While working with a shop on some quality control (QC) issues recently, I discovered they were still using a paper QC checklist.
It reminded me of the somewhat dated checklist that’s among the forms and tools available for free on my website (www.collisionadvice.com). It’s not that such checklists are bad. They serve as a good reminder of the things that are often not quite right and can result in a needless come-back. But a paper system has become an outdated way to accomplish quality control effectively.
I believe shops need to move to an electronic QC process. There are several reasons why.
First, there are more and more young people working in shops who have grown up using computers, tablets and cell phone apps. If you hand them a piece of paper, it’s like a step back in time for them. How else, they may wonder, is this shop not staying up to date?
Second, we’ve all seen people “pencil-whip” forms, signing or initialing the top item on the list and drawing a line from that right down the rest of the list. They may well have done everything on the form, but perhaps not. Just rapidly filling in all the boxes at the end is no substitute for checking each item at the appropriate time. An electronic system helps make employees more accountable.
Third, some of the lawsuits out there related to incomplete or incorrect repairs have raised the industry’s awareness of the need for proper documentation of repairs. An electronic QC process ensures that every step is time- and date-stamped, a record that helps ensure---and document---that things were done properly.
That documentation isn’t just important to you as a business owner. It can be equally important to those with whom you have business agreements, such as automakers that certify your shop or insurance companies. An electronic system allows your shop’s quality control efforts to be more easily audited.
Several electronic quality control systems are out there. CCC Information Services has “Checklists,” which can be customized and integrated with CCC ONE. (It’s a stand-alone product that can be used regardless of what estimating or shop management system you use.) Shops in the Assured Performance Network have access to that network’s electronic QC system. I’m aware of another program out there called “myQCiQ,” and there may well be others.
Using an electronic QC system also makes sense because more of the QC process itself involves electronics, namely, post-repair vehicle scanning. The old paper checklist that asks if the headlights and turn signals are working, or if moldings are missing or loose, was fine in its day, but it is no longer enough. Those things still need to be checked, but there’s no way to ensure all of the vehicle’s safety and comfort features are working without conducting an output and functionality test through a post-repair scan. It’s an absolute must.
We all, of course, think of scanning in terms of ensuring the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are functioning. But you’ve no doubt had the experience of delivering a vehicle after a $5,000 or even $10,000 repair that seems just perfect, only to have the customer come back because their seat-warmer isn’t working or their Bluetooth device won’t sync.
That highlights how quality control isn’t just about holding employees accountable and ensuring you have a documented process that can be audited and used to demonstrate exactly what was done to that vehicle. A robust QC process also ensures your customer drives away satisfied in a safe vehicle.
Another great tip I learned from my friend Ray Chew at CCC: Ask customers early in the process what some of their favorite features of their vehicle are. There’s no way any of us can possibly be aware of and understand every feature on every vehicle. By knowing upfront what in particular the customer appreciates about their vehicle, you can integrate checking those features into the QC process for that extra level of attention.
Keep in mind that when consumers are asked if their vehicle was fixed right the first time, the industry average is just 82 percent. That really concerns me. That means 1 in 5 cars comes back for a problem. That’s not acceptable. It’s time every individual in this industry takes responsibility for quality. QC inspections must be part of the process---not just at the end, but at every stage of repair.