell phone and they say, look at what they had to take apart to get to that damn thing.
Ken Anderson (54:31):
Education, that’s the big thing. You educate your customer and you’ll have a customer for life. They know you’re trying to help them and you’re not trying to just flee them.
Bill Connor (54:44):
And it’s great when those customers for life bring other friends and relatives in that are just like them. That’s
Ken Anderson (54:49):
The clientele base. That’s what you’re going for is the clientele is a quality clientele that you’re not going to be always skeptical of what you do. You trust them. They trust you.
Bill Connor (55:01):
So Uwe, you’ve got three minutes to sum it up, take it away.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (55:04):
I don’t actually want to sum it up because Ken just said it. We could do another hour about false friends, but I think we captured the most important ones and Ken gave great examples and hopefully our audience is going to do some soul searching themselves. What are the false friends? Just because you have been doing them for years doesn’t mean there are not better ways.
Bill Connor (55:40):
And where a great place to go ahead and discuss these false friends is the Digital Shop Talk Facebook forum. And we can go ahead and talk about your friends in there and the ones to watch and the ones that are really helpful to you. So that being said, we’re really at the top of the hour. So Ken, I’d really like to thank you. We really like having you on because basically you’ve been through the experience for sure and you’ve been through it with multiple different platforms, so you’ve got a little bit different perspective than those that have just switched over from paper. So we really appreciate it. We’d like to encourage those of you that are actually watching this or listening to it later to go to and join us live. That way you can chat your questions in And if you see another shop owner in your area that’s maybe struggling a little bit that needs some help, why not?
Go ahead, invite them to one of our prior episodes that you can find at Digital Shop Talk Radio. Also, there’s 140 something episodes in there. Lots of wisdom from shop owners just like you. Or go ahead and look for us on a podcast platform. Just search for the digital shop, talk radio and maybe send a link to a friend or another shop owner or something that could maybe use some help. So that being said, I’d like to go and thank you for helping us out here today, Ken Uwe. Once again, some great information’s been shared and go out there and make some money and wow your customers and have them bring in some other ones just like them.
Ken Anderson (57:10):
Absolutely. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Bill Connor (57:14):
Always fun. Awesome.
Ken Anderson (57:15):
Always is. Always good.
Bill Connor (57:19):
Thank you guys.
Ken Anderson (57:20):
Thank you.

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