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Episode Description

On this episode of The Digital Shop Talk Radio, Dennis Eidson of Honest-1 in Roswell, GA, shares his experience implementing new software systems and whether it’s better to take a “rip-the-bandaid-off” approach and do it all at once, or take a more deliberate, incremental approach over time.

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Episode Transcript

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

Bill Connor (00:06):
Good morning and good afternoon. Or for those that know me, they normally know that I just say good day and go ahead and get right into it. So that’s what I’m going to do. So my name is Bill Connor and I’m the host for the Digital Shop Talk Radio. And on today’s episode, I’d really like to go ahead and welcome back Marty Mace and Dennis Eidson. But Marty Mace is going to be here in just name only because he got kind of bush whacked sidetracked, so he couldn’t make it in, but he’s going to be an important part of this particular episode as far as the way he went about doing things. So this episode is about whether you’re considering when you come on board with AutoVitals or as you are bringing in new employees for replacements, because we all know you’re either going to be replacing employees because they either age out, they move on or for growth.
The same process we talked about today is going to be used for future employees just the same as they are if you’re just coming onto AutoVitals. That being said, the two different mindsets are either ripping off the bandaid and just jumping in there and doing it and maybe overcoming some hurdles that go along or maybe taking a more leisurely course so to say. And we’re going to examine both of them to go ahead and find out the pros and cons of both. So if I do my job and Dennis helps me along here by the end of this episode, we should realize that even though there’s a million excuses not to get started doing this today, there’s not really any good valid ones. So that being said, Dennis, if you would introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your shop, how many bays you have, service advisors, technicians, and so on. And then we’ll get down into a little bit more on the topic.
Dennis Eidson (01:52):
Sure. Thanks Bill. Glad to be here again. I think I was on about six months ago and enjoyed that on a shop in Roswell, Georgia. We’ve been here for about 10 years. We’ve been using AutoVitals for coming up on our two year anniversary. We really didn’t get good at until maybe a year and a half ago. And then obviously that changes. We’ve got six bays, I’ve got four and a half techs trying to hire another one. And that’s probably been a year long process where I’m just going to find what I need and I’ve got three manager slash service advisors that are on the front end.
Bill Connor (02:37):
So that’s pretty cool. So one day you’re going to have to go and explain to me where you can go and get half a technician, but that’s a story for another episode I’m sure. And so what I wanted to do is go ahead,
Dennis Eidson (02:49):
Let’s get back to that because that’s an important aspect of how we’ve implemented and I’ll talk about what I did with that technician. And he doesn’t have a full-time turning wrenches role, so he’s got a very important role as it relates to inspections and automobiles.
Bill Connor (03:04):
Okay. So if you would, let’s hold that in the parking lot for now, and let’s go through here a little bit further. So when you’re going to become a digital shop, there’s a lot of change in process that goes on in this. And what I’d like to know is that what was the reaction of your staff when you said that we are going to go on this journey and we’re going to do it together?
Dennis Eidson (03:28):
Sure. The first thing is I had been trying for years to grow our average repair order. So that was a strategy long before we went to AutoVitals. And the reason is I’ve only got six bays. I’ve got a really small parking lot, so we needed to be getting more value out of the cars that were here. So we had some success. We were growing our average repair order gradually, slowly over a long period of time, but I knew that other shops were doing better. I knew that our farm numbers weren’t even close to some industry averages. So I started with another digital inspection company, did that for about a year, probably four or five years ago, and ran into you and Uwe at various conferences and heard a lot about AutoVitals. So we jumped on two years ago, and so I announced that we had meetings, we had conversations, we had sort of beginning training classes to get all the service advisors and all the techs up to speed. That was sort of how we started. I think we started kind of slow again, those first six months we saw we moved the needle a little bit, but not a lot. And so that’s kind of where I learned maybe part of how I implemented, that’s where I learned and how I would do it a little bit differently today.
Bill Connor (04:54):
So what I’m going to do is I’m going to step back a little bit earlier. And so we talked about Marty Mace. And Marty Mace took a completely different path than you did. So at the time that Marty was actually introduced to AutoVitals, he was basically working in a franchise shop as a general manager, the number one volume franchise shop in the franchise by a huge amount. And what he did is he decided to go a little bit differently. And when I say there’s no valid reason not to do it today, what he did is on a 4th of July where they had twice as many cars as they normally do, he basically said, alright guys, I’m going to come in here today. We said this is coming. You’ve had the tablets laying in front of you. What I’m going to do today is there’s no more paper in the shop today.
Everything is going to be done from the tablet. Those paper inspections that you used to do before, you’re going to do them on a tablet. So this is a true case of ripping off the bandaid and just making it work. And so if you can imagine doing that into your shop, it takes a special personality first to go ahead and actually dive off and do that. But it also takes being able to overcome some objections that go along. So he did this and he did it very well, and he did it very successfully just by ripping off the bandaid saying, this is what we’re going to do, this is what’s in it for you, and by the way, we’re going to do it today and if we can do it today, we can do it on any day. And so that’s where his journey started.
And since then he implemented that at that shop and then a few years later he had the opportunity to go ahead and buy his own location. And now what he did is he took lessons learned from that, and I guess he didn’t learn very much by it because he went into his own location and he ripped off the bandaid and did it again. So Marty is kind of the exception to the rule, but is proof positive and we’ve got hundreds of others that do it exactly the same way. And then we got Dennis here that I wanted to talk about his journey because his journey is more of the common thing that goes on in the shop process. So we got one that’s kind of like taking an adult and getting on a bicycle and just running off and riding and he gets his destination really quick and we got another one that kind of paddle walks a little bit and then gets on a bicycle and takes a shorter trip and then a longer trip and a longer trip.
And if they fall down, that’s okay. They get up and look around and make sure nobody’s seen them and then they go on. But both of them have got to the same destination. They’re fully implemented, they’re using the tools, a large part of them, and they’re using it to solve problems in their shop. So let’s go on a little bit further. But the important thing is this is like the tail of two implementations and while there’s no right way or there’s no wrong way, getting to the end of the journey in the quickest way possible is what’s going to help you get money in the bank, solve problems and so on. So with that being said, Marty couldn’t be here with us, but we’ll get him on another future. So to go through some of this and why he did it. So tell me a little bit about when you got the staff to start using the system when it comes to the internal chat, any kind of struggles or communications you had with them to start using that very important part of the tool and why you explained to them what’s in it for them to use it.
Dennis Eidson (08:16):
I wish I could say we were really good at that. Good news. Bad news is my shop is really small, there’s six bays. My service advisors, we have a service desk actually in the shop, so there’s a bullpen where the service advisors are working. So that internal chat functionality may not be as important to us because I can, service advisor can say, Hey, Bob, hey Bill, hey Frank, because they’re right there. But we do use it to, I’ve never done a no talk Tuesday and I’ve heard other shop owners talk about doing a no talk Tuesday, but we do send reminders to the techs, Hey, come see me, let’s talk more about this. Give me some more information. But I would say of all the things that are within AutoVitals that’s not at the top of the list of the things that we’re using all the time, but it’s nice to remind them, it’s nice to send them, your parts are here, come talk to me. I got a question, that kind of thing, but it’s not.
Bill Connor (09:24):
So I’m going to ask you to go ahead and use your imagination a little bit. Now. Let’s say that you’ve grown your shop to five times the size and maybe your office is in one building and you’re shop in another. Can you go ahead and tell them the benefits that they need to use the chat system at that particular point?
Dennis Eidson (09:39):
Well, believe it or not, that’s part of my plan here. There is a building nearby that I’d like to be a part of my shop. Yeah, I mean the best thing I guess I would say is that you’re documenting everything. So you sort of have an audit trail of all the conversations that have happened. It’s a whole lot easier to, I think you have better communication, better documentation, fewer mistakes in that communication process when you’re doing it in writing versus yelling across the shop. So certainly that’s a benefit that I could see. The other thing is, as much as I would like a single service advisor and a single technician to go cradle to grave on a ticket on a work order, there are instances when other service advisors have to jump in. So having that detailed communication documented on that vehicle for that technician is another big benefit.
Bill Connor (10:45):
So basically they put the information in there one time, it’s used over and over by multiple different people without having to have extra conversations and so on. And so do you agree with a lot of other shop owners that talk about it, is that using this communication, instead of having the technicians kind of gang up behind the service writer and stand there and stare at ’em while they’re on the phone and stuff like that, there’s a huge time savings benefit in here. So it is a change in process to go ahead and get used to, but there’s other added benefits that as you start digging into it that you’ll actually discover. And actually I want to, as we go forward, I want to start digging into these topics a little bit more in depth to go ahead and actually talk about the thing in it for the service writer, what’s in it for the customer, what’s in it for the technician and so on. So everybody that’s watching, they can go in and learn some things to actually explain the why to their shop before they get into the how that they’re going to do it. And so the next thing is is that we get a lot of people that are a little bit reluctant to go ahead and use dual service advisors for the monitors or dual monitors for the service advisors. Can you go ahead and explain a little bit about how you’re using them, if you’re using them and the benefits of such?
Dennis Eidson (12:03):
So yeah, we are absolutely. We’ve been using ’em from day one, the cost for an extra monitor and then a stand to put that extra monitor probably you’re talking about a hundred and twenty five, a hundred thirty bucks. So we are using ’em. The service advisors are juggling all day long, they’re juggling inspections and they’re juggling, in our case, Protractor, our shop management software, and they’re going back and forth between the two. So clearly there’s a great interface between AutoVitalsand Protractor, but you got to be looking at both. Throw into that, that you’re pulling up all data, you’re pulling up Identifix, you’re looking at various vendor websites and tracking down parts. So when we’re managing shop workflow, 90% of what we do is on AutoVitals, but when we’re building tickets and ordering parts and all that, that’s all on Protractor and Identifix and all that and all that. So you just got too many balls in the air to try to do it all in one monitor.
Bill Connor (13:10):
And so do you find there’s having AutoVitals open at all the time, so you can see the today’s vehicle page, especially the technician view besides editing and other things you do, do you find that there’s an advantage to that when it comes to the process change and being able to manage your labor inventory in a visual method versus just kind of more or less by the seat of your pants to hope and prayer method?
Dennis Eidson (13:36):
Yeah, I mean, at a glance, you look at the technician view, and again, we’re not on TVPX, so some of the labor inventory comments, conversations I’m not as familiar with. But even with traditional AutoVitals, I can see how many hours each tech has booked for the day and where they are for the week. And so that’s a great way to assign tickets. I mean, sometimes you’ll look, and I’ll do this when I’m not the guy out there running this every day, but you’ll come in and see one technician has 7, 8, 9 tickets. Well, the next guy’s only got two. Well, if you look at the top and realize, well, he’s doing an engine in a front end replacement, he’s got 32 hours on his two tickets, so that’s helpful. But yeah, I mean we live, what’s funny is when we implemented AutoVitals for the most part, we’ve always lived in a technician view. That’s changed my service advisors and they’re getting better at using it. They now prefer a workflow view. I mean, they’re so confident that the technicians have been assigned correctly and they have a handle on what everybody’s working on. They’re thinking about what’s done, what needs to go, where are we? So while we started off more in workflow, we protect you, I’d say today we spend probably technician workflow.
Bill Connor (14:59):
Cool. So also the process change that you make in the shop, I’d also like to go through there is a change in process when the customer drops off their vehicle. I’d like you to talk about that a little bit and talk about even if there’s a different process you’ve had to implement since covid. Because a lot of these conversations for Drop-off are taking place without the customer ever coming into building.
Dennis Eidson (15:27):
We rarely have waiting customers, in addition only having a six pay shop. I’ve got a very small lobby, so we tend to discourage waiting customers. The big thing on the drop off conversation is letting that customer know, Hey, by the way, we’re going to get your oil change done, but we’re also going to do a comprehensive vehicle inspection on your car. We’re going to send a text. I make sure I’ve got the right cell phone. We’re going to send you an inspection on your car, and it’s going to have anything that we see, all the good things and bad things and anything we think needs attention. That’s sort of the conversation, had that conversation a thousand times across the shop. We’ve had that conversation 15,000 times. Never ever, ever, ever does a customer object to getting a digital inspection. Oh, okay, that’s great. I look forward to that. You just got to let ’em know you’re going to get a text, not going to be from a friend of yours, it’s going to be from us. And then the feedback I used to tell people that feedback, positive feedback on digital inspections was 50 to one positive to negative. It’s 500 to one. I mean, we never get anybody that complains about the inspection that we send them, but I think it’s real, real important. Let ’em know they’re going to get that digital inspection. We do that with every customer.
Bill Connor (16:49):
So that’s about what the scenario always is. If you manage their expectations, let them know what’s going to happen and then do what you told ’em is going to happen, then it turns into a positive experience instead of them thinking that you went shopping on their vehicle.
Dennis Eidson (17:07):
And I talked about earlier that we have grown our ARO for 10 years. I mean, we’ve done a good job of growing our ARO every year, and we always grew it in little increments. I was always worried that I’m going to all of a sudden start getting negative reviews on Google and Yelp that, oh my God, they’re just trying to sell me something. That’s never happened. It’s never happened. When we started selling preventive maintenance services, it never happened when we started just doing a better job on regular paper inspections. And it certainly hasn’t happened when we do digital inspections, if I’ve got five or 600 reviews out there on Google and Yelp and next door once, twice, three times somebody said they’re trying to sell me something. In the meantime, I’ve doubled my ARO. So obviously we are selling more, but the perception, nobody ever perceives us as pushing things. They don’t.
Bill Connor (18:07):
And that boils down to that particular conversation though. You’re explaining what’s in it for them. You’re saying, ma’am, sir, it’s our job to make sure you’ve got a safe, comfortable, dependable vehicle. We do that by performing inspections. We are going to send you the results. So you’re taking a proactive positive path to go ahead and let them know what’s in it for them.
Dennis Eidson (18:26):
And it’s just no downside to that.
Bill Connor (18:32):
So here’s one of the biggest process changes that people seem to have a struggle with, and it’s almost like they don’t believe us when we talk about the Amazon rule, and that is sending the inspection results to the customer, letting them look ’em over, and then letting them call you to go over the results. And then also in the same token is when they go over the results, when the customer calls, don’t ask them if they looked at the inspection sheet, ask them some open-ended questions about a topic or two to get the conversation going. So could you go ahead and describe the process change and what it meant to go down that path and struggles and so on?
Dennis Eidson (19:14):
Yeah, I think traditional service advisors, you know what the car needs, you know it. You want to sell them, you’ve already built your estimate, you’re ready to go, go, go. That’s just how it has always worked. And one of my service advisors said after we were a few months into this with AutoVitals, he said the hardest thing for him, one of the hardest things for him was to let that clock go for 20 minutes to let the customer look at that inspection for 20 minutes. And he said, the proof’s in the pudding though. He goes, when you do that, when you give them 20 minutes to look at that inspection, it sells itself. When you’re on the phone with a customer, you don’t start walking through service package by service package, what the car needs. You say, do you have any questions? Is there anything would you like for us to go ahead and take care of this today? And total investment is $1,254 and we can have it done by the end of the day. So yeah, so the service advisor said it best is that once you get comfortable with letting that customer look at that inspection, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to close that sale.
Bill Connor (20:29):
Nice. A couple people chatted in, they’d like to see if you can go ahead and maybe get closer to your mic or get your volume up a little bit, so you’re a little bit hard to hear. So that’s okay. The Mr. Wilson look will be just perfectly fine as long as I can hear you. Awesome. So describe a little bit the importance of switch to having the inspections performed as a first line on your repair order to let the technicians know that I’ve had the conversation with the customer and they know this is going to happen, so that way they’ve got a good feeling for what’s going on. So best practice is to have the inspection labor line as the first line and repair order, or at least a labor line. Are you using that process and was that a process change that you had to work with a little bit to get them to put in place?
Dennis Eidson (21:23):
We do it a little differently. The first on our work orders, and this is I think pretty standard with Protractor and I know there’s a lot of Protractor shops is going to be the concern that the customer came in for. So if they came in, the first thing on that top of that work order is going to be brake noise, brake vibration, coolant in my driveway, whatever the case might be. So that’s the first thing that we want our technicians to look at. Second is then the next would be the comprehensive vehicle inspection. And as I’ve explained it to many customers is I don’t want to sell you a cooling system repair, whether it’s a water pump or a radiator or whatever the case might be. If there are other big issues with your car, we want to give you a comprehensive view of the car before we sell you a $1,200 cooling system of repair.
And then come back and say, oh, by the way, you need $900 worth of brakes. So we want our technician to address that concern, the primary concern first, and then do the inspection second. And we’re going to do all that before we talk to the customer. I don’t want to call the customer and say, you need a $1,200 cooling system repair and then wait 20 minutes and call back. And so by the way, you need breaks all the way around. So we want to get both accomplished before we send it over to the customer, but we don’t necessarily just do the vehicle inspection first. We want to address the concern first.
Bill Connor (22:52):
And is the inspection that you want them to perform an actual line on the repair order or is you just say every car is going to get an inspection. That’s how it is?
Dennis Eidson (23:01):
Absolutely. It’s a line on the repair order. It’s a labor line that the technician gets paid for and it kicks off and we only use a couple of different inspections, but it kicks off so they can go to their tablet and they can start going down the path of that inspection.
Bill Connor (23:15):
Awesome. And so tell us a little bit about the feedback that you got from customers when you started sending the inspection results and also other digital communications besides that, maybe workflow, step messages, thank yous, whatever.
Dennis Eidson (23:32):
Yeah, well absolutely. I mean, obviously step one is the digital inspections. And I said a minute ago that our feedback, I can literally think of one customer, whoever complained about his inspection, and it was because we recommended a transmission service and we should have known in his eyes that he had his entire transmission replaced at the dealer a few months earlier, therefore he didn’t need the transmission service. So feedback on that is 101. The other thing that drove me to this whole digital inspection world is people don’t answer their phone anymore. I get 10 spam calls a day on my phone, and I think most people probably do, it’s just the world communicates more by text than anything else. So when we can send a text message to say, your car’s ready for pickup, they love that. We don’t have a whole lot of back and forth chats with the customer in the communication panel, but just the inspection and the pickup notification, those two are fantastic, and the feedback has been all positive.
Bill Connor (24:41):
So I know that you don’t have the guided inspection right now because you’re still on the legacy TVPX, but I know that you’ve heard a lot about it. So my question is, are you going to upgrade yours current inspection so you can take advantage of it, or would you recommend a shop that is brand new to start out with that, learn how to go ahead and do it, and then modify that to their own liking rather than doing what you did and starting with creating your own from scratch?
Dennis Eidson (25:13):
Yeah, I want to get to the guided inspection as soon as I can. As you and I were talking earlier, I told you we’ve had a six or seven week window here where every day I’ve had people out and it’s just been impossible to move on and start down the process. As great as AutoVitals has been for us, I see huge benefits in the guided aspect of it. I love the idea of when I’m taking pictures of brake pads, I’m doing it from the same angle. Doesn’t matter which technician’s doing that inspection, he takes the same picture for every customer and then also for every inspection. So that I can see three months ago, six months ago, nine months ago, here’s what our picture looked like when we were looking at those brake pads and here’s what it looks like today. So I’ve got some technicians and I’m sure everybody does, who are better at doing inspections than others. I think the guided mode will help get everybody at the same level. That’s my hope. And so things have settled down here. I seem to be getting close to back to where I was staffing wise, and hopefully we can get moving on TVPX here in the next few weeks.
Bill Connor (26:28):
Cool. And Monica just chatted in that they like to do their vehicle health inspection first so the service writer can start working on that while the technician does the rest of it. So different strokes for different folks for sure. I know other shops that if there’s anything on the vehicle that requires any testing or diagnostics, they do it first. So nothing gets disturbed during the inspections where they can’t duplicate something because a wiring harness got moved or so on. So there’s some different things to think about, but the main thing is is that every vehicle gets an inspection and everything that’s found on the inspection gets estimated and presented to the customer and then it gets followed up on if it doesn’t. So that’s great information to go and have in there. So let’s talk a little bit about lessons learned. So we talked about Marty just jumping in there and getting it done, and we talked about you took a more careful plotted path. Anything you can think of, any valid reason that a shop shouldn’t just go ahead and whenever they go ahead and get ready to sign up, just jump in there and do it. Or if they add a new employee to their staff, is there any reason why they’d want to get them to come in and start working and then go ahead and introduce the digital process to ’em over an extended period of time rather than just ripping off the bandaid, so to say?
Dennis Eidson (27:50):
Yeah, so regarding a new employee, that’s just how we do business. So if it’s a brand new employee, they’re going to get a tablet first day to walk in the door. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a whole lot of, I’ve only had one new employee since we’ve implemented this, and so right away we taught him this is how we do things. For me, again, it was two years ago when we started, we had an after hours training class and I brought in pizza and I had the same car up in the air and I had five technicians and two service advisors and we’re all going around the car attempting to inspect it together.
I think I started with trying to do everybody at once in a group setting, and that didn’t work. We weren’t going to go as fast as Marty went, but for us it was a better idea to sort of get your best tech. And I took a technician, four and a half techs, I talked about half of his job was being my digital inspections manager. So he was outstanding at it. He got it, he understood it. He saw the value in this digital inspection, so I sort of made him my inspections manager. I wish I had done that sooner. And then the techs who tended to be doing the most inspections, we focused on them first and got them up to speed. It got them to be very, very good at doing inspections. And then we kind of slowly worked through the staff over a period of time to get everybody doing great inspections.
So last week’s digital shop talk show was about a shop foreman or shop manager. When I watched that, it reminded me of putting my inspections manager in place. His job is to train everybody on inspections to review the inspections, to go back to the technician if it’s not right to edit those inspections. And what ends up happening for us is when that inspections manager has reviewed that, cleaned it up, edited that inspection, he clicks to the service manager, the service writer who’s working on that said, Hey, the Ford focus is ready to go. So I don’t have my service advisor spending 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes going through and asking questions and scratching their head and editing pictures on it. They’re ready to send it over to the customer, wait that 20 minutes, and while they’re waiting the 20 minutes, they’re building an estimate. So they’re not my service managers. They can, they’re absolutely capable and occasionally certainly have to edit inspections, but I got my inspections manager kind of streamlining that for them.
Bill Connor (30:36):
And so that brings up another question with all the covid and everything else going on, did you go ahead and teach somebody else that role so that you had a hit by the bus plan in case that person was out, gone along? That’s for you?
Dennis Eidson (30:50):
I just didn’t have a hit. Three people hit by the bus plan, which is what kind of screwed us up for the last six or seven weeks. But yeah, so every single technician can do an inspection. Every service advisor plus my inspections manager can edit inspection. So there’s not one person that knows everything. It used to be when we first started, I’m the one that cobbled together our inspection. You were my trainer and I took and cut paste different sections from different inspections within the library, but now I have a shop manager and my inspections manager, they’re free to make changes to edit and subtract from our standard inspection, and they do that all the time. So we’ve got pretty much all of us can do multiple things there.
Bill Connor (31:43):
Cool. So let’s kind of shift gears a little bit and let’s go ahead and dig in a little bit deeper into the process and I want to get into more of the explanation of what’s in it for your employees for using the different new tools that we come up with. So if you had to do this all over again and you were going to prep your staff on what we’re going to be doing, what are some things you would do in advance? Would you go ahead and test your wifi network? Would you set up your dual monitors, take pictures? Describe how you would go ahead and get them all fired up and ready to go that this is what we’re doing and this is what the end goal is going to look like and why we’re doing it?
Dennis Eidson (32:26):
Well, I was so excited when I signed up. I think I came back from that convention in St. Petersburg and before the end of the weekend I had half a dozen new monitors here. So I had the equipment all set and ready to go, what’s in it for them? Obviously we started the training process. The biggest obvious, most simple thing is we’re going to do an inspection and I’m going to pay you a half hour to do it. In our old world when we were doing paper inspections, that was all part of the oil change thing, and they would do the oil change and they get paid a half hour for that, and then they would do the paper inspection and they got paid nothing. So to do a digital inspection with an oil change, they’re getting paid an hour. And so that’s an incremental half hour.
You’re going to get our average labor hours per ticket I think is up about an hour and a half, two hours in the last year and a half. So if techs are motivated by money, and most of them are, the proof is in the foot, I mean they’re getting an extra hour and a half a ticket. And I’ve done this analysis and I’ve got guys that are making 20, 25% more this year than they did last year based on the volume and based on better inspections and selling more stuff. So that’s in it for them and they see the feedback. I mean, we get a positive review. I share with the technicians, you go to my Google page, we’ve got 4.8 stars and that’s based on 400 reviews, 400 Google reviews, ballpark. And the most common term that customers write is oil change when they’re writing a review that phrase oil change. The second most common term is inspection. So the feedback from customers on the inspections on Google is the second most. That’s the thing they’re talking about. That’s what our customers are talking about. So the employees see that and they see it in their paychecks, they see it probably I’ll say they see it in their skillset because we’re selling stuff that maybe we weren’t selling a year and a half, two years ago, and they’re getting experience doing those services that they might not have gotten tears ago.
Bill Connor (34:42):
So for the technician, basically more hours per repair order is less trips to the parking lot, less racking on racking. Using the internal chat is less time wasted, standing behind somebody, getting the inspection results of the customer for the service rider is letting the customer look it over on their own timeframe and then come back in. So that’s what I want to dive into is some of the things that’s to what’s in it for them, for your staff, for the process change is going to have because just like authorization from the customer, authorization for repairs comes when perceived value exceeds cost. Well, adoption of new processes in the shop takes place the same way when there’s a perceived value for the individual person, adoption takes place a whole heck of a lot faster. And so describe how your staff responded when the change was announced. Were they excited also? And if was barriers, what are the barriers that they threw up and how did you go in and remove the roadblocks or did you blow ’em up, dig a hole underneath them? How did you do that?
Dennis Eidson (35:47):
I don’t remember. I mean, I can think of a couple former keyword, their former employees, they were reluctant and in both cases, these were older gentlemen, technology was not their thing. One of those gentlemen retired, he’s a fantastic employee. He was with me for 10 years, love him to death. He retired, but he was old school, didn’t like that. I had a technician that was also old school and didn’t matter what I did, didn’t matter what property he was going to be happy with his 25 hours a week, probably one of my lower paid employees, but nothing I could do was going to help him find anything wrong with that car that had 140,000 miles on it. He just was happy cruising along and doing oil changes and brake chops.
That’s really the, that’s only wrote negative I got. But you’re introducing more work you’re introducing to something new. You’re introducing change that’s always going to meet with some resistance. But once we got into this a month or two into this and the numbers started going up and their paycheck started going up, there’s still some folks that don’t do as well as we’d like them to do on their inspections, and that’s a never ending battle. But I got very little resistance. And I would say I had a shop owner, an auto shop owner that actually stopped in here yesterday. His shop is eight or nine miles away from us, and he used a term that I thought was good. He said his struggle at his shop was that some technicians are happy with mediocre and if you’re not challenged to do more hours to make more money, this is more work and you don’t really want more work. So
Bill Connor (37:40):
Especially in your shop where you’re limited on base base and parking, you’ve got to, they’ve got to produce. Otherwise it’s a big opportunity for improvement is I guess what I would say,
Dennis Eidson (37:52):
He just said it so well is that some technicians are happy with mediocre and the one tech that I got rid of, one of the nicest guys in the world, but he was happy with mediocre and he’s not here anymore. So
Bill Connor (38:05):
Interesting. So now that you’ve implemented the digital shop, can you think of any valid reason why anybody would want to go ahead and put off doing this for a better time? I can’t even tell you how many excuses I’ve heard. I’m going to wait until after the moon comes up and the sun goes down and I’m waiting for after this holiday and I got to get into the next quarter. I’m too busy. Those are excuses, but I’m looking for, is there any valid excuse?
Dennis Eidson (38:42):
So I have a valid excuse as to why my inspection rate was horrible for the last five or six weeks, and that is I had 46 days of unexpected absences from employees. So it was hard. If you’re not staffed, if you’re fully, there’s work involved in this, there’s change involved, there’s training involved, you got to be staffed. So I would make sure that you’re staffed right before you attempt to take this on. The other thing is, like I said earlier, my goal was to grow ARO. I think as a shop owner, you got to be focused on that. It has to be important. You realize that that’s the key to your success. The key to your profitability and growth is going to be bigger aros. And so you got to be committed to it and your staff’s got to be stable. And then you go.
And the other thing I’ll say is when I was on this show when fall, I said that we were probably only using 10 or 15% of the functionality within AutoVitals. So we’ve made a huge leap. We’re up to like 11% or 16% now. In other words, there’s still a massive amount of AutoVitals that we’re not using, but there’s still value, huge value in the 10 or 11 or 12% that we are using. So the workflow management, the digital inspections, the customer communication, that’s all huge. So I would encourage you once your staff is stable, get going, get going.
Bill Connor (40:23):
So after a shop is fully implemented, let’s talk about what happens sometimes when you are short staffed. You go ahead and stop doing certain things you know should be doing. So you slack up on your inspections and so on. Any feedback? I mean, you just went through this recently, you had three people off and now you’re just kind of in survival mode because you go ahead and stop doing inspections or should you go ahead and try and gate the door and slow it down and not change your processes?
Dennis Eidson (40:54):
Great question. Where were you six weeks ago, eight weeks ago, we did gate the door, I turned off advertising. For the most part, there’s no Yelp advertising going on. We have a Kui website, we put a governor on that. You can’t make an appointment until three eight from now, five days from now, whatever the work look like, we put a governor restriction on those cars coming in the door. When you go from a $450 ARO to a $650 ARO, which is what we did in February march in that ballpark, it takes longer to get cars out the door. I mean, you got cars that are here three days, five days, and that was new for us. That was sort of unusual. So I would just be, if you’re going to build your ARO, you’re going to have longer lead times and be prepared for that. So I would’ve done a better job of let’s stay on top of the inspections and turned on the restrictions in the governors sooner rather than later.
Bill Connor (42:09):
Awesome. So I’m going to kind of compare and contrast the two different methods, and I’m just going to give you my takeaway on this. So you and many others have said by instituting the processes properly, you know that you’re going to get a higher ARO, you’re going to grow weekly revenue, and most cases you do it without adding additional staff. So what that really equates to is putting more money in the bank. Would you agree with that?
Dennis Eidson (42:34):
Bill Connor (42:35):
Yeah. Okay. And so that’s when I look at the two different methods, I’m like, we need a hybrid approach because if I’m going to put more money in the bank to do things I need to do like equipment, recruit new employees raises insurance, our new tax structure will be experiencing here pretty soon. I’m afraid we want to go ahead and get the more money in a bank sooner than later. So this comes to where we get to the hybrid approach of onboarding and also recruiting new employees. So does that logic make sense to sooner you go ahead and rip off the bandaid and heal up whatever it is, expose it to the air and move on, the faster and the longer you’re going to reap the benefits.
Dennis Eidson (43:20):
But I had an old boss and a former life and we had a cliche, and I’ve heard it elsewhere as well, we got to fix the airplane while we’re flying it. And so we had a shop and we had 60, 70, 80 cars a week coming in and we were implementing this big change. So I can’t afford to take the airplane down to fix it. So I feel like we were too slow. I could certainly go faster. I would recommend some things that would help you go faster. Just when you talk about the bandaid approach and what Marty went through, that does not sound attractive to me.
Bill Connor (44:01):
So go ahead and explain a few of the things that you would have done differently and how you might advise them to go ahead and do differently. Let’s explore that a little bit. We’ve got some time. Sure.
Dennis Eidson (44:13):
I wouldn’t try to get into detailed tablet inspection training as a group. I think finding that technician who’s really, in my case, it took us a while to do this, but getting that technician that’s really, really good at it, that understands it, that gets technology. My younger guys, my younger technicians, we’re all way better at doing digital inspections with an iPad on their hands than the older technicians. So step one, I would’ve identified that technician champion sooner rather than later. Step two, high level group training from a strategy perspective, why we’re doing this, we’re going down this path and everybody’s got to be on board is great, but I would’ve just gotten into a one-on-one training sooner.
Get one guy completely up to speed and move on to the next one. If you’ve been doing paper inspections, flipping the switch and going to digital is not going to change your business immediately. So get into it over a period of a couple of weeks where you get everybody up to speed. Another big change is I talk about the fact that we were only using 10, 11, 12% of AutoVitals. Well, one of the things that we weren’t really using was the BCP, the business control panel. There’s phenomenal metrics in there. Inspection rate, average pictures taken, average recommendation made per inspection inspection sent. There’s a thousand metrics in there, but there’s five or six or seven of those key metrics. I wish I had been paying attention to those sooner rather than later.
When we go back and look at the last six or seven weeks where our business took a bit of a dip, oh, by the way, leagues ahead of where we were a year ago, but a dip from the highest that we reached earlier this year. When you go back and look at the inspection metrics, it’s overwhelming. Why did your revenue go down? Look at what your ARO went down because your inspection rate went down, the number of pictures you were taking went down, the number of pictures you were editing went down the motorist research time went down. So that would be make sure as a new shop, you’re getting up to speed and familiar with those metrics and you’re looking at ’em every day.
Bill Connor (46:36):
You almost like you anticipated where I was going next. Isn’t that something? So what we want to do is we want to talk about is that breaking this down to onboarding process down into four chunks. And this is a process that you can use and measure whether it’s you’re coming on full on board and you’ve never seen AutoVitals before or you’re bringing on a new staff member. So in the first two to four weeks, what we want to do is we want to go ahead and get them to do and measure certain things. So we’re going to call this the quick win step in the two to four week range. And what you’re going to do is you’re going to go ahead and define some goals for the quick wins. And normally this is going to be where you define exactly how you want an inspections topic done.
I want this picture taken, I want this note here. I want every time this is done, I want it to be estimated and the service writer’s going to present to the customer. So pick out one or two topics that you can get a quick win on. So it might be brake fluid flushes, it might be wheel alignments, whatever it is. And then everybody that’s doing inspection do the exact same thing over and over again, so that way you can produce some results right from day one. So we also want to go ahead and set some goals for what’s going on. And Dennis, if you disagree with any of these metrics, these are things that you probably need to measure right when you go in there is set some goals for the percentage of vehicles that are going to get inspected. If you’re not doing inspections, you can’t do anything with them. Set goals for the inspections that are actually sent to the customer. There’s no point in doing inspection if you’re not going to send it out. And then go ahead and do some audits on the inspections as a team so that way you can start talking about together what good looks like and everybody should be telling you how they can go ahead and help each other improve in the process. Do you agree that those are things that can be done and measured and mastered within that first two to four week range?
Dennis Eidson (48:38):
Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes people try, and I’m guilty of this a lot, I want everything to be perfect. I want everything to be buttoned up. I want every inspection to be exactly right before I get going on it. And I think that’s hard to do and I think that may have been part of my slow ramp up. So I think quick wins, get something rolling, but monitor it, watch it, train on it, review it with your team, fix it for the next day. Yeah,
Bill Connor (49:06):
So perfection is the enemy and good enough is what you have to work on and then improve from there. And so now we’re getting into the next four weeks. This is where we want to be in the four week range, and that is building consistent inspection. So here what you want to do is make sure that the inspections, when they’re being done, the average number of recommendations made per inspection across the shop is in a uniform acceptable letter. I call that need spotting. And then also set a percentage for the number of pitchers that are actually edited before they go to customers. So you can see that we’re building on that initial foundation and set a goal for percentage of inspection sent versus total repair orders. So the first one was inspection sent that were done, and now this is inspection sent per total repair orders that went through the shop. So you see we’re building on that layer as we go forward. So anything in that second group on there that you see that shouldn’t be able to be obtained within that time period?
Dennis Eidson (50:07):
No. And again, I think that there’s six or eight measures that I depend on every single week. And so there’s probably more out there that I could be getting value out of today that I’m not. And if you’re looking at get rolling on the three or four measures and then get rolling on the next three or four measures, and I think you’re absolutely going to see improved results.
Bill Connor (50:37):
And again, this is for new employees on an existing AutoVitals shop or other ones. And now just because these say two to three weeks and four weeks and six weeks, that doesn’t mean if you haven’t secured your attainment level and proven out that you’re there, that doesn’t mean to wait till the six week mark to go ahead and step on the next step. So to say, this is just a logical process and when you get the attainment level, don’t wait, just move on to the next one. So there’s no reason to go and wait. The next step is getting in a six week range is to go ahead and engage the motorist for maximum effectiveness. And how we’re going to measure that is specifically by focusing on our average motorist research time. This is a real important metric and this is how well lots of processes are working. So if your motorist research time is good, your drop off conversation is good, the quality inspection is good, the customer knows what to do with the inspection. When they get it, you’re sending them content that makes sense to ’em and they’re actually engaged in it. So by the time you get to the six week range, would this be, in your opinion, a good metric to go and add to the mix and start measuring?
Dennis Eidson (51:48):
Yeah, absolutely. When I was on the show last fall and the days that followed, I got eight or nine calls from shop owners that wanted to talk to me. And one of the first questions I would ask them was, what’s your motorist research time? And I was hearing things like 200 seconds, 250 seconds, 220 seconds. My motorist research time, it’s dipped recently, but it’s 500, 5 50, 600. So if you’re doing great inspections and editing those pictures and you’re giving something to the consumer, to your customer that’s compelling for them to spend 600 seconds on it, 500 seconds on it, that’s a great leading indicator that your ARO is going to go up and your revenue’s going to go up if they’re only spending 200 seconds on their motorist research time that you haven’t given ’em much to think about, they’re not interested. And I find that’s about how many pictures are you taking? Are you editing? Are you adding arrows and circles and comments to those pictures? I’ve seen inspections where there’s a picture of a busted CV boot. About 90 to 95% of my customers have no idea what a CV boot is. Would’ve been a good idea to put a note on there saying, this is your CV axle, this boot is slinging grease. And so give them a compelling inspection, give them a reason to spend five or six minutes or 10 minutes looking at the inspection.
Bill Connor (53:20):
And so what we’ve learned over time is when you’re adding them pictures, if the four elements on ’em on the picture directly is area focus, what is the picture of what needs to be done and reason to buy today? If you have them four elements on it, you’ve got a wing combination. But again, you can measure that when you do the audit, which is one of the earlier weekly things that we talked about. So this is an important one, and it’s kind of in there by itself. And by the time you get to the six to eight week range, what you should start be doing is increasing your revenue through labor inventory management. And so here’s the KPIs that you’re going to be measuring, then it’s going to be set a goal for the percentage of jobs completed on the tablet, very important so the service writer can see what’s going on, set an average of the workflow steps, move per repair order.
That way the service writer is changing the workflow steps as a move it over to edit and then move it over to waiting for approval, maybe waiting for work finish, maybe even parts order on hold. So is the service rider using the workflow to manage it, which you mentioned earlier, your service riders are starting to dig into that. And then also setting a goal for service advisor efficiency. These are the last four things in that particular step to go ahead and make sure you’ve got a really good solid onboarded staff. F anything in there that doesn’t make sense or
Dennis Eidson (54:44):
Those are some metrics where I’m not all the way up to bright yet, so we’re not necessarily using those. But prior to that, yeah, I agree with all the steps in the process.
Bill Connor (54:53):
So on your journey to New York City, you’re still wandering back and forth on a holiday trip through the countryside. Awesome. So that’s good. So as far as time-wise, we’re right about on time. We’ve covered a lot of ground. You provided a lot of really good information. I’d like to encourage people to go ahead and keep this discussion going. We’re going to move over to the Facebook form and go and post it in there. Dennis, if you’d be so kind. I’m going to be watching in there for questions and stuff. I hope that you’ll join me in there to go and answer any questions they have come up as far as how to do it, why to do it. Maybe they can go ahead and throw up some objections that their staff might have and we can help them overcome them objections. But overall, you covered a lot of ground and you actually provided a lot of really good detail that I know will help a lot of people.
Dennis Eidson (55:45):
I always happy to do so.
Bill Connor (55:50):
Awesome. And so that being said, I’d like to go ahead and make sure that everybody knows they can go over to the Digital Shop Talk Facebook group. That’s where we’ll be carrying on this discussion. You might even go ahead and scan that QR code if you’re not a current member, answer the questions and then go ahead and join us in there. This is a closed group, so it’s not meant for the average motorist to get in there and understand what we’re doing. They might perceive that we’re working on things that who knows, the public is a little fickled sometime. And what we’d also like you to do is, there’s a ton of prior episodes in here, which David or Dennis has been so kind to go ahead and partake with us in the past that are on the Digital shop talk radio. And that can be found by going to
And there is a wealth of information in there by a whole bunch of people and that are really good shop operators. They’re people just like you. They’ve been through the struggles, they’re going through staffing issues, they’re going through onboarding, they’re, you name it, they’ve been through it. They talk about different things using CRM to go ahead and keep those customers coming back on workflow management and so on. So I’m going to encourage you to go ahead and do that. Also on the If you’re not already subscribed, you’ll be able to go ahead and join us onto actual live Zoom here and be able to go ahead and send your questions in. So I highly encourage you to join there also. So Dennis, do you have any parting comment that you’d like to make before we go ahead and end the discussion?
Dennis Eidson (57:36):
No, I mean, I’m a big proponent and I hope that our learning is our experience can help others. I mentioned the guy who came in yesterday to my shop. He owns a shop eight or nine miles away and I’m happy to, as long as he’s not a competitor nearby, I’m happy to chat with him on our experience.
Bill Connor (57:58):
Dennis Eidson (57:58):
Thank you very much, Bill.
Bill Connor (58:01):
Yeah, thanks for participating and like I said, I hope to go ahead and see some questions come in in the forum and like I said, we’ll be sure to follow up. So once again, I’d like to thank everybody that participated and joined us live today and go out there. And AutoVitals whole goal is to go ahead and be the shop success solution and we’re really passionate about enabling our clients to go ahead and be the most successful shop in their trade area. But we got to have some cooperation on your part to go ahead and use the tools and continue giving us some good, solid feedback to make sure we’re on target on everything we develop. So that being said, I’d like to go ahead and thank everybody and have a great day.

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