One of the inspirations for ClearMechanic is the antiquated payment process currently used by auto repair providers. Even dealerships, which often have flat screen TVs and air-conditioned waiting rooms, have not adopted modern retailing practices during check-out.
Two aspects of the dealership check-out process stick out. One is the need to pay a cashier – an employee whose core job responsibility is to process credit card transactions. Our focus groups have revealed that waiting in line to pay cashiers can be quite frustrating at the end of a long work day. And consumer frustration can transform into anger if the cashier is unable to answer basic questions about the repair (“why is that line item on my invoice?”).
The second aspect is the dealership receipt. It’s an 8.5 x 11 physical print-out that serves as the only record (outside of the dealer systems) a repair ever took place. Modern retailers – think Orbitz, Amazon, Netflix – automatically provide electronic invoices to ensure multiple records of a transaction. But, the auto repair sector, which is uniquely vulnerable to consumers calling to question the usefulness of previous repairs, generally does not permit electronic invoice access by consumers.
Today’s Wall Street Journal offers another rationale for making invoices more sophisticated: the notion of receipts as sales generators. CVS, Best Buy and other mainstream retailers have mastered the art of the “long receipt,” which doubles as a targeted coupon dispenser in addition to a transaction record. Apparently, the redemption rate on these coupons is 3%, significantly higher than redemption of coupons sent by mail.
To be sure, we don’t look forward to the day when dealership invoices are five pages long and packed with marketing information. But, an invoice that offers a few targeted coupons and perhaps even explanations of repairs performed would be 1) welcomed by most consumers and 2) economically beneficial for dealerships.