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The Digital Shop Talk radio had many panelists sharing their success as a result of being open-minded and focused on teamwork when introducing the Digital Shop process. Ken Anderson – Owner of B & L Quality Repair LLC, joins Bill when looking back at 2021 and preparing for 2022. 

Episode Transcript

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

Bill Connor (00:05):
So good morning, good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor and you’ve reached the Digital Shop Talk Radio where we gather at 12 o’clock central time on Wednesdays to have our panelist come in here and help us understand what they’re doing in the digital shop. Today I’m here with Ken Anderson, owner of B & L Quality Repair LLC and Uwe AutoVitals very own Chief Innovation Officer is out today. And so today on the Digital Shop Talk Radio, we’re going to be discussing with our panelists workflow of repair orders as they go through the shop. I’m going to be asking Ken for some details so we can go ahead and get into this a lot deeper than we normally do on the steps and tools that he uses every day in his shop. Listen closely, you’ll take away some solid information to put the digital shop to work in your shop and as always you learn from our guest panelists operating shops just like yours. So Ken, once again I’d like to go and welcome you. We certainly appreciate you taking your time to go ahead and share with us too.
As I said, I’d like to go ahead and do a little differently. I’d like to go ahead and do this kind of a q and a and I’m going to anticipate some questions that I get asked all the time from people on the forum in other places and let’s go ahead and see if we can’t see how you do it and then share some of your ideas with them. So one of the first things that comes up all the time, and I’m going to try and go through the process all the way from when you take that incoming phone call from a customer all the way till when they pick up their completed vehicle from your shop. So one of the first things I get is that when a customer calls to go ahead and make an appointment, let’s say that we’ve got a first time customer, do you go ahead and discuss your process with them in the fact that you will be doing an inspection so you don’t take it by surprise?
Ken Anderson (01:52):
We are practicing, we’re working on that. We’re not perfect, but yes, we try to give them a heads up that we do have a system that when they have the vehicle comes in that we will be contacting them via their phone, via text message or email their choice in regards to we’ll be taking pictures, looking over their vehicle and sending them information about the repair to them and then we can discuss that Normally there’s just a little snippets, let them know and it generally it will be reinforced because they will get their text message reminder that they have an appointment that does, seems to kind reinforce that once they get text message and they Oh okay and then they kind of expect it after that.
Bill Connor (02:31):
So whether the customer calls on the phone and makes an appointment and drops off the vehicle in your Dropbox or they come in and stand at the counter, you’ve basically got a process in place to let them know that your policy is every vehicle gets a vehicle health inspection and the results will be sent to them so that way they’re not taken by surprise,
Ken Anderson (02:49):
Right, they are given, yes, we give them a notice, let them know that it’s going to happen and don’t be alarmed and you might be in a strange text, it’s not from our phone number but it does have our name on it so please watch for that and most of ’em are very receptive to that.
Bill Connor (03:06):
So every now and then I know shops sell, forget to do that and the customer feels like they’re taken by surprise that you’re going shopping on their car. Does that little bit of conversation, does that go and help alleviate that pain point that a customer has?
Ken Anderson (03:22):
It does. Most of the time it does depending on how thorough and how in depth you get with your inspections or what you send the customer, that can possibly shock them. But honestly in our case we’ve not had that issue. Most people’ve been grateful to get what we sent them and even if we did not, it’ll give them a heads up but they’re still very appreciative of it.
Bill Connor (03:45):
Well they know for sure that inspections would be done. And so when you’re actually a Protractor shop, I know for sure are you entering those appointments in Protractor and then having them push over to AutoVitals or do you enter ’em in AutoVitals? What is your process to actually enter that appointment no matter where you put it?
Ken Anderson (04:09):
Excuse me, sorry Bill. That was, we actually used, it was a jump, it was a little bit of a struggle that we started using the scheduler and protractor because of some of the features. So everything is pre-built and pre-done and Protractor, then that gets pushed over to AutoVitals. We tried to do it the other way and it didn’t work real well for us. So we have that way it saves a lot of time at the front counter because when the customer comes in we type their phone number and some of the printed information in the schedule electronically that acts as a reminders, no piece of paper floating around. It’s all digital and then when the customer calls or comes in we pull up the notes from that phone call, it’s right there on the ticket.
Bill Connor (04:52):
Any other questions I get quite often is that when you’re taking appointments, do you take an appointment for only what you know they’re coming in for or do you go ahead and allow room for expansion based on the inspection? Does that kind of make sense?
Ken Anderson (05:08):
It does make sense. I guess we did look at is making room for allowing the expansion off of the inspection just we try to have a buffer zone throughout the day so that we do have some of these vehicles that come through our tow ins or unexpected. We do have time allotted in our scheduled first time’s unexpected, but there are days obviously you get packed as well and we end up having to reschedule ’em so we still have that conversation once we send everything to the customer and have that conversation with them. Most of ’em are very receptive to that as well.
Bill Connor (05:45):
An example might be that a customer comes in and they’re an existing customer and you know that if they come in, their vehicle’s broke and they come in and they’re coming in for a brake inspection and you know that they’re going to probably need a four wheel brake job done. Do you go and schedule just for the brake inspection or do you just go ahead and say your service writer say, you know what, they’re going to have to have the whole thing based on They always fix their car and it’s always trashed when it gets here. Do you go ahead and assign a three hour block or just the inspection and then get that knocked out and then according to where there’s a hole in your schedule, go ahead and take that second shot at it?
Ken Anderson (06:22):
Actually as goofy as it sounds, we kind of do it both ways but if it’s preexisting customer that we have a little bit history with, we understand like you say, they come in for breaks. Hey last time we noted their breaks were down low, we just kind of set aside that amount of time for a break job planning on a break job for them. If they don’t need it then great, then we have something else to fill into that slot otherwise. But on something like that we would try to plan time to do the work that we’ve anticipated.
Bill Connor (06:51):
So things like a break job can be relatively easy although there is a shortage of parts of stuff but on some other things that it might be have some diagnostic testing or something that gets done and you might have to go and hunt down OEM parts. Do you handle those the same way or do you go ahead and say that look, we’re going to get the testing and inspection out of the way first and then when we’re done with that then we’re going to go in and find parts availability and find out where we’ve got a hole in your schedule to get you.
Ken Anderson (07:20):
That’s pretty much with the way some of the parts are for anything diagnostic wise, we usually plan an hour to hour and a half for that vehicle to be here for the initial and then once that’s taken care of, we let the customer know that we’ll go through, inspect it, diagnose it, and then get an idea of what we need and then see what our parts availability is. If it’s readily available then we can take care of ’em that day most of the time if it’s not, then we make sure we can reschedule them and get the parts let and keep them in the loop when the parts get here.
Bill Connor (07:49):
So another question that comes up real often when you’re dispatching repair orders is the order that you want things done in a repair order. So some shops say I want the inspection done first, then I want anything that requires testing and diagnosis, then repairs and maintenance and some shops say that hey, anything that requires testing or diagnosis gets done first so nothing gets disturbed and then the service or the technician writes that up and sends it to the service advisor and then they go ahead and do the inspection next and so on and they do that so nothing gets disturbed. Do you have a preference one way or the other on that process?
Ken Anderson (08:25):
Usually it’s better if we’ve been trying to go through and make sure that we do anything diagnostics first thing in the morning before we do anything else with it other than taking a picture of the car then we diagnose it, then finish up the infection just for that reason, excuse me, we might disturb something and don’t want to take that chance but then the priority kicks into what the customer came in for at that point.
Bill Connor (08:49):
And when you’re loading your schedule for today, do you have a certain point in the day that you won’t take a new customer in after? Because it sounds like you test inspect and diagnose things in the morning and then spend the afternoons repairing. So do you have a certain point of the day that if it comes in after that point that it has to go to the next day or another time slot?
Ken Anderson (09:12):
Generally probably right about 1: 30, 2 o’clock we won’t bring anybody else in because we are trying to, what we’ve been trying to do with our schedules are trying to get efficiency changed up in the shop a little bit is do all of our inspections and diagnostic stuff in the morning. So the afternoon the guys are just working and not being interrupted that way They have one car in the bay or two and they’re just working consistently not being interrupted.
Bill Connor (09:37):
Is there anything else that you do differently at either that customer phone call when they drop off or drop off at the counter? Anything you do differently to go ahead and set expectations with the customer as far as what’s going to happen through the visit? We talk a lot about a drop off script and a lot of places say, well I don’t like a script, but do you have a bullet point list that your service advisors really need to cover for each customer?
Ken Anderson (10:07):
We don’t have a script per se either, but we do have kind of a routine of what the guys are doing and generally it’s going to be giving ’em a heads up about the getting contacted on the phone via text or email, whatever their preference is after that point then we let them know that we’ll call them, let them know what we find and get them pricing. But generally speaking we will drop them information first on their phone and then we will follow up with them. Or most of the time we don’t have to follow up because they’ll call us back once they get the information on their phone. But that’s a just a heads up a lot of times we people we don, they drop the car off and we never see ’em. It’s all they drop it off in four hours or after hours. So a lot of this is to strictly be going back and forth by text most of the time and then a phone call
Bill Connor (10:57):
You have a different conversation with a customer that’s never been to your shop before versus one that’s come in since you’ve been digital
Ken Anderson (11:06):
A little bit, not a whole lot. We do just let them know that we are digital shop so we will be sending them things on their phone, make sure it’s okay, it is just the phone number, get checked with them. Most of ’em have a couple of questions or they’re in shock or awe that the shop will be doing that because not a lot of shops in our area are doing that at this point in time. So they really are intrigued by that and then once we send it to ’em back there, they like it. They really enjoy it.
Bill Connor (11:37):
Cool. So let’s go into, now we’ve got to the point where we’ve talked about getting to customer and getting appointment, getting ’em dropped off. Let’s talk a little bit about dispatching. There’s two rules of thumb. Some shops like to go ahead and assign every technician into point of sale, which in your case would be Protractor or the other rule of thumb is I’m not assigning anybody in Protractor, I’m letting it go and show up onto today’s vehicle page in a no tech column and I’m going to dispatch from there. And of course the reason behind that is a lot of times is that a repair order might get dispatched to three or four different techs before it actually lands on the one that actually does the job. So can you talk through your process and why you do it that way?
Ken Anderson (12:23):
Since we’re in Protractor, we do assign it. We don’t assign ’em in Protractor, we leave it as no tech. It goes over and we use our AutoVitals workflow. The reason is it’s easier the amount of information that shows up on that screen at a glance you can look at it and suddenly where everything’s at. We also are planning knowing what the vehicle is, the guys do know the background, this car’s in for diagnostic, whether it’s a drivability diagnostic or an air conditioning diagnostic or what have you. Then between our four guys they’re able to, okay, he’s better at this so we’ll put this on him and then they will, we try not to leave too many of jobs in the no tech column. We do try to stack up our tech so they keep busy, they look at their tablets and see hey, I’ve got five jobs today or I’ve got three jobs today. Kind of keeps them going.
Bill Connor (13:17):
Well in your case, your policy is basically is to keep that no tech home clean, arrange the repair orders in the order that you want the technician to do ’em from top down. And there’s another school of thought that you might go ahead and tell me what you think about also is some people say that, look, I’m going to leave ’em in the no tech column. My techs get overwhelmed if they see over one or two jobs to go and work at. And so it sounds like that you do the other way that you really want them to understand what’s coming and kind of get mentally prepared.
Ken Anderson (13:49):
We actually do both. We have an apprentice right now and so we do a little more of the spoon feeding. So yes, some of his jobs stay in the no tech columns so he’ll get one or two he gets work on to understand it. But the other guys and most techs in general, at least the ones we’ve got here for sure and myself when I was a tech I’d prefer to see what my stack was for the day. That kind of gets you in the right mindset and it’s a little motivational if you have two jobs and they’re done and you kind start dragging a little bit. We’ve noticed that with our techs. We’ve been trying to change it up a little bit. We switched guys. We were about a 50 50 where two of the guys we would food feed off the no tech column, one at a time, two time and the other guys we just, here’s your five jobs for the day, get ’em done to whatever order you want. And as far as the order goes, we’re not always top down. We do use some of the smart markers and if we have some that are urgent, hey this one needs to be done by noon, we put a marker on there so the tech pops up on tablet, they know that has to be done first.
Bill Connor (14:53):
Cool. And so let’s go ahead and talk about let’s take a repair order that’s got diagnostics on it. So you said that you really like your techs to do that first. Are you having them diagnose it, take all their information and getting it in the shop eyes only note area for the service advisor and then pressing the bell icon on that line so the service rider can start looking up parts or do you wait until the inspection is done also and have them send it in all at once?
Ken Anderson (15:22):
We do well depending on the vehicle, we do both ways Actually. The first one though, yes, diagnostic they do immediately because that’s what the customer’s in for. We do the diagnosis, hey it needs this, this and this. Send the bell, send it over. So now in case I do have a production manager and he will start going through looking up parts inquiring what that is and then usually they’ll finish up the inspection and send that over because it only takes a few, another five or 10 minutes after they’ve done with that they’ll send the inspection over and then he’ll be able to get started off. I already was started on the diagnostic part and then if there’s anything on the inspection found then he can finish up on that and then send it over from there.
Bill Connor (16:01):
I get told quite often for shops that actually follow that process is they like to do it that way because normally if something requires testing or diagnosis it means that it’s going to probably need OEM level parts and it’s going to take longer to find. So having the service writer be able to start doing that while the technician is doing the inspection just kind of gives the service writer that little bit extra time to work on it.
Ken Anderson (16:25):
It does and it’s also if there’s something, if we just, I mean all the shops have hit, the vehicle gets towed in for a no start and sure enough you go out there and what’s to do? It starts right up, there’s no problem. You just turn the key and it goes. So sometimes you have an oddball diagnostic and trying that a couple of times first thing early and then hey, this isn’t working. That gives the service advisor the tech can let the service advisors know that obviously and then service advisor can contact the customer and try and get a little bit more information of what the situation was, explain what’s happening so that we’re not waiting until four 30 in the afternoon and say, well your car’s been running fine, we have nothing wrong with it. If we hit the customer up early and tell ’em that we’re not having troubles, it starts great at this time, try and get a little more information. Then a lot of times they’ll spill something else or they’ll say, yeah, I don’t know what happened. Keep it
Bill Connor (17:16):
Cool. So we had a question come in and let’s see if I can go ahead and get this across properly. You said when you’re scheduling appointment in Protractor, how are you looking at that day’s existing workload and resource ability? So are you looking at today’s workload in Protractor or are you looking at the today’s vehicle page and hours assigned, hours completed and so on today’s vehicle page
Ken Anderson (17:40):
We are actually looking at the schedule in Protractor.
Bill Connor (17:42):
Ken Anderson (17:43):
We stack it up, we kind of have a minimum shooting to bring in six to seven vehicles a day right now. And so we kind of limit our appointments to that, keeping in mind what we have already and then each day we compare that with what is an AutoVitals, what’s our holdovers, what are waiting for parts, what parts are coming in and we try to adjust that. But far as far as appointment taking, we base it off of what is in our Protractor scheduler.
Bill Connor (18:12):
Cool. So when it comes to inspections, I know a lot of shops that they’ve got general service guys, they try and have all their general service guys go ahead and do all the inspections and just have it kind of backed up by master technical to come over and look and go ahead and give ’em that second set of eyes and others say that no, I really want everybody in our shop to do inspections. So what is your thought on that? What do you do in your shop?
Ken Anderson (18:39):
We kind of had the lower end guys doing all the inspections. Reason being we got our ATECs are running and they’re the ones doing the main load. I don’t really want them to one, I don’t want to give across that demeaning. A lot of times you have a tech that’s a high-end tech, it’s demeaning many times to ’em. They take it that way that they have to do an inspection on a vehicle. They are the ones that understand why they’re doing it and they do it anyway. They just don’t do it formally with the tablets and everything. But usually in this case our starters like the apprentice, that’s a good way for them to learn everything about the vehicle doing the inspection, what’s the leak, what’s the definition of a leak, a seat, a drip where and they start to understand the vehicles a lot better. So we prefer to keep it in our shop. We prefer to have the, as you say, the lower end guys do it and then the pass the work,
Bill Connor (19:30):
If they run into something that they’re not sure of, do they go ahead and ask one of the other guys to lay a set of eyes on it or do they just go ahead and tag, there’s a system problem here and it leads to a paid inspection on the system?
Ken Anderson (19:43):
Depending on it’d be either way because if I’ve got two buildings, two shops so that the guy that’s doing the inspection, if he runs across a question, he’ll grab one of the other techs and hey, just explain this to me and that’s not a problem. The guys work back and forth real well with that, but if there’s a bunch of things wrong with it, they’ll go right off the bat and say, Hey, this one, this is probably a little bit more than just a courtesy inspection. This needs to be deeper and then they’ll let the service writer know and then we’ll go from there.
Bill Connor (20:13):
Cool. So on the inspection when your guys are doing inspections, one of the questions that gets asked is how long does it take ’em to do an inspection? Number two, and the second question that comes up is what do you view as proper documentation on something that’s either failed or getting close to failed?
Ken Anderson (20:35):
Okay, good one. The times vary. We’ve been trying to get ’em down and a lot of that is depends on how you build your inspections and you want to make sure you get your guys a good routine but you won’t make a logical route around the car for the inspection so you’re not going up and down all the time with it. You want to be reasonable and work with the guys. That’s one thing. We worked with them to build the inspection because we had, prior to going digital, we had a routine down on how we inspected cars and we were doing it by hand manually writing the stuff down and so we just pulled that over to the digital side, kept the guys comfortable, they bought into it a lot quicker and when they saw how fast the digital start was, it made a big difference for them that way the buy-in was much more complete.
But honestly it takes a good inspection. We’ll probably take about 20, 25 minutes if we go and if we do our full, we basically we’ve narrowed down on ourselves to two inspections at this point in time. We have our big thorough customer pay case a full hour and we go through the customer pays for it. We have a lot of customers that do buy that and then we have our oil change or if we’re already working on the car inspection, there’s a quick courtesy inspection over some of the major, major things. If we see something, we make notes of it. Every car gets fit. Pictures though, it doesn’t matter what the, we always have walk around pictures. Initial pictures are always taken of the vehicle before it comes into the shop.
Bill Connor (21:58):
Give me an example of what you would expect. Let’s say that there’s the technician inspecting the vehicle, he’s looking at it and the brakes are worn out. Tell me how you would expect them to properly document that customer’s need. How do we go ahead and document that in a way that the service advisor trusts the technician and the service rider can use that to educate the customer?
Ken Anderson (22:27):
Everybody looks at brakes a little bit differently, but we’ve got all the guys have got the little brake indicators, little red, yellow, green measuring sticks if you will. So if we can get, luckily if there are some vehicles you can peek through the wheels, the big open spaces, they show that and take a picture of it on the brakes. If you had to take a wheel off, we’d take a wheel off if you’re doing it for checking the brakes and that way you can properly look at it right at the backside and put the measuring gauge in there and run off the bat if it’s red or yellow or if it’s yellow, the customer knows it’s right in the picture. And of course we modify the pictures afterwards, use the circles, the information of what the measurement is and everything else on there before we, but it’s trying to standardize it between all the guys. The measurements are the same. We’re not saying it’s this thumb is this thick and his thumb is that thick so they’re different.
Bill Connor (23:17):
So one of AutoVitals recommendations is on the pitchers is to go and have area focus, which would be the arrow and then also use the text to explain what it is, what needs to be done and the reason why the customer should part with their money. Is that the same philosophy you follow or are you a little bit loose on that?
Ken Anderson (23:34):
Probably a little bit loose, but we’ve got a big improvement now that I’ve got two guys in the front. We just had some personnel improvements last year and once we did that, we were just talking about this the other day and my service advisor started just over a year ago. He’s started now with the other person up there, the production manager to help out. He’s able to go through and doctor the pictures properly. So that means cropping all of this garbage out of the back actually focusing on what the picture is supposed to be of make sure the arrow’s in the right spot, make sure the circle’s in the right spot and has that description on the bottom of it. And once he does that, he noticed immediately the return on investment if you will. The customers were just way more interested. The times shot up on our research time, customer research time and there was a big difference on that and he noticed the return on that from the customer’s standpoint.
Bill Connor (24:27):
So do you think for the customer psychologically we’re just mentally moving them from a position of the service writer trying to sell them something to the customer actually educating themself by what we send them into customer arriving ready to talk about how much and how long do you think we’re mentally changing the customer’s perspective?
Ken Anderson (24:46):
Yes, actually, because there’s a lot of, we’ve gotten a lot of comments along that line that the customers and you can tell by when we see the research time shooting up and that you can tell they’ve opened up again and looked again or they shared it with somebody, they’re having their friend look at it. But then we had a gentleman come in and a perfect example was he worked with us prior to us going digital. He did have to visit us for a couple of years. He had bought a new vehicle, he came in here a month ago, wanted to have his vehicle checked over because he’s going down south for the winter and then we did all the inspections and did the digital work and he just could not stop talking about how wonderful it was. In his case, he needed a U joint I believe in that one and we had pictures of it, explained it, there’s a little video, showed the play and the U joint and we sent it to him and he just came back. He said he felt so comfortable, very clear, very concise. He knew exactly he was going to get what was being worked on, why it was being worked on. He thinks he just could not stop talking about how wonderful it was.
Bill Connor (25:48):
So you’ve kind of pointed out that if this technician’s job to kind write the prescription, give the service writer the proper pictures of stuff to work with, it’s the service writer’s job to go and edit it. And there’s some people that think that as soon as it’s edited they need to send it to the customer right then. And we’ve got other ones that like to file the honest one or the AutoVitals process of going ahead and getting it edited first, building the estimate based on everything the technician found, getting it estimated and then send it to the customer. So do you have a particular thought process behind which is your preferred way of doing it and why you do it that way?
Ken Anderson (26:28):
The preferred way is to have everything ready. So the customer calls in five minutes and you’re tied up that suddenly you have an answer for them. So ideally have the estimate done is ideal. Does it happen all that way all the time? No it doesn’t. Sometimes they get excited because they want the customer to start looking this stuff over and the service advisor say, well while they’re looking over I’ll get the restaurant worked up so they can start educating themselves, look at the pictures, figure out what’s going on and then there are times that suddenly the customer calls unexpectedly quickly quicker than the 20 minutes that the timer has and they’ll say, whoa, okay, I see all these things. Okay, how much it take? Let’s do it. And he basically caught his pants down. So we were trying to pressure and different policy or pushing it to where we want to make sure the estimate is done before we send it to the customer so that we don’t have any issues like that.
Bill Connor (27:24):
So if we remove that pressure from the service rider, they have that tendency not just to hit the low hanging fruit, they go and give them everything. Yes. So when you send the results to the customer, our preference is to go ahead and wait for that time to go ahead and pass some shops. They have a policy that if they don’t see any motorist research time after 10 minutes they’ll send the customer a text message saying just testing the technology to make sure it works. But the goal is to get that customer to go ahead and call. So what is your process that you use? Are you 10 and 20 or you just wait for the customer to call? How does Ken do it?
Ken Anderson (28:03):
We definitely use the timer and tends to not necessarily go with the 20 minutes. A lot of times it will be the 20 minutes to 30 minutes and then they’ll be the two guys will bounce off each other. Hey did you get ahold of so-and-so or they’ll be heard from so-and-so and if they see that the research time has been opened, then they’ll call or tire and touch base and get ahold of the customer. I haven’t looked at if it’s 50 50 or not a lot of times, but the customer generally will call back most of the time on a lot of these. Otherwise they will call the customer and leave a voicemail as well. We have not done double text to check that they’re getting the text, but most of the time you can tell they were in a meeting there, something else came up and an hour later all of a sudden the research time opens up and then they’ll call back. They’re not always available, readily available even for a text message like that. They’re not readily available.
Bill Connor (28:55):
So let’s talk about when the customer does call you back. There’s a couple different schools of thought there and some shops, when I listen to a lot of recorded phone calls, the first thing the service writer says is have you looked at the inspection results And they get a yes or no answer. And then I’ve got another group of shops that’s trained themself to go ahead and have the inspection report open and they look at it and they ask the customer, what do you think about X or Y to go ahead and get the customer a little bit of feedback and get the conversation going. So do you have a particular way that you’ve coached your staff to handle those incoming phone calls?
Ken Anderson (29:31):
And that’s one of the areas that’s a work in process this year. That’s one of our goals. I would prefer definitely the second method where hey you’re testing that they actually looked at the results that you sent the customer and you talk with them. But honestly a lot of times the customer, when they call back, they already have questions about the picture when they call back, I would say probably about 25 30% of the people that call they have not, we make contact, they have not looked at the information provided to ’em. Then once they mentioned that or we talk a little bit, the service advisor immediately pulls the inspection up on his screen and starts going through it. So he has something to work with but then, and also lets the customer know at that time this is also available, we sent this to you on your phone. Then that’s usually when they ask, did you get this message? Because there’s a link in there that will show you all the pictures and you can see what we’re seeing if you’d like. Many times from there, the customer, oh okay great, lemme take a look at that one. We get off the phone once they go through that with the customer once it seems like from there on afterwards the customers, we send ’em something and they open it up right away and it goes like it should nice and smooth. Cool.
Bill Connor (30:49):
So now you’ve got your approval and it’s time to go ahead and dispatch it to technicians. So now we’ve got several different things that can happen. One is all the parts might be available where it can get dispatched and done today. The second thing is that parts might not be available today. They might be a day or two or a week out. And the third thing is you might actually have some things that have to go to the machine shop and now you depending on somebody else. So can you talk mentally through how you go through that dispatch process? Do you put something in parts on and on hold? Do you put a smart marker on it letting the technician know when parts might be in? What does Ken do in those cases?
Ken Anderson (31:26):
Well as far as the parts, that’s, that’s why we get the estimations going in parts availability. So that way when the customer calls we can say it needs such and such a part, but there’s none available in town. It’ll be two to three days out. So then we can at that point reschedule or customer might want to leave their vehicle. It’s hard to say case by case on that one, but we want to be ready for that and that’s the case goes into waiting for parts, the tag, we’ll label it that and then generally we’ll throw a smart marker on there. I see lately you guys are getting a little lax on that, but there are a few times we do have some markers out there that parts, parts should be shipped when they’re available, where they’re coming from. That way we know as reminders for everybody, not just the tech.
It pops up on the tech tablet. He knows that okay, that job’s got put on hold, I won’t worry about that and they’ll get it out of the shop. If it’s in the bay I’ll get it out and then bring the next job in. So that, as far as the machine shop, same thing. If we’re doing head gasket or engine work, we do tell the customer right off the bat that we don’t just put a gasoline, we do send the heads down of the machine shop to have ’em checked and make sure everything’s okay before we put ’em back on. And so that we are at the mercy of the machine shop. So that will usually add up here. In our case it’s two to three days usually to have that taken care of and we’re just upfront with the customer on that and we make a note that we send in the when day we drop it off, we make a note of it, Hey this part was dropped off at the machine shop and the dates it was and then expect it in two days and then we’ll go and we’ll take care of checkup on it after that.
Bill Connor (33:01):
So you did mention something that I’d like to go ahead and kind of get into a little bit deeper. You said that parts might be a couple weeks out and the customer picks up their car. So do you just go ahead and leave the repair order open, put a parts order on hold and put a marker on it, get a deposit for the parts? Or do you go ahead and close that repair order out and open a new one?
Ken Anderson (33:23):
It varies with how much work’s being done on the car. If they’re in just for one thing, if it’s coming in for obviously if it’s any kind of a large ticket on there’s a deposit, we’re not, especially when you just don’t return policies from some of our dealers that we have to deal with. So they want the customer to make sure they have some skin in the game. They’re serious about it. If they’ve got a whole bunch of other work done but they’re waiting for a part on one last line, it’ll be two to three weeks before we get the part. We’ll close that ticket out, they’ll pay for it and then we’ll have another ticket open and waiting for the part to show up and then we’ll contact them when it comes in. Generally we won’t hold the whole ticket open though. We will split it in that case. If it’s a one thing, it’s a little part, not a big deal. A good customer they came in and they did say will change rotate and something else and then hey, fix this headlight switch or something and we got to wait for a few days for the headlight switch. A good customer will just hold the ticket open. They pay it for it all at once.
Bill Connor (34:21):
Cool. So now let’s say we’ve got everything here, we’ve got the parts here, we’ve dispatched it a technician and they’re working on it. Do you have them clock time on individual operations or do you just basically go by the time between how the tablet is open on a repair order versus the time on a repair order, is there certain things you have them clock or not clock? What’s your process on that?
Ken Anderson (34:45):
We for a bit, we were figuring that out. That took a little bit, struggled with us for a bit. Each line was as you said, it was like time clock. We don’t now we’ve settled on when they’re in the ticket. That is the time punch on the whole toll job. Doesn’t matter if it’s five or six lines. The only time that we use the timer is for some of the deeper diagnostics or wiring repairs or we’re trying to find an evap system issue. Okay guys, if you’re taking something apart that there’s really no set time for how much time we’re drilling bolts out of a broken exhaust manifold, hey push that button that way we took you a half hour, then we need to charge the half hour, that type of thing.
Bill Connor (35:27):
So you’re kind of going by our recommended best practice. Now basically the repair orders open while they’re working on it. If they switch a different vehicle, they press save and change or they choose a t time if they can’t work on it. And then the things that we really want them to clock is anything that requires testing or diagnosis time and material type jobs like rodent damage repairs and stuff like that. Exactly. And also if you do a labor time study for maybe a service package that is a repeating service package that you want to make sure the technician time is fair and the charging the customer is fair and then a labor time study, we recommend to do it for a month for everybody in the shop, export the data and then decide is it fair for everybody? So that’s cool
Ken Anderson (36:11):
And we haven’t done the time study yet. That’s what we’re doing on the horizon things for us to do with few of the jobs, but that is one nice thing that this system does allow.
Bill Connor (36:21):
Cool. And so now your technicians, do you have them mark jobs either partially done or done when they switch to a different vehicle? Do you follow our Dr. Pepper plan? Have them make sure they mark their complete list at least at 10, two and four so the service writer can be proactive and call the customer without having to ask the tech. What is your process on marking jobs completed
Ken Anderson (36:44):
That is, well it will be for any shop, probably a little bit of a struggle point. We’re trying to get all the guys to, depending if they stop on the job, but when they stop working on that particular part of the job to move the slider or the market, is it 25%? Are they halfway through it and then move on to something else. That way it pops up at the front counter. It doesn’t always happen. A lot of times job will all be done and sometimes finally get ’em to start. It’s taken a few months for them to get muscle memory to start doing that every time to slide over and say, okay, I’m a hundred percent done, I’m done. And slide it, tell it a hundred percent, then hit submit. But it’s a little bit of a struggle. You give the guys they need to learn it and it just takes a touch of time, a little bit of a
Bill Connor (37:30):
Pressure. The struggle started a long, long time ago back when they use paper repair orders and tear off labels to go ahead and get the technician to put their initials on it, their digital signature. And so now we’re just using them. All they have to do is just press a button. That’s their digital signature. They’re signing off on a job, everything went well and there’s nothing that’s going to go and blow up in your face and so on. So we highly encourage the service advisor when a repair order comes in and technician submits a complete that they go ahead and make sure all the jobs are actually got that full black circle in it. That digital signature is really important to go in and we want to make sure the technician is the one saying it’s complete, not the service writer.
Ken Anderson (38:12):
Absolutely. And one of the things too in my shop, I’ve got a bunch of younger guys that have not worked at other locations that did not have a punch clock to like the old flat rate guys who used to or dealership or what have you. You always had a little car you carried with you everywhere, punch in and out, peel it, stick it. But we did actually lot of time clock did that and set it up for a couple of guys so they would understand because they don’t understand. And you may have a younger guy that does not understand time, it doesn’t seem to grasp that concept. It is worth doing it. And we did the time clock at the time study and they started, it opened their eyes and then they moved over those two texts. Now they moved over to the system and they handled it a lot better. No understanding why they’re doing that. A lot of times if you can explain it to your techs, it makes it easier for them to understand why you’re doing it and they start again a better buy-in on that.
Bill Connor (39:06):
Cool. So now let’s say the technician has submitted a repair order. They marked everything a hundred percent complete. The service writer opens it up, they get a task created saying, hey, review this thing and go from there. What do you have your service writer do to go ahead and actually finalize that repair order, get it back into Protractor, get all the technician assignments right and things like that?
Ken Anderson (39:29):
Well first and foremost they need to look at make sure the tech made notes, especially the tablet. They can just talk and talk to text. I’ve got a couple of guys that’d like to type. So they got typewriters, but all the tickets have to have notes. What they did, yes, we don’t need did a water pump, but still, yes, you replace the water pump, do part old part, but make sure there are tech notes of what work was done, what parts were used. If it wasn’t, they’ll send it back out to the tech and have him finish it.
Bill Connor (39:57):
Let me ask something about that. So you’re having them make these notes and I’m going to make the assumption that after the inspection is submitted, the technician never makes any change to the inspection. All the notes and pictures for the actual services performed go on the work order labor lines that they belong to. Is that correct?
Ken Anderson (40:16):
Yes, that’s correct. Okay. Once the inspection is turned in, it’s done. But everything else, we want ’em to document what they did. And that’s what’s nice about AutoVitals is actually works with work order. So we were able to have notes, pictures especially of that rodent damage. Perfect example. They could dig into it, take a picture of it and show the customer what we had to dig into to find where the rodent was. So that’s really big.
Bill Connor (40:40):
So you were saying you would take those pictures and you would actually go ahead and send the pictures in that work order section to the customer so they could see not only the damage, but they could better understand what they were paying their hard earned money for?
Ken Anderson (40:54):
Definitely different diagnostics in the diagnostic section. We want pictures. We find that we send that to the customer as the work order it itself. Generally if the customer gets a whole copy of it, they will, but we have it on file. That way if customer asks a question then we can pull up the pictures and show them what we did. Or a lot of times the guys will just out out of pride, here’s the work we did on your vehicle, here’s what got done and why, excuse me. And the response to that’s pretty good. Honestly, I have a lot of folks are rather surprised at what it does entail to work on their cars anymore.
Bill Connor (41:30):
So your service writer, they’re looking for these notes and then they go ahead and on the customer notes, they make sure they’re approved and then they use the work order update button to bring all that notes back into Protractor?
Ken Anderson (41:41):
Yes. They do all the editing within AutoVitals. They do the editing, take care of all that. And then yes, they hit, in our case, they just hit the update work order button and that will shuffle the text. That’ll shuffle everything over into Protractor properly. And then the final closeout is they take care of it in Protractor.
Bill Connor (41:57):
And so it also not only brings in the technician that was assigned to the job because you didn’t assign them earlier, you can dispatch it however you want to. It brings in the technician assignment and it also goes ahead and mark that job a hundred percent complete in Protractors. So you got a big green bar there as a further visual for the service writer that, hey, this thing’s ready to go and deliver.
Ken Anderson (42:18):
Yep. And it seems like the integration is getting a little bit better over time. Some of the things have worked real well, excuse me, the actual to have it to turn green from the red orange, all the other color coatings that happens in Protractor when you push the update work order button, VIN number, mileage in, mileage out, because that’s up to the mechanics as well. They need to, we always have out mileage on everything. If it doesn’t, there’s somebody they have to go get it. But that is all part of the pictures, the diagnostics, the screenshots of the scan tool, the battery test, if we have that, what was broken, what part was broken. We’re trying to get to be a standard just like you used to back in the day when you did hand writes, you wrote a story of what you did, hopefully you did. So that we have a full explanation for the customer why they spent the money, but also for us to stand behind the warranty of what work we did down the road two years from now.
Bill Connor (43:15):
When the service advisor is finalizing that repair order, are they also looking at the deferred and Protractor and it defers in AutoVitals and actually going ahead and making sure that they’re preparing that next reminder properly. So make sure they don’t have anything that’s in the deferred bucket that they did today. If you price the good, better, best, do they go in there after the repair order is done? Do they go ahead and delete the deferred and Protractor that are never going to get used? Are they doing any kind of a verification at that point?
Ken Anderson (43:51):
That is something, again, that’s one of our working processes. But to help us with that, all of our inspections and anything that, any jobs that the AutoVitals, if the guys find and push the button on, automatically dump into the deferred section of Protractor. So in order to work up the estimates, they have to go into the deferred section and that keeps everything cleaned up. They realized that if it’s a duplicate or what have you, and that’s helped us a lot because initially it was not that way. We were doing it where it was on the approved, automatically approved, so it was on the front screen. Once we started dumping it into the deferred section, it made it a whole lot easier and the deferred much more maintained.
Bill Connor (44:29):
That’s interesting that you brought that up. So our best practice has always been to let it land on a repair order, have it estimated, then the service writer have to work to remove it. And you’ve actually, since that function is available now, you prefer to have them land on a deferred panel first and then after they’re approved have moved over to work order.
Ken Anderson (44:48):
Because that way we actually, the guys are having not grasping the concept immediately. Sometimes they just delete the line, delete that job. So throwing it into the deferred, it stays there. We have a little bit of a library, but it also means now they understand the deferred work and that again, the service advisors understanding what it is, works with that, and then can draw that, use that as our bucket to pull extra jobs out of.
Bill Connor (45:12):
Okay. So now all this has been done. I’m assuming that your last step as a service writer moves it over to waiting for pickup and at that particular point it’s going to send a text message or an email to the customer. Also, if you’re using text to pay, it gives you a task to go ahead and send a payment reminder. So my question is, are you using the AutoVitals text to pay through 360 payments or are you using a different method?
Ken Anderson (45:42):
We’re actually not using any text to pay. We took, in our case, we were looking at doing that and our current provider, we were able to do, we could even do a website. The customer could go on a website and pay never got used. Nobody was interested in that. So we also asked a survey for about two, three months of asking if some of our customers, if we could text them, would they like that? And we had about a 1%, 2% return said yes. So we have not made that jump yet.
Bill Connor (46:13):
Different things in different markets for sure.
Ken Anderson (46:17):
And it’s a good idea. We’ll be moving to that eventually though. I would feeling.
Bill Connor (46:20):
And so do you have a specific delivery conversation with the customer over the phone to go over what you did today to build value into it or what? They’re picking up the counter. Do you do a recap of the services today and let them know that they’ll be getting a reminder for the next service visit or set exit schedule for next appointment? What is Ken’s philosophy and process today that’s ever evolving?
Ken Anderson (46:47):
Well, it’s kind of the crystal ball. It doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to, but no, most of the time the customer comes in, if they have a moment for the ones that do come in, if they would like to review what was done today, they’ll say, yeah, I’d like to know. Then they’ll take the time and go over everything, bring up the pictures. There’s other ones that’ll be, I’ve got a couple minutes, so we’ll just touch the points that we did. And then they’ll take care of the payment and then we’ll say offer to send them a copy with all the pictures of the work order that you can look it over at your convenience. Oh, I’d love to have that. Why don’t you send that to me? That’s one thing. Instead of just printing out a piece of paper that has words on it.
Now in some cases we do print out the whole inspection and all the pictures because some folks we do have a number of folks don’t have internet or don’t have that capability. So we will print it out for ’em. They look at it and they like that. But the majority of our customers do have, they don’t want a copy of all the pictures and everything else. They want to look at it. And then if some of ’em say, Nope, you have a copy of it, I’ll be fine. No worries. And then they come back later, they ask, what did you do last time? And we can pull it up and show them what we did last time. So it’s a little bit, and as far as the schedule of the exit appointment or the next appointment, we’re not quite up to the dentist office level yet by that, by any means. But if they do have some work, we know there’s some parts coming or they deferred the work, they’ll have the conversation and send ’em, set a time for that with them.
Bill Connor (48:09):
Yeah, that exit scheduling is kind of like the last frontier. And with the technician shortage we have and things like that, we have to start thinking about telling customers, sir, there is a shortage of technicians in order to make sure that we can provide you the type of service that we really want to, we’d really like to go and schedule it now and you can move it if you have to, but we’d really like to go ahead and reserve time for you now and do that. So you’re giving ’em a valid reason to do it. But that is definitely the last frontier. And the shops that actually get that down to science, they love it, but it is a little bit of a challenge to go ahead and change the mindset. It’s actually a mindset of yourself and your staff because you’ll find that a lot of customers when you do that, they’re used to doing it in other areas anyway, so it is just a little bit different. So we’re getting down to the end here. So is there anything else that you’re doing different, unusual, anything that you’d like to share as far as what would you tell other people to go ahead and things to look for, maybe some struggles you’ve had and how you’ve overcome ’em? Or maybe talk about, do you have a morning meeting to go through some things and what they are? Anything that Ken would like to go ahead and bring up and share that would be of value to somebody else?
Ken Anderson (49:25):
We’ve tried to, over the last year and a half, two years, we’ve been trying a variety of things. We were trying the morning huddle, if you will talk to everybody, kind of touch base, all the texts, but we have a staggered time shift, so that doesn’t always work. We tried that for a little while and it’s mixed bag, but we are doing a regular weekly meeting. Tuesday, we actually at 10 o’clock Tuesday mornings, everything gets shut down. We have a half hour get together and discuss ideas back and forth, workloads, all that type of thing that comes out. That’s actually working really well with the guys. Then once a month, everybody has to bring in a suggestion or an improvement, a policy change or procedural change. Some, hey, we’re having some trouble with this, that type of thing. Everybody speaks up. It’s a pretty open shot shop.
Generally I have an open door policy guys, see if there’s a problem. We’ve worked together. If you’re getting back to some of the goofiness, when we went onboarded with AutoVitals, we did not do the normal way. So don’t be afraid. There’s multiple ways of onboarding. The biggest thing you can do is have buy-in with your techs first. That’s the once they’re on onboard and your service advisors, the techs kind of convinced the service advisors in our case because they loved not having to write, not having to type because there’s not a lot of texts. Exactly. Aren’t literature majors by any means. I never was when I was a tech either. But just to be able to talk to text when they were just blew their minds. They have a tablet, they just start talking. Is it perfect? No, but it saves them efficiency just jumps up immediately.
Take the time. If you have an integration, in our case we use Protractor. I do understand, I think tech metric and shop wear does it very similar that you do have the options when the guys are doing the inspections that save yourself a hassle. It takes a little bit of time upfront. Build your jobs so that when they push that button, hey it needs an air filter. The air filter lines on the ticket, that suddenly there’s no question and no doubt that the job, that the tech is the eyes of the service advisor. The service advisor’s not out there looking under the hood. Am
Bill Connor (51:39):
I hearing you say that you started out to your staff going ahead and doing the work orders on the tablet first and then you added the inspection?
Ken Anderson (51:46):
Yes, because we were already used to doing all the work order part of things. And that’s one thing AutoVitals brought to the table that we couldn’t have before. We did not start doing the inspections. We kind of kept those the way we were. We had a process for how the techs worked with the work orders in our old point of sale system and that meant they had to type, they had to write notes, somebody else had to type it in, whatever. But once they got onboarded with the work orders, it was a huge difference. They just really, really took off with it and overran our front office efficiency wise. It was
Bill Connor (52:23):
Really how long did it take them to go and get used to doing just the repair order days, weeks, months?
Ken Anderson (52:28):
Honestly, it was the first week it made some big improvements. There was a lot of foot dragging, that type of thing. It actually two to three weeks really would be probably the best way to phrase it. The techs, they don’t want give it up. You will have some of the old guys or somebody that’s afraid of technology doesn’t want to deal with the technology. But honestly everybody else has grabbed onto it and love it because it makes their job and their life a lot that much quicker and easier and really the efficiency. They’re spending more time working on vehicles and less time writing stories and it works a lot better for us.
Bill Connor (53:03):
Awesome. So a question come in, how can I get a recording to this? I want to share it with my crew and the answer to that is we go ahead and post these on the Facebook form and we also post them on the shortly after this is, and the other question they had is how can they get in contact with Ken and follow up with him? And the easiest way to do that is to go ahead and join the Digital Shop Talk Facebook forum and then go ahead and search for Ken Anderson in there. And we’ll go ahead and when we post this episode in there, basically Ken has actually joined us for some other episodes. So he’s always been open to go ahead and either asking questions or sharing his opinion so you can get some that can either way.
Ken Anderson (53:48):
Yeah, either way. If personal hit me up through Facebook would probably be the easiest way to go. The PM through Facebook. No problem. I should be able to, most days it’s open on the shop dock or on the AutoVitals or Protractor forums all the time if I have questions or looking up answers. So get me there.
Bill Connor (54:06):
Awesome Ken. So I certainly appreciate you joining me this way and I actually, I really like this particular format and I hope we can do more of this with some other shop owners to go ahead and actually pick their brain and get some really deep details out of them of not only of how they’re doing things but maybe even scratch out of their head why they’re doing it that way.
Ken Anderson (54:29):
And every shop’s a little bit different. So what works for us, we’re all going to the same end. Same means means to an end here, but we’re all going the same direction and the information that I’ve learned off of AutoVitals over the last couple of years has been, it’s been mind opening and it’s made a difference for me and my shop as well.
Bill Connor (54:49):
So that being said, we’re down to the end here. I’d like to invite those that joined us live to go ahead and actually share this recording with others when it’s available by going to I also encourage you to join us live. I’d love to go ahead and get questions in live that we can answer on the air. It also helps our panelists go ahead and sharpen up their thinking cap. Also, for those of you that prefer to go ahead and listen to these podcasts, if you go to your favorite podcast platform, it just search for the Digital Shop Talk Radio. You can find us that way. The other thing is, is that find another shop owner in your area that might be struggling a little bit, maybe seek out those low price leaders in the marketplace and point them out to
Have them go ahead and get in there and listen to some of these recordings from shop owners just like them that have kind of cracked the code and have actually started to go ahead and run some really, really high quality businesses. So that being said, again Ken, I’d like to thank you for those that have joined us live. Thank you for the questions and I’d like to tell everybody to go ahead and go out there and make some money and while your customers in the process. Absolutely. So once again, Ken, thank you and you have a great day.
Ken Anderson (56:05):
Thank you Bill. Anytime. Glad to.
Bill Connor (56:08):
Yep. Glad you volunteers.
Ken Anderson (56:11):
Bill Connor (56:11):
Do it again. Bye
Ken Anderson (56:12):
You’ll Bye bye.

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