Implementing an Effective Predelivery Checklist 

April 5, 2024
Make sure no detail goes unnoticed.

Before delivering a car back to your customer, “You have to inspect what you expect,” says Sean Guthrie, COO of OpenRoad Collision. And you have to inspect what they — the customer — expect. If you don’t, they certainly will. 

That means it’s imperative that no detail goes unnoticed, and the car is returned in its pre-loss condition every single time. 

“We want to inspect every car as if we’re fixing it for ourselves, or our family. Our slogan is ‘Like it never happened’…we take following through on that promise seriously. If I wouldn’t put my family in that car, then I won’t put a customer in it…and that’s the same expectation I have for all of our shops.” 

A solid predelivery checklist ensures protocols are followed across the board to achieve the end result you (and the customer) both expect. 

As told to Lindsey Gainer 

The Evolution of the Predelivery Checklist 

Early on, it was as simple as, ‘Let's look at the finished product and make sure it looks good before we deliver it.’ That was fine for a small team who had been doing it for a long time. They knew what our expectations were…they knew what the customer's expectations were…and they could perform that final checklist without having anything in front of them. 

As we grew, that eventually transitioned to, ‘Let's do it with the estimate in front of us.’ And that was beneficial, to make sure nothing was missed on the job itself. But there were still other things we check above and beyond the estimate that were missing. Honking the horn. Checking fluid levels. Tail lights, turn signals, headlights. Even if we didn't fix that end of a car, we like to make sure the car is roadworthy as an extra customer courtesy. ‘Hey, we noticed your brake light was out. We replaced the bulb for you. No charge. Just wanted to make sure you’d be safe.’ 

We added all that stuff to our checklist in Excel, but over time it got lengthy and cumbersome. That’s when we started looking for a better solution and found FinalQC. 

Technology Gives the Upper Hand 

FinalQC houses our checklist inside an electronic platform and includes all the lines of the estimate plus our “extras,” and some of theirs, too. It’s a great custom checklist, but what really makes it effective for us is the built-in tracking and reporting features. 

We have a two-party predelivery QC process — the first is our store manager, or a designated QC person, and the second is the service advisor, who will give the car back to the customer. As we check things off in this final step, if something fails, the system documents it and traces it back to the source. Was it the body technician? Did he forget a bolt? Or was it the paint shop? Did they miss a dirt nib? 

All our technicians have their information in the system, including their cell phone, and they’re sent a text message with a picture. So, if the bumper doesn't fit, you click “no,” take a picture of the bumper, and it goes to the technician assigned to the job. Now they're on the clock; the timer starts. They come up to the QC area with their tools and get it fixed. They verify the fix, the QC guy verifies it’s fixed, and it's timestamped in the program. 

This allows us to track the number of failures and the time it takes to correct those failures, which was something that our manual checklist couldn't do. The data is great for accountability — it’s a very objective way to have hard conversations with technicians. It’s helped immensely with overall quality and efficiency, too. We've already seen exponential growth in QC completion and improved cycle times across our shops. 

Choosing the Right Checklist 

When deciding whether to go with a manual, paper checklist or a digital app or software program, consider your team’s dynamics. If you have a young team that understands technology and might be slower to accept new practices, an electronic option is great because you can collect data to see what’s getting done (or not). If it's an older, more reliable team, they might not take on technology as quickly. In that case, a manual sheet is absolutely better than nothing, and it's a great place to start. Either way, remind your team that this is not just a checklist…this is them stating that they agree something has been done. 

Try to keep your checklists as concise and short as possible so each area is truly reviewed. Too many checklists can lead to expectation bias. ‘Well, the last ten cars were good in this area, and I've already done five checklists, so this checklist is fine, too,’ kind of mentality. You want to avoid that. 

Equipping Your Team to Succeed 

No checklist is going to completely prevent comebacks…but it certainly helps. Plus, it gives you something to scan into the file to prove to the insurance company what was done, and it offers leverage with customers in situations when you need it. 

Unless you're the whole package as a shop owner — doing the body work, paint work, assembly and delivery yourself — you've got to rely on your team. And it's great to have trust in them…but verify that trust with data. When your employees have to sign off on in-process and predelivery checklists, they’re sharing the burden of accountability. 

This is something the insurance company sees, too — and they’re the ones paying everyone’s paycheck. My name might be on it as the owner, but without this partner, without these customers, none of us have a job. That means the job of proper quality checking is just as important as the guy producing the product. He's got to make it right. But you've got to verify that it’s right so we as a team can keep doing this. 

Also, when a checklist is deployed, hold up your end of the bargain. Give the technician the tools to do the job properly — that's everything from proper shop lighting to shop welders to the proper clips. You can't expect a car to be repaired right if you can't see it, and you can't expect a technician to have all the right clips if you don't give them the clips to replace. 

When you show your team you’re invested in fixing the car properly, you can expect them to reciprocate through adherence to QC processes like a predelivery checklist. 

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