Auto Service World
News   March 30, 2023   by John Burkhauser

From the Magazine: Balanced inspections and wear history

Gone are the days of doing paper inspections. Here are the many benefits of going digital…


Tire wear: Shops can mark ‘wear history’ by chalking a tire with the amount of tread left

I remember once offering a customer a free courtesy check on their vehicle during an oil change. As he turned and walked to the waiting room his response was, “No, thank you. That free inspection always costs me lots of money.”

Back in the days when we used only paper inspections, every part of the inspection process was manually done. From the tech writing what they found on the inspection sheet, to the advisor interpreting the tech notes, building the estimate and then explaining everything that was needed to the customer.

Time being money, only the items that needed to be addressed were usually discussed with the customer.

Since no money could be made from items in good operating condition, they generally only mentioned if a customer asked about them. This led to courtesy inspections being disliked by much of the driving public.

Using digital inspections eliminates this impression through the ease of automation and with pictures or videos that add much more transparency to the process. Less time is needed to edit each inspection. This allows the advisor to take more time to discuss with the customer what was found — both the good and the bad.

At the same time, this process allows the customer to educate themselves thanks to the clear descriptions and photos sent to them via text message. This ultimately helps them make better and more informed decisions on servicing their vehicles.

Some digital inspection software packages will automatically add the technician recommendations directly into the repair order of the management system as they perform the inspection. This step not only saves the advisor the time of copying and retyping the findings into the repair order, but it also frees up the advisor to focus more on explaining and selling. Additionally, all this information is automatically archived for future reference with no dependency on the advisor filing it.

These and other options that are part of the digital inspection process allow shops to give the customer a more balanced report of their vehicle. Instead of presenting a customer with only the bad items that need to be addressed, the inspection can now be used to show what items are in good condition. No longer is the inspection all bad news — it’s now more balanced.

Illustrating the wear history of a vehicle’s brake pads using the gages is a great way to show customers the progression.

What I call a “wear history” can now be built into each inspection by showing good items. Tires, for example, can be shown that they have some wear, but that they still have 7mm of tread left on them. Marking the tire with chalk or writing a “7” on the picture on the tablet will help the customer to understand this. Over time this number will count down until it is time to replace the tires. Building a ‘wear history’ this way will help the customer prepare for upcoming expenditures.

Realize that this same method can be applied to brakes and other wear items on a vehicle.

Unlike paper inspections, which must be filed and accessed manually after the fact, previous digital inspections can be easily accessed through the software with just a few clicks or taps. They can even be reshared with customers who still might question how fast the tires or brakes wore out.

Another advantage for your shop when building a wear history is that the customers need to return to your shop regularly to get the inspections in order to document this wear. No other shop has this inspection history — only yours does. This documentation and regular visits will help build a new level of trust with each of your customers.

Keeping your bays full is good but keeping them full with repeat customers is better. The following statistics are just a few of many available online that show that repeat customers will lead to your shop’s success:

  • Sixty-one percent of SMBs report that more than half of their revenue comes from repeat customers, rather than new business.
  • A five percent increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75 percent.
  • Reducing your customer defection rate by five percent can increase your profitability by 25 to 125 percent.

Using balanced digital inspections that show a wear history can play a large part in getting customers to return.

Another advantage to documenting everything and building a balanced inspection is the ‘CYA’ factor that it gives you and your shop. Providing both written proof and photographic evidence that an item has not only been checked and was found to be in good condition at that time can go far in protecting your shop.

Take this example from a shop that performed safety inspections with a digital inspection. It shared with the customer that a vehicle was checked, documented and passed inspection. A week later the customer returned with one of their HID headlamps burned out and told the shop owner that that it was missed during the inspection. At any other shop this would be the shop’s word against the customer’s. But at this shop, they pulled up the digital inspection and were able to show all the lights working as they should. End of discussion.

I hope that you see the value and benefits of giving your customers balanced inspections. Using digital inspections not only makes this possible, but they also make the whole inspection process more efficient through ease of use and automation.

At the end of the day, this results in more educated customers returning to your shop, leading to its greater success.


John ‘JB’ Burkhauser was director of education at Bolt On Technology. He has more than 35 years of experience as an auto repair industry specialist with expertise ranging from A Level and ASE Certified Master Tech, shop advisor/manager, to automotive trade school instructor, and technical writer.

This article originally appeared in the February issue of CARS.


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