The value of photos

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The value of photos

Since it seems as though just about everyone these days has a “smart” phone glued to their head or stashed in their pocket 24 hours a day, we may as well take advantage of the camera feature of these phones while inspecting, diagnosing and repairing customer vehicles.

When performing an engine oil change, you perform a cursory inspection of the belly, checking the condition of tie rod ends, lower radiator hose, transmission cooler lines, fuel lines, brake lines, CV joints, U-joints, etc. When you find a leaking trans output seal, rusty fuel lines or leaking shocks, you may make a mental note or record your findings on paper. However, as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words (OK, maybe with inflation it’s now worth 10,000 words).

On occasion, a first-time customer may not believe you, and may assume you’re simply trying to rack up the bill. By showing them photos with documented proof of the problem, they’re more inclined to OK the work. By the same token, after diagnosing a problem and after making the necessary repairs, by snapping a few photos of the work, you’re able to show positive proof that the repair and/or parts replacement has indeed been performed. With the high-speed cellular technology provided by today’s phones, you’re able to easily text the customer and email photos in order to have the work authorized even when the customer isn’t in the shop.

Once the photos have been taken (and possibly reviewed by the customer), instead of deleting them, upload them to the customer’s file for possible future reference. This can provide an aid for you during future diagnosis (for example, the engine threw a P0401 EGR insufficient flow code. Maybe you determined that the valve was OK but the passage was clogged with deposits, and you cleaned it out. If the vehicle comes back in with the same code, you have a reminder of what you did previously and can move on to checking other potential areas). Or maybe you replaced an O2 sensor, and two months later the vehicle is back with the customer complaining of a big dent in the floorpan, assuming you did that when hoisting the vehicle on your lift. When you review the photos you took, you can prove that the floor was not dented when in your shop. The culprit may end up being the customer’s son who improperly jacked up the car while running cables for his insane sound system.

While you may have a loyal customer base that doesn’t question your diagnosis or work, there’s always the skeptical (or should we say paranoid) customer who assumes that the world is out to get him or her by making suggestions and making unnecessary repairs. With today’s high-quality smartphone camera technology, it’s easy to take the photos and just as easy to store and show them to the customer.

In my shop, we photograph virtually every step of our work, not only to document the work for the customer’s benefit, but also to provide us with useful reference photos, especially during disassembly. Granted, my shop specializes in detailed vintage restorations where reference information is often critical for our technicians. Also, the type of customers that we deal with like the idea of having a “scrapbook” of the entire process for their review and as a reference for a buyer when and if they sell the vehicle. Although our need for photos may be excessive, by taking even a minimum of photos, the average shop can easily generate documented proof of both the problems and the repairs. If the customer questions anything along the way, you can refer to a photo and show proof positive that something was needed and/or that the repair was indeed performed.

Granted, plenty of techs are currently generating these photo files, so my suggestion is certainly nothing new. But for those of you who haven’t considered this type of routine record keeping, it’s something to think about.

After all, those cell phones are sitting in your shirt or pants pocket anyway. Why not take advantage of them?   ●

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For more of Mike Mavrigian's editorials, see:

Oil change intervals revisited

Never assume anything: (i.e.: you get what you pay for)

The beauty of tools

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