Customer service is a core part of the service drive experience. You would expect to see more dealers investing in effective ways to document each vehicle’s condition and contents before the work begins. After all, no one wants a service visit to end with an argument over undocumented damage or missing property.

The standard practice of using paper forms to record vehicle condition isn’t helping. Jotting down notes during the walkaround is no way to properly record the vehicle’s true condition. Nor can it properly record the vehicle’s contents.

All this mediocre paper documentation makes it next to impossible to pinpoint who is at fault for damage or missing items. That makes you accountable for those costs and puts you at risk of losing valuable customers.

The Costs of Poor Documentation

Given how important customer satisfaction and repeat business is to your store’s overall health, it might seem easier to swallow costs than argue about them. However, this approach can hurt your business.

Research shows that damage costs accrued during each service drive visit come to an average of .007% of an asset’s market value. If your average vehicle list price is $40,000, that means losing $2.80 for every service drive visit. If you service 30 vehicles a day, that comes to just over $2,500 in costs a month, or more than $30,000 a year. If your shop is open on evenings and weekends, that number could be far higher.

And that doesn’t even address CSI. In an internal survey of dealership service center customers, 75% of respondents said they were unlikely to return to a service center if it appeared the dealer damaged their vehicle. On top of that, 80% of service customers were unlikely to return if they thought an item went missing from their vehicle during the service visit. That’s a lot of customers — and referrals — to lose to misperceptions.

That’s why going digital and using software to perform your vehicle condition reviews can reduce costs and disputes and vastly improve the customer experience. If you’re ready to invest in a digital documentation solution, be sure it includes the following features:

  • Photos and videos: The smartphones and tablets you already own can serve as digital documentation tools. You can snap as many photos as you need to record pre-existing damage or show that the vehicle arrived in perfect condition. You can also take photos of the cabin and trunk to make a record of the contents. Take a video of the walkaround and zoom in on every nick and scratch.
  • Cloud storage: As you can imagine, you will need hundreds of photos and videos to properly document a day’s worth of customers, and those files take up a lot of memory. Now think about how much storage you would need for a week’s worth! By using a solution that leverages cloud storage, you can take as many photos or videos as you like and never worry about slowing down your mobile devices.
  • Time-stamped documentation: To head off any claims that photos of the interior were taken before personal property was removed, you must be sure they can be time-stamped.
  • Integrated checklist: Do you have a list of items you want your service manager to review prior to bringing a vehicle into the service center? You can digitize this too. This makes it easy to remind your team what needs to be done, and it keeps all their work in one place.
  • Email documentation: Digital documentation can facilitate transparent communication with your customers, so you want the ability to send them a record.

Switching to digital documentation can reduce damage and theft disputes, improve the customer experience, and demonstrate your commitment to service. By increasing transparency, you can be sure customers will more readily accept their vehicle condition and return to your shop.

Shane Skinner is the co-founder and CEO of Record360. Contact him at [email protected].