Digital inspection: Looking under the hood, virtually

by | May 29, 2020 | 0 comments

Digital inspection tools are excellent for providing visual verification to a customer of a needed repair, letting them to virtually “look under the hood.” But there’s a new relevance to the technology, in these days of social distancing and “touchless” car repair. As the new no-contact customer environment becomes the norm, these tools provide an extra layer both of accuracy and customer reassurance.

Chris Cloutier of points out the technology is especially relevant in the age of COVID-19. “Now that we’re all practicing social distancing, the DVI or digital vehicle inspection becomes even more in play. First, I don’t want to give you a piece of paper—i.e, a written estimate—that my guys have touched. But now from the convenience of your home, I can show you that inspection. So I think it helps give that safety feeling. You can email or text it to them, and they don’t have to step foot in your shop.

One of the chief advantages to digital is the ability to make recommended repairs easier to comprehend for consumers. Notes Jamie Cuthbert, CEO of Autoserve1, “One of the traditional challenges [for] the automotive service sector was a lack of trust from the consumer, created when something is suggested as a required service without an adequate explanation. Digital inspection tools help bridge this divide between what the shop sees, and what the customer needs to learn about the true condition of their vehicle.

“Historically, the best way to gain confidence with your customer was to take them out into the shop and underneath the vehicle with your lead technician. That is no longer possible. Digital inspection tools, using tablets and phones, can give your customers the exact same level of confidence and trust that they used to gain with the show-and-tell method of explanation.”

For Mathieu Brunel of Gem-Car, that extra level of transparency offers not just peace of mind for the customer, but demonstrable advantages for the shop’s bottom line as well. “By including images and photos in the digital inspection process, it creates a transparency of vehicle needs and items to follow. The fact we can then email or text the information directly to the customer not only speeds up the process, but drastically improves the closing ratio. Digital inspection leads to more sales, period!”

“With digital inspections, technicians follow a repeatable path that is consistent with every vehicle,” explains Cuthbert. “This usually translates to more work being found per vehicle that enters the shop,” and a more complete, reliable inspection for the consumer.

“Some seasoned technicians prefer to walk around the vehicle and make a mental note of all the items that they see needing repair, he continues. “These technicians then pick up the tablet, shoot all the photos and videos they need, and then add the measurements one by one on the specific items. For more junior technicians, the digital inspection provides a repeatable process that helps them learn good habits of performing thorough inspections.”  

As a customer’s confidence in the shop rises, Cuthbert continues, their trust in the service adviser improves as well. “The natural result of increased trust and confidence in the shop are increased average repair order invoices per vehicle. On average, owners can expect to see an increase of approximately 22% in parts and service sales per vehicle.”

The standardization that comes with digital procedures has a significant impact on quality control in the shop, Brunel notes. “By implementing digital inspections, this will create standard operating procedures using an inspection process to ensure quality control  for all employees and communication with customers.” He also observes that offering tablets to perform digital inspections is a great way to recruit young technicians in your shop.

Many shops in fact, are discovering that while some older techs might be a bit reluctant at first to take on this newfangled way of communicating with the customer, they usually come around once they’ve tried it. Scott Davidson of Techline Motors in Kitchener, Ontario, installed an AutoServe 1 system in January. Since the system was installed, he says, “The techs really like the two-way interaction, and also the transparency; they can show actual visual proof that something’s leaking or a part’s worn out. A picture’s worth a thousand words, as they say.”

The shop’s customers have been highly receptive to how easy to understand the system is, he says, along with the extra reassurance having a visual record provides. And one of its extra features has proved particularly popular. “Along with sending the customer a video showing a part that needs repair, you can add a short educational video explaining what that part does. So there’s that extra level of education you can add, which customers really appreciate.” The system has taken its place with other online procedures Techline has been adopting over the past few years, from online appointments to text/email customer communications.

Chris Cloutier emphasizes that as useful as digital inspection tools may be at both improving shop operations and clarifying repair diagnoses for customers, they are only one component in the procedures of a well-run shop.

“There’s a definite revenue increase in using digital inspections,” he says. “But this is a tricky question, because you still have to have good salespeople up at the counter and good technicians in the back. It’s those shops that train their people well and make sure they put in the time [to learn the technology properly] that will see the best results.”


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