Reception of Vehicles

Probably the first contact you have with a prospective customer is over the telephone.
They may have used your services before and they are just calling to book the vehicle in, they may be calling for a quote or estimate upon which to make a decision as to whether or not to use your facilities. Either way it is an initial telephone call with which your staff have to deal and which forms the basis upon which future relationship builds. It is the foundation of a contract. What is said or done at this point binds you legally into a contract.

It is therefore essential that you get the ground rules right and as this is a verbal contract there is a need to record the agreed terms and conditions and to gain confirmation prior to commencing the work.

If all of this sounds legalistic – don’t worry. It is very straightforward and will not involve you in unnecessary time or forms. An entry in a diary or the raising of a “Job Card” is sufficient. So long as you have a procedure, the staff are clear what it is and they adhere to it on every occasion. Then you have a firm foundation upon which to move on and build.

When the customer telephones there are three areas of main concern which must be
made clear before the contract can proceed. (1) What is required? (2) How much it
will cost and how will it be paid? and (3) How long will it take?

1. What is Required?

It is important to ascertain the exact nature of the job required in order to provide an accurate indicator of the likely costs involved. Failure to identify any chargeable item may result in a wrong or misleading price being quoted from which proceedings may result.

This is particularly important when dealing with items where there is an environmental element which may/may not result in an additional charge or valve replacement (which may be mandatory) or wheel balancing (which is optional).

2. The Cost?

The cost of the work is integral with what is required and any indicator of cost must be based on the work to be done. If you omit the costs of valves or carcase disposal when quoting a price and then to add it as a separate item on the final invoice an offence occurs for which you may be prosecuted.

You need to formulate your own predetermined policy on the following matters:

a) Are you working to menu pricing or charging by the hour?
b) Is your charging based on “Book” time or “Real” time and how will you communicate this charge.
c) When you offer to do a service are you offering your own service schedule or a manufacturer service schedule.
If the order is to proceed then it is important, prior to confirming the contract, to establish how or when the work is to be paid. Unless it is an account customer then it is important to agree the method of payment that you find acceptable e.g. credit card or cheque. But what if its over the card limit? If you do not agree prior to the contract and an unacceptable method of payment is tendered on the vehicles collection you are limiting your options and may open yourself to unnecessary financial risk. So ask the question.

3. How long will it take?
It is important that you operate a time management system within your business to ensure that you have sufficient technician time to complete the work allocated within the total time available. 

It is equally important to identify at an early stage any potential pitfall or third party involvement that may result in you not being able to meet the time deadline. Where you are to be dependent on, for example, parts delivery or a third party specialist service this should be made clear to the customer prior to accepting the work.

Once the agreement has been reached and an order taken this MUST be entered in the work schedule and a job card raised.

If the telephone conversation is merely an enquiry then the information given, including price, should be entered in the Reception Diary or other record. It MUST be made clear whether the price given is and estimate or quote and the entry endorsed accordingly. The price should also include VAT.

When the vehicle is received by reception on the day agreed the following procedures shall be followed.

a) If the vehicle is to be left outside of business hours then the customer shall be given clear instructions as to where the vehicle shall be parked and a suitable secure deposit box made available for the vehicle keys to be left, where they cannot be handed to reception. Under no circumstances should instructions be left for the vehicle to be left on the highway in such a position where it may cause an obstruction. Equally the keys should not be left “under the bonnet” or “on a wheel arch”. This may invalidate your insurance.

b) If the vehicle is booked in during business hours then the job sheet should have been prepared in advance. The customer should then be asked to sign endorsing the work agreed and providing a contact number for authorisation of any additional work. Any unit pricing must be agreed at this point. It should also be made clear that any service is based on the Manufacturers Service Schedule or the Company’s own, whichever is applicable.

c) Vehicle keys shall be tagged identifying the vehicle to which they relate and then placed in a position where the public do not have easy access.

d) Courtesy vehicles shall only be provided on the completion of a Loan Vehicle Form by the customer. Prior to handing over the keys the customer shall be shown the controls of the vehicle and every effort made to ensure that they understand and are comfortable with the controls and performance characteristics of the vehicle. The completed and signed Loan Vehicle Form shall be placed on the customer file together with a copy of their driving licence.

e) Prior to or on allocation of the work the customer’s vehicle shall be moved to the workshop by a suitably qualified personnel. Prior to such movement a visual inspection of the vehicle shall be made and a Vehicle Inspection Form completed and placed on the customer file.