10 steps to create a terrible auto repair shop invoice process
Posted on Feb 16th 2020 in Best Practices
In the past, we’ve discussed at length several best practices of how to create the ideal invoice process for auto repair shop and garage owners. But just for fun, what if you wanted to do the opposite? Have you ever been curious what the worst possible invoice process looks like? We wanted to provide the following example as a thought exercise to hopefully shed light on common mistakes we see auto repair shops and garages make when it comes to invoicing.
1. Make sure your auto shop’s invoices are unorganized
To get started, you’ll want to ensure that you neglect creating any type of organized invoice system. What do we mean? Any organizational tools such as filing cabinets for paper invoices are out of the question. Invoices should be scattered across desks or left unattended on tables. If you use carbon copy paper invoices, you can throw away the auto shop’s copies after you’ve given the customer their copy of their invoice.
Whatever you do, do not consider the possibility of using an auto repair shop invoice software for paperless invoicing. Why? The last thing you and your auto shop would want to do is keep a single, consolidated electronic location for your invoices that also includes a backup of any sensitive information. In fact, there should be no redundancy or backups of your invoices of any kind. Why waste the extra space? One single copy of an invoice is enough.
2. Use outdated, legacy auto shop management software
If you must choose to use an auto shop management invoice software for your invoicing program, why not use an older, legacy software? Oddly enough, many of the older auto shop management softwares available today are actually more expensive than newer offerings on the market. But for the extra money, you’ll be able to pick a software that you can download onto your garage’s computers. Sure, you’ll probably need to pay a per-month or yearly fee for any upgrades and new features. And maybe you won’t be able to access your software outside of your auto repair shop’s computers. If you need to access your invoices on mobile or Mac devices, you may be out of luck, but oh well.
If you need to create a software backup, there’s bound to be an additional cost too. But what’s a few more dollars to pay? Who needs a modern, cloud-based, all-in-one auto shop management software solution. You may as well accept that you’re going to be nickel-and-dimed for all the features your auto repair shop needs for its software; that’s how things have always been done in the software industry.
3. Be unclear and evasive when providing phone quotes to customers
When customers call in to your auto shop to inquire about a possible auto repair, be sure to provide as little information as possible. There should be no expectations set about what the process of bringing in their car to your garage will look like. The customer should be left in the dark about any potential timelines for diagnosing an issue. Pricing and fees should be totally left out of any conversation for fear that the customer may find a better deal at another auto shop or garage.
Be short and curt on the phone. If you do end up giving the customer an approximate price on a repair, be sure to aim on the high end of you what you think the actual repair cost will be. This is because all customers love to see invoices with higher prices than their actual expectations. It helps keep things interesting for them.
Related reading: The ultimate guide to quoting customers over the phone
4. Don’t worry about missing or duplicate customer data
If you do use auto shop management software for your invoices, make sure that you enter your customers’ data into your customer database as haphazardly as possible. It doesn’t really matter if you have duplicate customer data; things will sort themselves out eventually. Let data issues build up over time. Missing names, phone numbers, or email addresses? Who cares? You can just have your auto shop management software administrator clean up the incorrect data at a later date. Better yet, there’s no need for a software admin or point person at all (see the next point). You can have your whole team tackle ownership of software administration.
5. Have everyone in your auto shop take ownership of your software and invoicing process
Why have only one person when you could have all of your employees work with your auto shop management software and invoices? Everyone in your shop should know how to build invoices anyways, right? There’s no need to designate one person to take ownership of everything. As the saying goes, when there are lots of cooks in the kitchen, you can cook faster. The same concept applies to managing your auto repair shop’s software too. Invoices will get created quickly and efficiently with no oversight and no real ownership of your software.
6. Include surprise charges in your invoices like diagnostic fees
When you build your invoices and send them to your customers, be sure to include fees that you’ve not previously discussed with them directly. This is especially true for your auto shop’s first-time customers. Invoices should always include a “billing surprise” or an unexpected fee or invoice charge. Especially if your auto repair shop has had a long established diagnostic fee included in your invoicing process, don’t feel the need to repeatedly communicate the fee to your customers on the phone. The customers should do their own research anyways and should already know about any potential invoice fees or diagnostic fees beforehand. When it comes to invoice charges and diagnostic fees, always be sure to err on the side of under communication.
Related reading: To diagnostic fee or not to diagnostic fee?
7. When building invoices, include broad invoice line items
When you add line items for parts and labor to your invoices, you’ll want to ensure that every line item uses broad, ambiguous language. It doesn’t matter if the customer can understand what the line items mean; most customers don’t read invoices anyways. Even if the line items are super technical and specific to the auto repair industry, you can assume customers won’t really care about understanding what they’re paying for. Invoices are for you and your auto shop’s records, and not for the customer’s benefit.
8. Create generic invoices with no branding
Be sure that the invoices your business creates look bland, generic and aren’t specific to your auto shop. Invoices should be styled to look exactly the same as any other garage or auto shop’s invoice. Any branding or brand differentiators should be left out as it will confuse customers and make them think of your auto shop business the next time they need their vehicle repaired.
9. Never include specific due dates or payment plan details on your invoice
If your auto repair shop allows for payment plans, be sure not to specify a specific timeframe for when invoice payments are due. Leave any payment schedules as flexible and ambiguous as possible. Customers should not know whether they need to pay their invoices as lump sum fees vs whether they can pay over a longer period of time. Be sure to leave yourself open to lawsuits and liability by having as little important information in writing as possible.
Related reading: How to avoid 6 common auto repair shop invoice mistakes
10. Don’t use invoices to show courtesy or build trust towards customers
Finally, be sure when you create your invoices for customers that you create them to be as dry and impersonal as possible. You’ll want to leave no personal touches or thank you messages to show appreciation for the customer giving your auto repair shop their business. Building trust and having excellent customer service aren’t super important when building your auto repair shop’s business. After all, all you really need to do is be able to fix cars and automobiles. Why go the extra mile when invoicing your customers? What good could a friendly, personalized thank-you note on your invoices really do for customer satisfaction?
Followup reading: A Free Guide to Auto Repair Shop Invoice Software
Followup reading: The Ultimate Guide to Auto Repair Shop Management Software