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Today’s Service Advisors leverage online transparency to educate customers knowing that we as consumers want to buy instead of being sold. In this episode, three owners and Service Advisors dissect how the traditional motorist engagement on the phone has changed and why it is beneficial. Billy Catching, Adam Bendzick, and Tyler Hubbard join Bill and Uwe. 

Episode Transcript

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

Bill: Good morning. Good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor, and you have reached the Digital Shop Radio. For those of you that are joining us live, we certainly appreciate it. If you’d like to join us live, just go to and fill out the registration. You’ll be notified for each week coming.
And if you’d like to listen to us later on in your drive time or when you’re riding your motorcycle, whatever the case may be, look for us on your favorite podcast platform. So, today, I’ve got Billy Catching, the general manager of Aram’s Auto Repair Center with us here. Good day, Billy. And [we also have] Tyler Hubbard, owner of I-70 Auto Service, and of course, the infamous Adam Bendzick [of] Pro Service Automotive, and Uwe, the chief innovation officer here at AutoVitals.
Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into how the motorist interaction has changed fundamentally since the introduction of the Digital Shop Talk. We’re going to give you some solid information for what results can be achieved using real world examples, how to train service advisors to apply the new ways of the digital shop, and how not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
So, that being said, you’re going to take away a lot of tips from shops just like yours. And Uwe, what I’d like to do is give you the opportunity to get us started off here, if you wouldn’t mind.
Uwe: I’m glad to do that now that I’m not the infamous guy on the panel.
Let me just start with an observation. We had, I don’t know if you guys remember, [but] we started with episode one of this Digital Shop Talk Radio, and coincidence or not, Tyler was on that episode 1 and we talked about very similar –.
Bill: Well, it looks like Uwe has ducked out from us for just a minute or two, so we’ll let him get logged back in. He’s off innovating somewhere, so that’s great.
But what he started to talk about was Tyler had actually visited with us on the earliest episode of Digital Shop Talk Radio, I believe – correct me if I’m wrong, Tyler – it was right after we come back from the Digital Shop Talk Conference.
Tyler: It was. It was my first conference that I have attended. It was my first conference that I had attended. I think it was your guys’ second conference, but yeah, it was the first episode of the Shop Talk Radio.
Bill: So, we’ve lost [Uwe] again. He’s having a little bit of audio trouble. We’ll wait to get him back on. But basically, the path he was going on, is we had actually discovered that there was some of the data that we were gathering that was extremely useful when it comes to predicting the success of digital shop. And one of the metrics is the motorist research time.
But what we want to do is also explore some of the other fundamentals that everybody has to get dialed in on and comfortable with in order to make all the tools in the digital shop shine.
Uwe, maybe we got you back again.
Uwe: Maybe I’m not talking as much. That was just a sign I shouldn’t shut up.
So, I give it back to you. I don’t want to disrupt it any further and try to be cautious. I don’t know why I’m getting kicked out.
Bill: I don’t know. Maybe you’re playing on the wrong soccer team. It’s the jersey that’s doing it.
But anyways, we had talked about some fundamentals that a shop really needs to have to be successful in the digital shop world and in the marketplace in general. And one of the things was motorist research time.
But what we’re going to do today is go through some of the metrics and how they apply to being successful in the digital shop talk world. So, what we want to do is make sure we always want to increase ARO over time and we want to do that also while we’re not losing track of weekly revenue.
So, Uwe, what I’m going to do, if that’s OK, I’m going to share this screen I have so we can maybe highlight the changes these folks have made over time as far as weekly revenue and ARO, and then we’ll talk about some of the things that actually drove those changes in their shop.
Hopefully you’re seeing a screen there that has got some metrics on it.
Uwe: I do.
Bill: And so, all three of these shops have made some really good improvements. So, you can see that Aram’s, for instance, they started out in the AutoVitals world in 2017 and they had actually come from a prior digital inspection platform before this. So, it’s really kind of interesting. In their case, they had actually started from doing digital inspections and then had some very large increases thereafter.
So, Uwe, if you want to take off from there.
Uwe: Actually, I would ask Billy if that’s possible, because $915, that’s normally a transmission or European or something like that shop average RO.
Billy, can you elaborate how you with an all makes, all models [shop] were able to achieve this increase?
Billy: Sure. So, for us, again, all makes, all models, we tried to maximize the TVP program by reducing the amount of the cars that we see, but we tried to pattern our success or pattern our growth on the fact that we’re getting a very thorough and complete inspection.
Part of the other parts that are in that metric are that we get pretty good research time from our customers and that we’re editing a lot of pictures. So, it took the techs to understand that we could actually be more profitable and earn more money collectively if we just kind of slowed down and took a grander scope of the customer’s vehicle and gave that customer the opportunity to decide what they did and didn’t want to do to their car, instead of just kind of pushing the things that would be faster turnover, quick turnover on the bay, we kind of slowed that whole process down and allowed the customer to kind of drive the direction that they want the care for their car.
We had seen some customers coming in that had been clients of other shops, maybe shops that have closed or maybe they felt — I can’t tell you how many times we heard this – I feel like we go to this shop and all they want to do is change my oil. In other words, the customer kind of recognized that they don’t feel like they’re getting treated like their car was worth something, so to speak.
So, what we did by using this program and implementing a good inspection sheet and having a process where the guys were all able to buy in to the value of this platform, we’ve been able to completely grow the business, and it’s in a great spot. We’ve had record numbers the last five months in a row and we’re in a really good spot to continue that growth.
Bill: So, it’s really interesting. One of the things you said there is the consumer is telling you that there is more to vehicle service or more to vehicle care than just oil changes. So, that’s pretty neat to hear that from the consumer.
Billy: Yeah.
Uwe: Yeah. That’s a great combination. Sorry, Billy.
Bill, can you scroll up a little so we see how the staffing changed since 2017? Scroll down a little bit so that we still see the shop names. Perfect.
Billy, can you run us through how your decision-making process worked, adding a tech. When did it happen? Then you added a production manager.
Billy: We actually are still at currently three techs, so we didn’t actually add a tech. What happened in there intermittently, we got so busy that I went out into the shop and had to do a couple oil changes and do some smog diagnosis myself, but I think that’s how that got skewed a little bit.
Uwe: I see.
Billy: But we’re still currently at three techs, so we haven’t changed anything there.
We’ve just been trying to streamline the inspection process and make sure that we touch all the bases and all the corners on that car, and just give the consumer the opportunity to make the decisions on what they do and don’t want to do to their car, and what they can and can’t afford. And if they can’t afford it now, we make sure that we utilize the recommendation portion of our system, and then we also use your guys’ form of the carry-over.
So, if I don’t get a customer to buy-in on something today, then we can at least demonstrate to them on the next visit that it’s degraded even more.
Uwe: So, in other words, you increased your weekly revenue from $18,000 to almost $30,000 a week with the same staff, just by slowing down and implementing a thorough inspection-focused process. Is that a good summary?
Billy: That’s a good summary. In this particular month, there was a very large ticket that kind of skewed the numbers a little bit higher, but I think that if you took an average over the year, we’re not quite to that $29K on an average, but I bet it’s closer to about $27K. But the particular month you’re showing here had one single large ticket, but we’d been working on that vehicle on and off as a project for months.
Uwe: So, it’s really kind of a reference model for people who want to, before they add more staff, take a step at utilizing the process and fine-tuning it.
Billy: Correct.
Uwe: I assume, Billy, you would be available on a Facebook forum to be contacted and ask how you did that, because to me, that is amazing and is textbook keep your existing staff and maximize the output. It’s amazing. Congratulations.
Billy: Thank you. I would definitely be available.
But the biggest thing is, I’m the one who runs the schedule, so what we were doing is, we were allowing for more time in between visits, and then again by the picture edit rate, I’m very, very thorough at going through and making sure that if the technician was trying to tell a story with his tablet, that I made sure I put words to that story. Now, I understand some shops let their techs edit their own pictures and do whatever. I don’t do want to that. It’s just a personal thing. I don’t want any typos or any misrepresentations to come across, so I slow the process down.
There’s times where my guys may have just a little bit of dead time while they’re waiting for me to sell a job because I am being kind of overly thorough to a fault, but when that job sells at a much higher rate, and once we’re on track and the train is on the track so to speak, the guys love it, because they’re not having to run from point A to point B in the shop. It’s a more controlled chaos instead of just utter chaos.
Bill: What I really love about this is, in examples that we see over and over like this, where the shop is increasing ARO, weekly revenue, keeping the same staff, I’m looking at that from a service writer or technician standpoint. If I’m a flag hourly technician especially, I know that I’ve got plenty of work to do all the time with the least amount of movement, and as a service advisor, I know that I’m not having to write a lot of repair orders for an oil change and out the door, so it just makes it a lot easier to focus on the consumer.
Billy: Absolutely. Absolutely. I was told a long time ago that that sometimes you got to slow down to go faster. This is one of those kinds of situations, because I used to run a shop 10 years ago where we did the same kind of numbers, but I was running 10 guys, and I was there from six in the morning until six in the evening with no lunch. I’m 10 [to] 15 years older than that now. I can’t keep that pace up.
So, by slowing down and maximizing the ticket, we get the same results.
Bill: They have to be better results from what I’m looking [at].
Billy: Right.
Uwe: Did you see a change in the demographic of your customers? $915 ARO is a chunk of money.
Billy: It is, and honestly, by slowing down and not being able to take everything that comes in, we’re more reliant on repeat customers. So, I would say probably about 80% of our clientele is either returning customers or word of mouth referral from an existing customer.
We don’t do any external, outside advertising. No radio, no TV, no print, no anything. It’s just word of mouth, and then we do have a Facebook page that’s visited sometimes. And then a lot of our stuff is just generated off our reviews. We’ve got a great Google review rating and people are patient enough because of the reviews to schedule an appointment, and then I just am very thorough with them when they come in and do the drop-off script. I give them an expectation. Your car is going to be here for X amount of time. You’ll get notifications as it moves through the process.
And then you can kind of control the clients that you do keep because you’re going to find that person that’s just looking for the best value and the cheapest price. But by slowing it down like this, we’re able actually to control our customer base even better.
Bill: Am I hearing you correctly that you were able to reduce your marketing spend and repurpose those funds for other things?
Billy: Yes.
Bill: Awesome. Digital side effect.
Billy: Yes.
Uwe: Cool. Maybe we can switch gears and get Adam [to speak next]. We featured Adam a few episodes ago. The amazing success, more than tripling revenue over four years and not even needing to even double their staff.
Adam, could you summarize again $18K to $42K weekly revenue is amazing. How did you do that?
Adam: Without a doubt, our staff is huge in that. And then, the process of the digital inspections and editing the inspections, and creating estimates and such, all that stuff, kind of a culmination.
I didn’t want to interrupt Billy’s portion of it, but the one thing that kind of stood out to me on his end was the weekly revenue and the ARO when you do a comparison of it. ARO is up 66% and his weekly revenue is up 61%, which are both great increases and such, but actually it probably lost me a car or two a week – maybe not lost it, but it didn’t have to be quite as many cars a week to do the same volume of it, where he was able to keep the same amount of technicians, potentially the same service advisors, staff, because the service advisor is already making the same phone call to that customer. If they’re a little bit longer phone call, that’s great, but they aren’t now trying to handle 65 cars instead of 35 cars of whatever it might be.
So, in reality, he just did a lot more revenue with the same car count, and that’s what helped make it, I’m assuming, where he didn’t have to increase that staff size as much.
Billy: Actually, we reduced the car count. When I came on board, we were doing somewhere in the neighborhood of about 135 to 150 cars a month, and right now, that number is down to about 110 to 115. So, we’re seeing less cars, just getting more out of them.
Adam: Absolutely. That’s awesome. Ideally, if we could all slow down and have our teams be able to spend more individual attention with the customer, they’re going to end up getting a better experience.
On our end of it, we did have a huge location change in 2017 to a much more visible location. All of our things that we’re doing with inspections and all that type of stuff was certainly increasing ARO and increasing weekly revenue, and then that location change happened in 2017.
So, all of a sudden, you have this influx of 25 to 30 more cars a week, and our staff didn’t grow a ton more. We gained one more technician. We had maybe one more person up front than we did before. But all those processes of delegating work and assigning it in the workflow, that’s where AutoVitals evolved significantly throughout that timeframe to allow for a relatively similar staff size to be able to do so much more.
That was the biggest change for us.
Uwe: Thank you.
Bill, are you going to share again?
Bill: Yes, I am.
Uwe: Thank you. Because I want to get Tyler in as well before we move on and talk about his story and see his numbers. Viola. Thank you very much.
Tyler has been with us for quite a while. One of the first ones, so it goes back to 2013. Tyler, can you tell us how that happened? $386 to $728, that’s amazing.
Tyler: I think similar sentiments to what everybody else has shared here. I think really slowing down the process, and what I try to communicate to my staff is providing the best service for the customer.
I’ve heard it said multiple times, put the information out there, let the customer make the best decision for them. If the budget isn’t there – because we’re all on a budget and we can all understand that – then we can at that point in time prioritize repairs, but we want to make sure every time the vehicle comes in, we’re giving them a full scope of what’s going on. I’d hate to put brakes on someone’s vehicle and then them come them back a week later and say, oh, you need $1,000 more work. Well, I wouldn’t have done this if I would have known that.
So, we want to really try to communicate every time to our customer, this is the full scope of what is going on. If we need to prioritize things, this is what we think needs to get done. We really try to do that every time, and I think that Billy touched on that and so did Adam. It’s really providing the best service we possibly can for the customer and providing them the best information we can on their vehicle.
That’s how we’ve gotten there and it’s just through that time, since 2013 and joining on, we’ve really just kept modifying and modifying and modifying and making that process as best as we can.
Uwe: Very cool.
Billy: If I could just piggy back to that. We’re talking about consistency in the process, but it’s also got to be consistent to the consumer. Because that’s what makes these larger growth possible, because the customer then – what I would say is that if you do your inspections, do a really good one the first time that car comes in. You’ve now set that expectation for the customer.
If you don’t continue to do that for them, you could potentially lose interest from that customer, because they’re going to feel like, well, they took care of me really great the first time and then they made this money off of me, and now they’re not looking at my car as much.
So, I would just caution you to make sure you make the process consistent so that each visit gives kind of the same level of service to the customer, no matter if the work volume’s a little higher density or if it’s slowed down, because otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a little bit of trap.
Adam: For sure. Just kind of as you guys are talking, I was just thinking about – we didn’t prep this so to speak, at least to the best of my knowledge – but if we could look at an inspection from our shop in 2015 to now in 2021, a side-by-side comparison of how many pictures are being taken, the quality of the picture, the video, the notes, the captions over the picture, and so on and so forth, and do a side-by-side comparison, you would think it’s potentially two different shops. And that’s just how much that’s evolved.
So, it might be helpful for some new shops to see something like that, to say, our inspection is really set up nicely. Well, then you compare it to a shop that’s been doing it for five, six, seven plus years, then it’s like, woah. OK. No, actually, I need to be on this level. Those things are irreplaceable.
Uwe: Oh. No doubt.
Yeah. I wish we had prepared that because I couldn’t agree more.
I think it’s logical and kind of human, right? We came out of the digital inspection, and OK, we are now switching from paper to digital, so it’s still an inspection. The expectations were different. I don’t know whether you guys remember [how] you used to write letters handwritten before email came about right? So, the first thought is, oh yeah, I just write now digitally. Nothing else is going to change. That is so wrong. Everything has changed.
And we go through the same thing with the inspection.
Bill: Uwe, that’s really where innovation comes in, because as everybody else has started to catch up with what we were originally doing with our digital inspection, then what we’ve done is use feedback from shops just like we have on the podcast here today to learn what can we do better and then put it in place.
So, AutoVitals and the shops we work with, we aren’t just sitting here accepting the status quo. We’re just looking for, what can we do better?
Uwe: Yes. And we couldn’t have known this. To Adam’s point, if we didn’t engage in a constant communication and have a new product version out, we wouldn’t have found out what works and what doesn’t. And so, huge kudos to the toggle shops who helped us with fine tuning it.
But I want to go back to sitting here congratulating you guys like it was completely easy and there was no hiccup and the staff embraced it from the very first day, and we all know that’s not the case. Slowing down sounds like less money in my pocket as the immediate reaction. How did that discussion go? How did you guys get the team involved and convinced that slowing down is a good thing?
Tyler: It’s all results driven, and that’s really what it comes down to to get buy-in. Every employee here that I have has some sort of a bonus structure. It’s all results driven. So, how do we get to the best result? And the best result is the best product we can put out for the customer, and if we’re doing that, then obviously our sales and everything else is going to grow.
So, it did take some buy-in in the beginning as far as between the technicians. They’re spending more time on the inspection. They have to learn this process. But not only that, it has been with the service advisors and training them to go through and edit the pictures, just as Billy talked about. I am overly critical on the pictures too. I want the story to be told properly. So, you have to get them away from the fact of jobs aren’t sold on the phone. They’re sold through this inspection process.
I think it really comes down to looking at results, understanding that there are going to be some growing pains in this process in getting there, but if we can prove everybody’s benefiting – employees, staff, and customers — you just have to consistently look back and consistently at it and show your staff that this is working.
Bill: Really, in your case, your main discovery was, right from the beginning, a lot of people have a tendency to focus on, I just need my technicians to do a better inspection, and your saying is that you have to have involvement from the service advisors 100% sure, but to get them to work together as a team rather than just focus so heavily on the techs only.
Tyler: Oh, absolutely. I know one thing we talked about – me and Uwe have talked about it before and we talked about it way back when – is service advisor efficiency. How many tickets can they get through? Before this process started and before I really got going on it 100%, I know myself as a service advisor, I can process way more tickets now than what I used to be able to, because it takes me off the phone and it lets me put the emphasis back on the vehicle.
And I can send this out, and if I have the proper script at drop-off, and the customer’s expectations are correct, then after the inspection’s sent out, typically I don’t have a whole lot of questions on the call back. It’s more of, hey, what’s this going to cost? If that’s the total cost, what’s the priority to me? Those are typically the conversations I’m having now.
It’s not running through, hey, your brakes – basically going through all the information that we used to give over the phone is now given in this inspection process. It used to be, hey, your brakes are at this. Your cooling hoses are good. All those steps there. That information is given to the customer so they can digest it on their own time, and then call back.
And at that point in time, they have the questions that they want to ask or that they need answered, and we just move on from there.
Billy: Yeah. Same results here. So, in our situation, once I learned how to utilize the customer research time – I learned that at the conference two years ago now – and that’s what really ticked it up a couple of different levels, because once I could tell if my customers had been reading through the reports or not, like you just said, the tickets have gotten bigger, but my time physically talking to each individual customer I think actually has probably decreased because trying to give them enough information and I’ve embedded enough links into our inspection results that they’re doing their homework, and the question is more, well, I see I’ve got quite a few things. What’s it going to cost?
And like you said, you’re not physically having to line-by-line break everything down on maybe half of those calls anymore. You’re still having those calls, but the customers that have seen this process a couple of times, they’re hit to the game. They know, hey, you’ve shown me what I need to do. Just tell me what it’s going to cost and how long the car is going to be down.
Bill: What I really like about what you said about having more time to use for other things is in today’s market to where we’ve got parts shortages and things like that, it’s going to take more time to source parts of a proper profit margin and availability.
So, that’s just another way to create that time you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Uwe: Mm-hmm.
So, let’s talk about the process again. Let’s keep in mind the main goal of this process is to help shops who just started or who started a while ago and are struggling, where the culture might still be, we just switched from a paper inspection to digital. No other change needed.
Let’s talk about looking at those numbers Bill is now sharing. It is interesting to see, the ARO weekly revenue really correlates with increase of inspection rate, increase of inspection sent rate, number of pictures, and picture edit rate. And that doesn’t happen overnight.
So, if you could help listeners to [know] how did you set this up for your staff to be embracing this change, I think that would be super helpful. Who wants to start?
Billy: I’m never afraid to talk. So, in our case, when we came on board, we took a generic inspection sheet and kind of started with that, and then we had a shop meeting a couple of weeks after the fact, and I just asked the guys, hey, what would you change to make this a little more smooth in your estimation?
So, then we took some notes and I took some time after work and created new inspection sheets, and then about two weeks later we implemented the new one with just some small changes. And most of them were order of inspection. The guys wanted to start at one end of the car [and] go to the other instead of kind of being spread out. So, once we had that in place, waited two more weeks, had another shop meeting, asked them again, OK, we’ve done the first step that you guys thought would be better. What now would make it even better than that?
So, for us, we took like a three or four attempt process and they just did little tweaks. But I made sure that the techs were involved in that so that they felt like they were going to have some ownership in it.
Then when I got it to where it’s at now, then what happened is – every now and then people some get complacent. They’re used to doing something a certain way at a certain speed and then it becomes too comfortable. So, what I will do is when I feel like they’re not putting in an effort, I’ll turn around and take their cell phone number and send the same inspection to them that the customer would get and I’ll just ask him, is this what you really wanted to tell the customer? So, I’ve given them ownership back. Aw, I need to do a little bit better.
And then each one of them when I do that to them, I’m not picking on them, I’m just showing them what they’re asking me to present to the customer when they start to wonder, hey, how come we’re not doing this many cars or how come you’re not selling those jobs? Here’s your proof, guys. Because again, the details are in that inspection – and what’s the saying, a picture’s worth a thousand words. Give them something to look at. I’ll give them the story. You’ve got to give them something to look at, though.
Bill: So, Billy, when you were at the conference, you were talking about editing. Do you follow the processes that there needs to be certain things on every picture, which would be well lit and in focus, something pointing to the area of focus, something to explain what it is, what needs to be done, and the reason why the customer should do it? Or, [do] you have other things that you want to include?
Billy: Ours is a little different. Because I don’t want them doing any editing on the pictures, each picture they take, I ask them to take them in the assigned portion of the inspection, and then, as long as they’ve put it in the proper location, whether it be good, future, or immediate recommendation – because we only use three statuses on ours – then I just ask them to drop notes, and so they drop notes that are hidden from the customer that I can see when I’m editing. So, then, they’ll just say, right front ball joint went bad. Well, then, typically what we do, our process is if we’re trying to demonstrate a movement or a noise, I’ll have them shoot a video of it, because then it’s much easier. If it’s like a water pump that’s got a stain at the vent hole or something, they don’t have to take a video of that necessarily, because the stain’s there. So, they’ll just take the picture and then they’ll drop a note, water pump, and then they move on.
Because of the preemptive verbiage that’s in the platform, I don’t necessarily have to type out everything that we’re looking at. I just have to drop an arrow or a circle, and start to type water pump and then I can pick from a list of, I think, the last 20 things that we’ve talked about. So, it really increases the efficiency and the speed of me editing those pictures because that predictive text is already there.
Bill: So, when it comes to using video, your thought process is, if the customer is at the side of the car, you wouldn’t just point at it and say, your ball joint’s loose, you show them the movement. So, that’s the mindset that you want them to adopt.
Billy: Our mindset is, if you’re trying to demonstrate a noise or a movement, you’re going to take a video. And even when we’re doing lateral runout on brake rotors, they’ll put a dial indicator on it and they’ll shoot a video of the speed of the needle. It just makes it so much easier. And then I can drop the information of what we’re looking at and what the maximum specification is, and then I don’t have to sell it. It just sold itself. The customer sees that when they know that they’re not supposed to have more than five-thousands lateral runout, and we’re showing them a rotor that’s got almost 10 and it’s blue. It’s a slam dunk.
Bill: I really like that because we all know a customer won’t buy what they don’t understand. If you supply them everything they need to know to make a good decision. That’s why you’re getting those phone calls that say, how much and how long?
Billy: Right.
Uwe: Thank you. Adam.
Adam: I think this question was kind of a two-parter, for me anyway, of buy-in and everything like that. First part is, shop owner, shop leadership, why is there buy-in? There’s enough shops out here that are doing well enough with these digital vehicle inspections and workflow programs and everything like that. If you’re not in tune to that, you’re just getting behind as a shop.
So, that’s the first part is just really identifying your shop and goals and everything like that, and just getting on board with doing that, and once there’s enough confidence within yourself, that then exudes into all of your staff. For the service advisors up front, any service advisor that we’ve had come here – our current service advisor [is] John – they’re impressed by the program and they know it helps make their job easier.
Those 450 seconds, 413 seconds, or whatever it might be, that the motorist is sitting there researching the inspection is all time that a good service advisor would spend explaining what’s going on with the vehicle that they don’t really have to do as much anymore. Now, it’s like a short summary.
So, for the upfront staff, I think it’s a lot easier to get the buy-in for the program because they see the instant satisfaction of wow, this helped me sell that job. This made my job easier. For technicians in the back, in a lot of ways, there’s a lot more steps than they’re used to with paper inspections and everything, so the buy-in back there is a lot more difficult.
For us, at the time of when we went to digital inspections, we were a flat rate shop, and I know there are some shops out there that are not paying their techs flat rate for doing inspection, and I think that’s absolutely wrong. If you want your technicians to buy-in some, there’s typically got to be some type of reward or incentive to do so.
So, given adequate amount of time for doing the inspection, whether you charge the customer for it or not, you still need to take care of your team and then that will help with the buy-in with them. It can’t be, I have so many different things, and this inspection’s going to take me an hour to do and you give them two-tenths. They’re going to be out of the program pretty quick if you do that. If it legitimately takes you 15, 20 minutes, give them 15 or 20 minutes.
The return on that investment that you make as a shop will come back tenfold after you see the ARO increases and the weekly revenue increases like some of these shops are seeing.
Bill: So, did you discover similar to I did in the shop environment that our return on investment was a lot higher to pay our technicians to do inspections than it was to gamble on some marketing company maybe finding us a new customer?
Adam: Yeah. I would say so, for sure. I mean, you can look at all our inspection rates from when we started here, anywhere from 20% to 50% to 25%. If this wasn’t working, we wouldn’t be all 90%, or at least to close 90% or more, inspection rates. For us, our digital inspection started with, whenever someone came in for an oil change, we’re going to inspect that vehicle. But if they came in for a check engine light or anything, we weren’t doing the inspection.
It took maybe a couple of years – two or three years – for us to start literally inspecting pretty much every single vehicle. The only ones that we don’t see an inspection on is if someone brings in a loose tire repair that they took off their vehicle or a follow-up service that we just did an inspection on a week ago, or whatever. We’re not going to inspect those ones within a really close proximity of the time frame that they came in last. But nonetheless, we’re doing inspections on every vehicle now, which then turned into doing estimates for every recommended action that our technicians were putting on that inspection, where when we started to go into it, we weren’t estimating everything either.

So, we start making this progression and that’s what really has changed things from a volume of sales and an ARO standpoint.
Bill: So, the way you would sum up where you’re at, don’t wait two years like Adam to start doing inspections.
Adam: That’s 100%. Anybody that’s watching these shows that have some of the shops that come on it or whatever –. Literally if I could turn back time and have social media accessibility to pretty much everybody that I wanted to access through Facebook by searching their name, I would have been doing it seven or eight years ago, and I would have bene asking them, how can you help me? Just me a few tips or anything like that. Would you be willing to spend some time just talking about some of these things to accelerate that process of getting to the point at which we are today?
And if we could turn back the clock, I absolutely would. There is so much more accessibility to good people that would help you than we had eight, nine years ago, for sure.
Bill: So, the time machine for you, then, would be the Digital Shop Talk forum on Facebook that can accomplish just exactly what you asked?
Adam: Honestly, yeah. Yeah.
Bill: Awesome.
Adam: It’s shows like this. It’s a forum. It’s anything else. I know more about shop owners that are out of state than I ever imagined we probably would 20 years ago when we started the business. We were off on an island on our own just trying to make things work and build the business and so on and so forth.
In today’s day and age, if you’re not using those resources and potentially reaching out to the people that could help you, it’s your own loss.
Bill: Uwe, I think we need to hear from Tyler now. How about you?
Uwe: Yes. Turning back time –. Hindsight is 20/20. What I’m hearing you say, Adam, is reach out to your peers who’ve been through it and learn quicker instead of trying to learn it the hard way.
Adam: Yeah. I would say so. For sure. I mean, it’s just like I mentioned earlier, if you could show a new AutoVitals client, here’s Pro Services or Aram’s Auto or I-70’s inspection back in 2014 or 15 or whatever it might be, and here’s what they are right now –.
When you first get these tools that AutoVitals provides us, there’s a lot of setup and there’s a lot of time commitments and so on and so forth, and we’ve re-set up our inspections just to revamp it again. If we could save some of that time and know what we should be looking for right away, not only would it save a lot of hours of setup, it would also get us started on the right ball moving forward.
And that side-by-side comparison – I wish I would have thought about it yesterday when we were talking – but no doubt would you see a huge difference between the way they appear at that time and the way they are now.
And then, two, is our staff. John’s been here for over a couple years now or so. He’s getting so much more familiar with the inspections and where to click and just really smooth with it, and that consistency and that repetition is irreplaceable as well.
Uwe: If I may, before we go to Tyler, I think there’s a third element, and that is we as consumers, as motorists, being inundated with online education, are also changing our expectations once we see something on a webpage on the phone and develop our questions. Next time you want to see the [inaudible] again, because it’s a quantum leap compared with the phone calls before.
And so, we embrace that and also give feedback to the shops as motorists what was great and what questions I still have. We never talked about this. Did you ever feel during the introduction of the digital inspection that motorists felt this is the wrong way to educate them? I doubt that’s the case. Did any motorist ever say, I don’t need this much information?
Adam: Not even a little bit. Truthfully, when we first really got into this, the shops in our town – we have great shops here and there’s a lot of competition and everything like that – but when we first started, we were doing digital inspections for probably three or four years before anybody else was. And I was like, OK, this is great. Hopefully they don’t catch onto it soon, because we’ll be ahead of the competition. We’ll have it setup correctly and this and that. And it was really nice.
And then all of a sudden, you hear [or] see that another shop’s doing this and, oh, they’re having great success. So, what are they doing? Pretty soon you find out that now they’re doing digital inspections. Let’s try that. That worked and it made a difference.
I was worried that some not as high quality or morally, ethically – the good shops, the shops like Billy’s and Tyler’s and a lot of AutoVitals customers – those good shops that are doing good quality inspections, that are doing it for the right reasons to educate their customers and so on and so forth and be more transparent, I didn’t want other shops to just use it as a selling tool and then devalue the inspection.
That was my belief four or five years ago. And I would tell you absolutely wrong on that end of it – there is potentially that going on there – but now the customers are so conditioned to expect a digital inspection, whether we are the first shop that’s even done one for them or not, they’ve seen it before and they’re used to it, and it actually makes it easier for them to go through our process, because now they’re not choosing us because we’re the only shop that does the digital inspection. They’re choosing us for all the other reasons of good reputation and so on and so forth, and the digital inspection is just something that they expect at this point.
Billy: Yeah. Kind of the same situation you just stated. There are other shops that are doing them, but by putting forward that extra effort, the response from the customer is, yeah, I’ve seen a couple of these before but nothing like this one.
Adam: Exactly.
Billy: So, just make sure that you take the time to make the inspection sheet yours and just customize it. I know that the recommendations are there to personalize the photographs and the service advisor and the car, those are all great touches because not everybody’s doing that, but my recommendation would also be to make sure that you embed links in your inspection results so you’re driving the customer to that education without them having to call you and say, well, why would I do this?
So, it does take extra time, but I promise you, it’s worth the reward.
Uwe: Thank you.
Tyler, last but not least.
Tyler: I know, right?
Adam and Billy both touched on a lot of stuff. I know for me as a shop owner and as a service advisor, one of the most overlooked matrix and what I really look at is motorist research time. I know if my motorist research time is high, everybody on the team is doing their job correctly, whether that be the technician, whether that be the service advisor, I know at that point in time, that research time is above 400 seconds or whatever it might be, everybody’s doing their job correctly. And I think a lot of times it gets lost in the fact of like, how many pictures do we have? What was our inspection rate? What is all that?
What’s my motorist research time? Because just loose tires, state inspections, I don’t do inspections obviously on those vehicles. I have some vehicles where it’s a fleet account and I have my one main invoice and then they have to break it up into three different invoices, one invoice for DOT and that stuff, so my inspection rate can drop a little bit there, but for me, what it comes down to is motorist research time. And if that’s high, everybody in my shop is doing their job correctly. I’m getting the customer the right information and it’s being done consistently if my average score is high.
And I think that’s what it comes down to. It just comes down to consistency, whether that be with the technicians or the service advisors, setting up that conversation. I know that was probably my big aha moment to get my motorist research time higher is having that conversation when the customer drops it off: This is the process. This is how it’s going to work. These are your expectations. And if we can set those correctly with the customer, it’s just a lot easier end goal.
Uwe: I love Billy’s way of involving the techs by sending them the inspection results on their cell phone. Do you have similar things, how you keep everybody engaged and involved? Do you review the motorist research time in shop meetings or how do you keep everybody on track?
Tyler: Honestly, with my techs, I had done that years ago, and they’ve all been here for a while. I used to text them information just so they can see it. A lot of times too now, my lead technician or my production manager, Michael, he’s got access to the website where he can go through and view all that stuff and he can see what’s being presented. But we do talk about it in shop meetings when it does drop down.
But for me, a lot of times, it just really comes down [to], like I said, if that number is high, everybody’s doing their job right and we can focus on other things in the shop. You never want to lose sight of it, and you always want to touch on your basics and everything you have in place, but when everything’s going smoothly at that point in time, you can grow and start focusing on other things, too.
Uwe: Very cool. Thank you, Tyler.
Wow, the hour is already over.
Bill: We’ll have to invite these guys back again.
Uwe: Yes.
Bill: Interesting thing was where Adam talked about leadership. Maybe we need to have the next podcast be about leadership. What do you think, Uwe?
Uwe: Yes. So, we’re going to have Ricky and Dan next week on about the new kind of transformational leadership. I’m looking forward to that. It’s going to be awesome.
But, back to this. Thank you, gentlemen. I learned quite a bit. I thought I heard it all by now. Thank you very much, and I hope shops who find the time to listen to this will get a lot out of it.
Bill: Once again, guys, I’d like to thank you for joining us today and sharing your wisdom, for sure. I’d like to invite people to go to Digital Shop Talk Radio and register, so attend live so we can get your questions in and answered live. And for those of you who prefer to listen to a podcast, just search on your favorite podcast platform for the Digital Shop Talk Radio and join us.
So, once again, this is a wrap and I’d like to [invite] everybody to go home and get with your staff and wow your customers and turn them into raving fans. And also, see if you can’t find another shop in your area that might be struggling a little bit, invite them to a podcast or a live session and see if we can’t help the industry.
So, that being said, let’s all wrap, and have a great day and go make some money. Thank you, guys.
Tyler: Thank you, guys.
Adam: Thank you.
Billy: Thanks for having us.

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