When I visit shops, I look at a damage appraisal or two to see how the writer explained the repair. What I find is that they often don’t — and those damage appraisals generate more questions than answers. These damage appraisals leave a lot of room for interpretation. That is dangerous. Vehicles are too complex for people to create their own understanding of what the writer intended. Someone needs to take responsibility for repair clarity and that must start in the front office.
So, what do I mean by re-programming the damage appraisers?
I was at a shop last week working with a writer on some damage appraisals and saw, “Body pull” written on the bottom line. The writer explained to me that what he meant was that they were replacing the rear body panel and he knew the tech was going to have to pull it some first. I asked, “That two-word line explains all that?” He responded that the technicians understand what the writers wants them to do.
Testing his theory, I took the damage appraisal to the tech and asked him. He said, “When I see that, I figure it is time to pull what I need to do the job.” I then took the damage appraisal to the customer service representative and asked her what it meant. She told me, “I have no idea.” My last stop was with the manager whose response was, “Doesn’t tell me much.”
When it came down to it, the tech not only had to pull the rear body panel, but the left frame rail had a little kink and the floor had a slight bend at the bottom that he also needed to correct.
As our industry and the vehicles we repair continue to change, along with the way repairs are scrutinized at every level, it is important to identify through a damage appraisal exactly what is being repaired on a vehicle. Think for a minute of the number of people who come in contact with a damage appraisal to get information about the repair. It’s many more than just the writer and the technician. All the people involved need to completely understand what is being repaired and how the repair is to be accomplished. In the scenario above there were three different areas to be repaired under one very vague line entry, which did not communicate anything to anybody — leaving everyone in the repair process an opportunity interpret the repair differently.
Estimating platforms give several ways to communicate a repair process. The most useful are the repair line and line notes. When coupled with a line note, repair lines are the best way to explain the repair process.