Vehicle Check-In Primer

Checking in is More Important for Service Departments than Hotels

Performing a proper check-in procedure when a customer visits your service department is critical for several reasons. 

Checking a customer in will help your service department:

• Manage the customer list and build long-term revenue;

• Reduce shop liability while the customer’s vehicle is on premise;

• Reduce future liability once customers pick up their vehicle; and

• Manage the service department work-flow during the peak season.

The Greet

If possible greet the customer at their vehicle. It is generally more welcoming when a service advisor comes outside to greet you. Greeting them at the door can also disarm them a little, especially if they are frustrated that their favorite toy is broken. Building good rapport with a client within a few seconds is important, and it can set the tone for the rest of the meeting. The more affinity you build with the customer, the better chance you have at building trust. Customers will often times spend hundreds of dollars on service work but cannot really see what was done to their vehicle. Building this trust with the customer can make it easier to upsell them during their visit and even on future visits. It will also allow you to have a better shot a collecting their email address to be used for marketing purposes and growing your business. 

The Check-In Process

Carry a check-in form with you when you go out to greet the customer. The check-in form should include a few basic details:


• A picture or outline of the type of vehicle you are checking in. This will allow you to walk around the vehicle with the customer and take note of any serious scratches, dents or dings. Many times I have seen customers try to blame a scratch or dent on the technician. If you have everything marked down on the check-in form, you can avoid this situation. 


• A location to record the VIN number. If you are walking around the unit try to get the VIN or hull number. This will allow you to accurately check for recalls and keep track of the customer’s unit.


• A place to record the mileage upon check-in. I was recently asked to help with an accident investigation that involved the possible improper mounting of a rear rim. The man that was involved in the accident claimed the rear wheel suddenly locked up on him. He dragged the dealer into court that had mounted the tire three years earlier. This man claimed that even though it had been three years since the work had been done, he had not ridden the bike. After the dust settled, it was determined that he had ridden over 5,000 miles in the three year period and the brand of tire had changed. If this dealer had logged the mileage of the vehicle on the check-in form and then placed it into their DMS, then it would have saved him some headaches and some legal fees.


• There should be plenty of space on the form for taking notes. Have a chat with your customer, talk about their unit and ask them what their issues might be. If they have never been to your store before ask them when their last service was and if they know what was performed. The more notes you can take while having a casual conversation the better. It will make things between you and your customer more casual and less clinical.


Now that you have gathered all the check-in information from your customer ask them to sign the check-in form. Asking the customer to sign the check-in form will let them know in a professional way you have checked the condition of their vehicle. The next thing you should do is to make sure you add good notes to the repair order. If the customer is in for diagnostic service, you should give your technician enough information to point him in the right direction, but not too much to guide him in the repair. I have seen service writers and customers try to tell the technician what is wrong with the unit. The tech then spends hours following the wrong path. Give the tech symptoms of the problem and let him be the doctor and sort out the cause.


You should tag each unit as well. The easiest way to do it is to find some tags with string and write the repair order number on the tag. Once you do that you will be able to find the unit easily and efficiently. You should also tag the keys when you place them on your board. Having the repair order number on the tag will make sure that your technician performs the correct repair to the customer’s unit. Tagging a unit with the repair order number will also help in making sure any accessories or parts find their way to the proper unit as well.


The final thing you should do is have the customer sign the repair order. Show them what you are about to do to their unit and ask for their signature. This way the customer knows the costs of the repair and what he will need to pay when he comes back to pick it up.


These check-in procedures only take a few minutes, and they are a great way to begin organizing the service department. Knowing what units you have in your department, where they are and what needs to be done to them is critical in managing the work-flow and managing potential losses.

C.R. Gittere and the Service Manager Pro team specialize in service department efficiency, elevating customer service and increasing department profitability. His monthly column focuses on best practices and unique ways to get the most out of your service department.  More information about ServiceManager Pro can be found at www.servicemanagerpro.com.

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