Analyzing the Value of Free Vehicle Inspections
Mike Brown is a busy man. His role as service manager at South Colorado Springs Nissan keeps him occupied, with the myriad tasks that position entails.
So, Brown seeks to reduce inefficiencies wherever he can. And, at his shop, complimentary vehicle inspections had bogged things down in the past. First of all, the inspection sheets once featured a sea of acronyms that caused confusion. And a key staple of the inspections―brake jobs―weren’t being done consistently, as some technicians simply looked through rims to examine pads rather than pull wheels.
About six years ago, around the time Brown had worked his way up to service manager in Colorado Springs, Colo., he decided to overhaul the vehicle inspection process. He realized he needed to make the process clearer for all involved.
“I did that out of pure frustration,” Brown recalls. “We didn’t have a standardized policy.”
The service director knew that offering free vehicle inspections allowed his department to be transparent with customers, many of whom sought vehicle inspections prior to taking long road trips. Yet, Brown also knew that offering those inspections could set back his service drive if he didn’t make the process as efficient as possible.
So, he charted a clearer path that might help his department increase customer satisfaction.
The Path to Improvement
About six years ago, Brown set up a checklist for his department’s complimentary vehicle inspections that simply uses a “green, yellow, red” system and the Dealerlogix online app. He sat down with each technician and clarified what he deemed to be an urgent situation―in other words, a repair that needed to be marked a “red” on the inspection checklist―as it pertains to items like wiper blades.
Before long, Brown’s entire service department was on the same page, and consistently churning out vehicle inspections swiftly.
The following were key elements to fixing the shop’s issues with inspections:
Have a defined process. Brown made it a point to extensively illustrate under which scenarios staffers should mark a vehicle part as being worthy of the “green” (i.e. in good, working order), “yellow” (something that can wait until the next visit to the service center), or “red” categories when filling out an inspection checklist on their computer tablet. If an employee clicks red on the inspection page, Brown instructs his crew to fill out the dialogue box that pops up on their computer screen and clearly explain what the issue is.
Once a South Colorado Springs Nissan employee hits “complete” on the vehicle inspection page, a service advisor gives it a look on their own computer. Soon, the vehicle’s owner receives either an emailed copy of the inspection list, or a printout, depending on preference.
Be conscientious. Brown stresses the importance of diligently performing complimentary inspections, even in the midst of busy shifts. The shop has a goal of 7 minutes per inspection, but it’ll quote customers more time than that for high-mileage vehicles. On average, Brown estimates his shop takes around 20 minutes for the majority of its free inspections, and a shop foreman spot checks all work done by technicians to ensure quality.
Brown aims to steer clear of the common criticism that dealerships sell maintenance based strictly on vehicles’ mileage or age. He wants customers to be confident that they weren’t sold anything their vehicle didn’t truly need.
“Would you sell it to your grandma? Think of it that way. That’s the way I put it,” Brown says.
Car count has increased in Colorado Springs in recent years, something Brown notes is due, at least in part, to the refined inspection process. Back in 2010, the service department had an average monthly car count of 500; that number is nearly 900 these days. The dealership boasts one of the top CSI scores in the region, at 90.3 percent. And, inspections result in an upsell purchase approximately 30 percent of the time.
Customers appreciate the peace of mind that inspection checklist gives them when they visit the shop before a long road trip.
“I know that helps,” says Brown, regarding the fact his store offers free inspections. “We have customers come in and tell us, ‘Hey, I appreciate being given the inspection.’”