The digital age has brought about changes in the way we process our repair orders and invoices. While technological advances have made some major improvements over some of the illegible handwritten ones of the past, there are still some that are slow to change.

What spurred this particular writing is the terrible invoice I recently saw. “Rebuild engine — $6000.00”. That was it. It was on a 4×6 generic “receipt” book and was handwritten. No labor line, no parts list, no description. The question now is what did they get for their $6,000?

Let’s discuss repair orders in the digital age first. One of the things I picked up from Ford training is to begin each repair order with “Customer states” and try to record EXACTLY what the customer says. This not only gives the technician exactly what the customer described, which technicians love, but it also helps eliminate any questions later as to what the customer originally requested and how they described it. In situations where one person drops off the vehicle and another comes to pay for it, this can be very valuable.

Special note here: Get a signature on the repair order!

If there should be a question later on, that signature could carry a lot of weight. With paperless systems, getting a signature can be difficult. See what your system offers or print the repair order.

Most management programs have the capability of having what I’ll refer to as “Canned Jobs”. Depending on the system you are running, there can even be attached “Procedures” for the most common concerns. Using these can give the customer a complete description of what is involved in the service or repair and also give the technician a list of points to make sure to include while performing the service.

Another note: Have the technician sign off that they have indeed performed every step included in the procedure. If the issue should arise that the PMI includes checking tire pressures and the car is sitting on a flat when the customer comes to pick up their car, (true story) then you can challenge that tech about doing procedures completely.

Now on to the invoice. An owner I worked for once said: “They need a lot of show for the money.” At that shop, an oil change resulted in a 2-page full-color invoice. There was a description of all 40 of the 40-point inspection items, a detailed list of any items noted during the inspection, and a list of any recommendations the customer chose not to perform. At a time when everyone was doing $19.95 oil changes, we were getting almost $50.00 for our service.

The labor descriptions should be more complete than what is provided by the labor guide. For example, “R&R head gaskets” for a 6.0 Ford pickup does not describe the procedure for raising the cab and all of the steps involved with just that portion of the repair. Nor does it describe the removal of the exhaust, fuel, and all of the other things that need to be removed just for access to the heads. It’s also a good idea to describe all of the visual inspections and possible machine work that may be needed. Finally, there is the reassembly procedure, the test drive, and reinspection after the test drive. There could easily be a half-page description (or more) for that procedure.

Then there’s the parts list. Again, there can be a detailed description of each component on the parts list. The example here might be the head bolts in our 6.0 Ford. The description might be “bolt” or it could be “Original Equipment High Tension Stretch Style Head Unit Hold Down Bolt.” Another tip, if your system includes the part number with the part, which is required in some states, and you are using Motorcraft or AC Delco parts, the long Ford or GM part number is usually included on the package. Use the long part number instead of the shorter one. It’s not deception, it’s more impressive, and if the customer decides to price shop your part number, they will likely call the dealer who will quote their list price. Also, if something comes as a kit, list each piece included in the kit separately.

Of course, completing an invoice like this is more time consuming and requires a lot of typing. If your system allows saving a description, you may only have to type it all out one time and then save it. I keep a generic “Remove and Replace ___” description that avoids a lot of the typing and I just fill in the blanks.

Presenting a multi-page invoice after a service to a customer is a great opportunity to impress them. Don’t forget to allow enough time to review the invoice with them, point out any items they may have chosen not to perform at this visit, schedule the next appointment, and, of course, get a signature.