The Courtesy Inspection
A critical tool used for customer retention, customer education, and to increase shop revenue is the Courtesy Inspection (CI), or Multi-Point Inspection (MPI). These terms can be used interchangeably and refer to the vehicle inspection that is often performed as a free service to the customer.
Your customers rely on you and your employees to let them know what is going on with their automobile. A vehicle owner often has no way of knowing the true condition of their automobile. This is where offering a Courtesy Inspection as a valuable service to your customer can help to created that all-important trust. When used properly, this inspection becomes much like a report card to the customer, letting them know when everything is great, if something may need to be addressed soon, or when there is something that needs attention immediately.
Courtesy Inspections are used by most repair shops. The problem is that these incredibly useful tools are too often used as a hammer to hit the customer over the head with (I’ll describe how in a minute!). Customers have come to hate the sight of them, and repair shops have made them nothing more of a documentation tool. There is no reason for them not to be the best tool you have in educating a customer, or for them to be only documentation.
Courtesy Inspections are used as a hammer when they are only used to document the poor condition a vehicle is in. Technicians, and their service consultants, are both guilty when it comes to improper inspection form use. Let’s take the example of a customer who just purchased a relatively new car. The vehicle was well inspected, has fairly low mileage on it, and is not likely to need any service or repair work other than the oil change and tire rotation the customer has requested. Knowing this, both the advisor and the technician choose not to bother with performing the inspection (the tech sees this as a complete waste of time, and the advisor doesn’t need anything else to do as they are already “too busy”). The customer pays for the work and leaves the shop having never been made aware of the free service that most customers are supposed to receive. This scenario then gets replayed the next four visits or so (approximately 20,000 miles). Never does the customer see a Courtesy Inspection sheet.
One day, the same customer comes in and the technician recognizes this vehicle may need some work (more likely they have suddenly recognized that a Courtesy Inspection might make them some money). Out comes the inspection form which is diligently filled out with everything this vehicle might possibly need. Here comes the hammer….
The service advisor creates the estimate for everything the technician has identified and the customer is presented the fact that their vehicle suddenly (out of the blue in their mind) needs $1250 worth of work. The customer feels blindsided, and over time will learn to recognize that Courtesy Inspection as something that means bad things are about to get talked about (and most likely that they are about to get taken advantage of…in their mind). To protect themselves, because the customer is not sure if all this work is really needed, they say ‘no thank you’, pay for their oil change, and may never come back.
There is a better way.
As with many things in life and business, the key to using this incredibly valuable tool is consistency. As human beings, we all love consistency. Consistency is essentially knowing what to expect. This is true whether it’s going out to eat at a favorite restaurant, or hitting a home run because you know the pitch that’s coming is a fastball. Consistency and Courtesy Inspections go together!
Let’s take the same scenario from the last section, and instead of the technician and service advisor choosing to ignore the completion of the inspection, let’s say they both recognize the importance of the tool. What they have observed through years of their experience, is that when they use it during every customer visit, no matter if the vehicle needs any work or not, the customer learns to expect it, and comes to trust what is on it. When the vehicle comes in for that very first oil change and tire rotation, the inspection form is filled out showing everything is in working order. There is no required work to be done, and nothing looks like it will need maintenance or repair before the next oil change or tire rotation. The customer is informed of this upon check out and is pleasantly surprised that a shop actually told her no work was needed. When the same scenario plays out over the next four visits she begins to get used to the fact that her vehicle is in good condition. Here comes the psychology….
On the first visit that she receives a Courtesy Inspection that shows an item needs attention she recognizes this as out of the ordinary, and wants things returned to “normal”. Since the inspection was performed consistently each visit, the needed repairs also are relatively small. She only needs $160 worth of work to make everything right again. The effect this has is that not only does she trust the shop to tell her nothing is needed, but trusts them when something is needed, and rarely will ever have a huge estimate when she’s presented the inspection. Instead of a hammer, we’ve created a situation where there is a high level of trust and the customer will say yes to having the work done!
Same tool…two very different results.