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Billing Breakdown

Detailed billing can increase your customer-retention rate and boost word-of-mouth traffic.

I’ve been involved in marketing on and off for more than 25 years. In that time, I’ve learned that there’s no better advertisement than the endorsement of someone you know and trust. That’s known as word-of-mouth advertising.

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You can spend all the money in the world in every kind of media possible and never approach the value of a recommendation by a trusted friend. The best way to get that is by consistent service that goes a step beyond what’s expected by the customer. One such step is detailed billing.

Most drivers today know very little about how vehicles work. Detailed billing helps walk the layperson through what’s involved in a job, in terms they can understand.

For a hypothetical example, say customer Bob is having car trouble. Bob is a successful IT professional, and he’s not a “car guy” by any stretch of the imagination. Still, Bob is an intelligent person, and he determines – by watching some YouTube videos – that the problem could be a blown head gasket. Bob is a savvy consumer, and he calls around for estimates.

Repair shop A gives him a verbal estimate of “somewhere between $1,200 and $1,500, and maybe more, depending on what we find.” Bob suspects this is open-ended and shady. It’s only one gasket after all.

Shop B emails him a written estimate – for $1,381 – and the repair should take three to five business days, depending on parts availability. Bob feels a little better but is still apprehensive.

Shop C uses a software program that helps populate a detailed billing sheet that spells out every step in the process and the cost of labor and parts for each item. This detailed account of the entire process is three pages long and appeals to Bob’s meticulous nature and helps him feel as if he’s not being taken advantage of at all – giving him the confidence to choose Shop C. Shop C’s estimate for the repairs is $1,672.

All three estimates are for the same job, but Bob chooses Shop C, and even brags to his friends that he’s found a great shop that’s really honest and will do all of his work from now on. Bob’s water-cooler endorsement of Shop C brings in several of Bob’s co-workers almost immediately.

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Now this may seem a bit far-fetched, but it really happens every day. By giving the customer – or potential customer – a detailed breakdown, a level of trust is established, and the customer feels safe and involved with the repair of their car. Just as in the case with Bob, that trust can easily lead to more revenue and repeat and new customers.

As mentioned, billing software for repair shops can be a great help in getting all the details correct. Depending on the size of the shop, sometimes the person writing out an estimate or completing the billing isn’t any more mechanically inclined than Bob, so they need help too. It can help you allot the proper amount of time for repairs, order all the correct parts the first time and charge accordingly. This will save the shop time and money and help build a stronger customer base in the process.

Getting Started

So how do you get started with detailed billing and better shop management? A quick Google search will bring you dozens of versions of software with tons of options to not only help you offer detailed billing but also help run your entire shop. For example, Shopmonkey is a web-based platform that “puts running every aspect of your shop in one place,” according to the company’s website. Features range from scheduling and inventory management to integrated payments-processing and digital vehicle inspections.

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Many software packages will offer a free trial, and you can make a few test runs to see how you like it. Some are cloud-based and are accessible from a mobile device or multiple locations. Others concentrate on credit-card payments and banking. In my experience, many banks have a preferred software that they interface with, such as QuickBooks. This is a full-package accounting software that can be customized to almost any business. It has a bit of a steep learning curve, so if you have any employees experienced with QuickBooks, it might help your banking. Otherwise, there are plenty of other dedicated shop software packages available.

In addition to considering the features, functions and costs of these software packages, it’s also important to look for providers that offer robust training and support. For example, to ensure that users get the maximum value from its software, BOLT ON Technology offers live webinars and an online step-by-step help guide. Through BOLT ON University – held in select cities across the United States – shop owners can learn about the latest features and functions of BOLT ON software and how to integrate what they’ve learned into their daily shop operations.

Shop around and find what best fits your situation and budget. In searching out a solution for detailed billing, you might just stumble across management software that really helps the efficiency, trackability and traceability of jobs in your shop. It may take a little more time to complete, but it will be well-worth it in the long run.

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