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Good Communications Result in Thorough Inspections

Inspector Fred Martie looks at the power of communication and the key role it plays in inspections
By: Fred Martie

Good Communications Result in Thorough Inspections

For the inspection process to be thorough and completed speedily and efficiently, effective communication is of utmost importance to all parties involved – the vehicle owner, the warranty company, the repair facility, the technician and the inspector. I started my inspection business in 2000, after working for 20 years as a line technician in independent shops and a GM dealership, ten years as shop foreman at the same GM dealer, then ten years as a service manager in two different GM dealers. During these last 14 years, I have performed too many inspections to remember and have experienced all the communication breakdowns that occur in this business.

These communication breakdowns cost the vehicle owner frustrations and expenses because their vehicle is not repaired speedily. The warranty company experiences frustrations and incurs expenses from delays or inspections that have to be repeated. The repair facility experiences frustrations and incurs expenses because they have bays or lifts tied up waiting on claim approval. The technician experiences frustration and a loss of income because his stall or rack is tied up, or he has to spend his time repeating the testing to demonstrate the failure. The inspector experiences delays in the daily scheduling of his workload, and often has to juggle appointments because an inspection is delayed.

Take this real life example: I received an inspection request from the warranty administrator to check a vehicle’s seat heater grids. I called the dealer to confirm that the vehicle was present at the shop, and the technician was present to demonstrate the failure. The service advisor assured me they were both there, so we set the inspection time at 10 am. I arrived on time at the dealer for the inspection. The service advisor paged the technician to come to the service drive. When the technician arrived at the service drive and retrieved the keys, he said, “Let’s go out to the vehicle.” Once in the vehicle, the technician turned the right and left seat heater controls on. The LED lights illuminated, but only stayed on for approximately 45 seconds. The technician stated this as failure. I asked what part in the system was the failure; he replied that it was the heated seat grids. I then asked what the resistance value of each grid was. The technician said he had not checked them, but thought that must be the problem. I explained to the technician that I was tasked to verify the failure to the seat grids, and to document that failure with photos and videos. He said he would have to remove the front seats to gain access to the connectors. I informed the service manager of the situation, and told him to call me when the technician was ready to demonstrate the failure, and I would return to the dealership to document it.

That was on a Monday morning. Finally, I received a call from the dealership the next Friday at 4:30 p.m., stating they had the seats out and were ready for me. I informed the dealer I was already on another inspection and could not get back to the dealer by the close of business. The service advisor said she had to put the car back together because the customer wanted the vehicle for a trip. I told her to call me when they were ready to demonstrate the failure to the heater grids. The warranty administrator then cancelled the inspection.

The next week, on Thursday, I received a re-inspection request from the warranty administrator. I called the dealer again to confirm the vehicle was present and they were ready to demonstrate the failure. I arrived on Friday morning at 9 am. The technician was upset because he had to remove the seats again. I asked him to check the resistance of the seat heater grids with a digital volt ohm meter. When he tested the seat heater grids they were both within the GM’s specification. The failure was in the memory seat module, not the heater grids.

My contention is this: If the warranty administrator had effectively communicated to the dealer to be prepared to measure the resistance of the seat heater grids on the first inspection request, we would have solved the owners concern two weeks earlier.

Good communication in this instance would have saved the dealer the expense of two dis-assemblies, the owners untold frustration, the technician from double work for the same pay, the warranty administrator extra expense on rental car, huge customer dissatisfaction, and the inspector two trips, two weeks apart, to the dealer while only getting paid for one. If this were a one-time situation it would be different. However in my experience, I have seen vehicles repaired and returned to the owner and have arrived at the the shop only to be provided with a box of used parts. I have also arrived to find a vehicle diagnosed and reassembled, and even had a shop say a vehicle was ready for inspection, only to find no dis-assembly at all when I arrived. I have arrived at repair facilities where the shop was anticipating that I was there to tell them what the failure was. I have arrived at the dealer to find extensive modifications to the vehicle, obvious abuse by the owner, that if the dealer had disclosed, the warranty administrator might have reconsidered the expense of an inspection. All of the cases above are the result of poor communications in the inspection process.

Good Communication between the dealership and the warranty company

The service personnel must give full disclosure and detailed information concerning all failures that they expect the warranty company to pay for. For example: abuse, neglect, modifications, ball joint measurements, DTCs and any tests that have been run. Also, they should let them know if the vehicle has already been repaired.

Warranty adjusters must give the dealer full disclosure of their expectations during the upcoming inspection. For example: their need for ball joint measurement and specifications, their need to know the point of failure, any and all dis-assembly required to get to the point of failure, or any testing which the shop will need to demonstrate to the inspector, thereby demonstrating the failure, any fluid sampling they will require, and notify them that for road testing, the dealer personnel are required to drive the vehicle.

Good Communication between the warranty company and the inspector

Warranty companies have the responsibility to communicate their needs to the inspector in a detailed manner. For example: what they are looking for, if they need fluid samples, the time line for the completion of the inspection, how the warranty company is to receive the inspection information, required measurements, and if they prefer video. Most warranty companies no longer work directly with inspectors, which means that the same good communication needs to occur between the third party broker and the inspector. Inspectors cannot read minds!

Good Communication between the inspector and the dealer to schedule the inspection

The inspector must promptly contact the dealer to schedule an inspection, confirm that the vehicle is at the facility, has the required dis-assembly, that the technician who diagnosed the failure is present to demonstrate the failure, and if a rack is required, confirm the dealer will have one available. It is good to inquire if the dealer has dial indicator equipment if measuring ball joints, and equipment to check the codes! Ask the service advisor for the full service history, as well as the used car inspection repair order and check-over sheet. Be sure to view the technician’s notes on all documents, as these items often reveal preexisting conditions.

Good Communication between the inspector and the technician during the inspection

In the experience of this inspector, good communications between the inspector and the technician is the most critical aspect in a thorough inspection result. The inspector must be familiar with the systems or items that he is requested to inspect, in order to ask the proper questions. If he is not familiar, a little time reading the service manual on the vehicle prior to arriving for the inspection would be a huge asset. There are a lot of services online that can be used to access the data as well.

Asking the proper questions assures the technician that your not the “hatchet man” and are truly interested in helping get the claim paid. The proper questions will reveal if the technician did in fact follow the proper diagnostic procedure to come to his conclusion of the failure. Asking the proper questions also reveals if a technician has the skills to properly diagnose the failure. Being friendly, helpful and asking the right question often times leads to information from the technician that: a.) he may have forgotten from his initial diagnosis, b.) he failed to provide the service advisor, or c.) he intentionally left out of the shop request for an inspection. Communicating that the inspector is willing to “go the extra mile” in allowing the shop to duplicate or demonstrate the failure builds confidence in the inspector’s value to the technician as well.

Good Communication between the inspector and the service advisor/manager after the inspection

Communicating with the service advisor or service manager about what you were able and unable to verify, and the reasons why, builds confidence between the inspector and the service personnel. This also communicates what will be reported to the warranty company. In simpler terms, “no surprises” that will leave the advisor or manager feeling the inspector tried to pull one over on him.

Good Communications between the inspector and the warranty company adjuster after the inspection is completed 

The inspector should communicate the failure and the cause of that failure, as well as all tests that were used in determining the cause of the failure with the warranty company adjuster. Communicating observations, denoting any subtle signs of abuse, such as constant curbing, which would contribute to premature ball joint failure. This includes communicating in both your verbal and written reports the measurements of any suspension modifications. In my opinion, photos and videos are an excellent means of communicating what you have seen. I take multiple photos in varying light conditions, as well as varying positions of an item, to give the adjuster multiple views of the failure. My reports average 40 or more photos, and I have reported as many as 160 photos for one inspection.

I encourage everyone in the inspection process to apply good communication skills to each and every level of the inspection process. The result will be thorough, quality inspections that will result in the satisfaction of all parties.

This article was written by:

- has written 1 posts on P&A Magazine.

Fred Martie is an ASE Certified Master Technician. He is also Gm Certified, Detroit Diesel Certified, and is a MCI Certified Mechanical Inspector. He owns and operates Mid Missouri Inspection Associates in Missouri. Martie’s experience includes 20 years as a line tech, six years as a GM shop foreman, ten years as a GM service manager, and he has performed inspections for the last 14 years. Martie has been married 44 years and has two daughters and four grandchildren. He loves camping, spending time with his family, and dirt stock car racing.

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The views expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of P&A Magazine or any employee thereof.

8 Responses to “Good Communications Result in Thorough Inspections”

  1. Jeff Frazier says:

    Fred has hit a HOME RUN with this article! I have ALWAYS felt good communication is the most important part of the complete inspection process. More important that technical knowledge, more important than uploading photos from the repair facility, and more important that any of the other aspects of the inspection process. With good communication, all other challenges can be overcome. After 15 years in the inspection business I have seen all of the above challenges. The administrator not informing the repair facility of their expectations (just yesterday) the needed dis-assembly or needed tools/equipment to demonstrate the failure. I have heard of inspectors who come in to a repair facility with the attitude they are the individual responsible for determining the outcome of the claim, inspectors who will state, “This is declined.” or will confront the tech in a demeaning way. Inspectors have been banned from repair facilities because of their communication style. I have found good communication, or people skills, is my greatest asset and I have never had a “run in” with a tech, advisor, administrator, vehicle owner, or agency. Keeping everyone involved in the inspection process updated with any challenges that occur has done nothing but help my personal business grow and stay strong. The secret is out. Good communication is the most important portion of the inspection process. That’s my two cents worth.

  2. LT says:

    The key words here are “effective and accurate” communication. I would hope that an inspector with 14 yrs experience knows better than to simply call a “to confirm that the vehicle was present at the shop, and the technician was present to demonstrate the failure”. Experience tells me that some type of disassembly would be required for testing of a seat heater grid, so EFFECTIVE communication would have been INSPECTOR asking repair facility, prior to arrival, if “connections to seat heater grid are exposed, and Tech prepared to perform OHM test”. I’m betting reinspection could have been avoided, if Inspector had simply asked the RIGHT question.

  3. Matt Pollak says:

    Nice article Fred – Hope all is well. I have just recently created a inspections forum that I encourage all to join – field inspectors, inspection companies, service contract administrators, dealer principals, claims managers, service managers and writers, and technicians.

    Lets bring the communication to a new whole level. Its fun and most importantly we can learn from each other. Its free to communicate among each other.

    The forum is located here http://inspections.proboards.com/

  4. LT says:

    The KEY words here are “effective and accurate” communication. Experience tells me that an Inspection Request indicating failure of Seat Heater Grid requires some degree of tear down, and an Ohm test. An Inspector with 14 yrs experience should know better then to simply ask if “vehicle was present at the shop, and the technician was present to demonstrate the failure”. I’m betting that if the RIGHT question had been asked by inspector, when RF contacted prior to inspection, a reinspection wouldn’t have resulted. EVERY Inspector should know and understand that the Agenda of a repair facility, is very different than that of a Claims Administrator, therefore its necessary that they ask very specific questions concerning level of tear down, testing, etc., and WHEN IN DOUBT, contact the Inspection Agency or Administrator, for clarification/guideance.

  5. Fred martie says:

    LT, Thanks for catching my slip. I did ask the repair facility and I did call the Agency/Administrator and they did contact the dealer the second time for clarification. I know that I am not the agent who authorizes teardown!

  6. Matt Pollak says:

    I agree LT There has to be more questions asked by “everybody” that is speaking to the shop prior to the time of the inspection. More qualifying questions benefits everybody, and in addition provides better results.

  7. S.Miller says:

    Fred you hit the nail on the head on several points, but I would like to add that due to high turn over is shops and the service drive there is a wealth of new advisors and techs in which both lack or know the technical verbiage to even understand what you are asking them. I would have a very simple solution to this which is once the claim was called in to the providing company that they verify the level of teardown to view physical damage/testing to the component in question. This SHOULD be done prior to even assigning a inspection company to send out a inspector. WE are accepting the monkey to jump from there back and now onto are back and dealing with things that should have already been done and out of our control. We all know we don’t authorize teardown or testing other than what has already been agreed upon. If I had to wait for every service department to return my calls my inspections would pile up and not done on a timely manner.

  8. Matt Pollak says:

    Quote from above post: This SHOULD be done prior to even assigning a inspection company to send out a inspector.

    S. Miller You are 100% correct. If the vehicle was not ready for inspection it should have not been assigned by the warranty company. Did the claims adjuster at the warranty that spoke to the repair facility ask the proper questions? and in addition explain what would be required of them with demonstrating the failure when the inspector arrives?

    I have created a thread about this subject at

    http://inspections.proboards.com/

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