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Developing a Preblueprint Inspection

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Mark’s Body Shop in Baltimore always attempted to get the repair process started as quickly as possible. To get techs working on vehicles right away, the office staff only acquired a small amount of information from customers, says vice president Mark Schaech Jr. But technicians always needed more information from customers to develop repair plans, which slowed work. So Schaech implemented a new standard operating procedure (SOP) to ensure employees documented the right information up front, which improved repair plans and efficiency, and helped his team set proper customer expectations.

Schaech explains how he developed a preblueprint inspection routine at his facility, and how the standardized process has become a valuable tool.

We implemented this inspection routine about five years ago. It’s a 30-minute data collection process conducted prior to blueprinting procedures in which we acquire and assess a standard set of information on every job, regardless of the vehicle type or amount of damage that exists. It’s a methodical collection of information that helps us document the state of the vehicle, and understand how to properly blueprint the job. It has become a strong tool that we use every day to save time and improve the customer experience.

The inspection routine includes three key steps:
#1: Repair Contract. We complete a repair contract for every customer before looking at their vehicle. The repair contract is a document designed to gather basic customer and vehicle information, and to educate the customer about the repair process.

The four-page contract includes the vehicle’s make, model, VIN and color. We also provide information about things like repair payment options and parts usage. We explain the pros and cons of various parts choices, parts recommendations, and insurance-related issues. It takes about 10 minutes to complete the repair contract, which every customer signs.

Step #2: Prerepair Checklist. We conduct a physical walk-around of the vehicle along with the customer to assess 12 standard items outlined on our pre repair checklist. It’s an opportunity to gather more detailed information. The checklist takes about 15 minutes to complete, and includes the following:

1. Check lights, horn, wipers and washer nozzles
2. Check door handles, mirrors, power locks and alarm key fob
3. Check dash lights and cigarette lighter
4. Check fuel level
5. Check vehicle mileage
6. Identify paint code
7. Identify wheel lock location
8. Acquire details of the crash
9. Identify the location of vehicle passengers at the time of the crash
10. Identify the payment method (customer-pay or insurance-pay)
11. Identify the customer’s interest in additional work, such as paintless dent repair, mechanical repair, or other self-pay items
12. Identify how the customer heard about the shop

The checklist should be a living document at every shop because some items could vary between facilities. So build the document over time in a way that works for you. Shop owners should regularly assess whether any new information could be added to the checklist to prevent common delays during the repair process or customer complaints.

Step #3: Pre-existing Damage Diagram. The final step of the inspection routine is completion of a pre-existing damage document, which includes a diagram of a vehicle. We identify where any pre-existing issues exist on the vehicle, and note the information in the appropriate place on the diagram. Every customer signs and dates that document to verify they were aware of those issues in advance.

Documenting pre-existing issues this way ensures customers won’t blame us for certain imperfections. It also provides a convenient opportunity to upsell customers on additional unrelated items. Make sure you assess the vehicle thoroughly, though, because customers could hold you liable for damages that were not included on the document.

We use an iPad to complete the inspection routine, which is performed by our front office staff (every estimator and customer service representative is trained on the process). The iPad is linked directly to our management system where these three documents are housed. Customers sign each form on the iPad, and the information is automatically attached to the repair order and electronically saved in the management system. That’s a much more efficient and organized strategy for completing, tracking and saving these forms, since paper documentation generates clutter and gets misplaced. Any employee who accesses the customer’s file can easily refer to these forms at any time from any location.

This inspection routine has become very important and valuable to our company. Spending more time with customers up front to obtain this data reduces the need to call them several times throughout the repair, and eliminates work stoppages. This information is also needed to determine the best possible repair plan. 

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