A better auto repair invoice

InvoiceHeaderEvery customer deserves to understand exactly what we’ve done while servicing their vehicle at Lowell’s. Over the past few months, we’ve introduced a new invoice design which helps do just that. We built it from scratch to make  it easier to see just what you are getting with every visit to Lowell’s.

After looking at a lot of invoices, we think ours is the best invoice in the repair industry.

But why care about your mechanic’s invoice? Because the invoice tells you a lot about your mechanic, and whether they want you to be informed about your car and their work. Here’s what our invoice does for you:

Easier Reading

New Invoice

Click image to magnify

We’ve placed basic information about you and your vehicle along the left side of the invoice, while the main part of the invoice shows details about this visit to Lowell’s.

Making Our Work Clearer for You

We’ve organized the core of our invoice into three sections to help you see what we did (and what we did not do). A dark red bar visually marks the beginning of each section.

Your Service Request outlines the reasons you brought your car into Lowell’s.

What We Did contains the details surrounding the work we’ve done to your vehicle.

What We Recommend tells you about items we noticed during your service which might need your attention soon, along with estimates for addressing each issue.

Job by Job

Lots of repair places lump their work into a big jumble which makes it hard for customers to figure out what they’re paying for. Many dealers, for example, take the labor from several separate jobs and smush it all together into a single big labor charge. That makes it really, really hard to decode what they’re really, really charging you for.

At Lowell’s, we want you to see exactly what you are paying for. For each distinct job in our What We Did section, we show you our labor (in bold) and every part used (indented). These items are grouped together by job – a Lubrication Service, say, is clearly separated from other work, like a Brake System Flush. Our charges for each component of a job are also clearly shown.

The Best Warranty in the Business

We really stand behind our work here at Lowell’s. Most of our repair work carries an unmatched 3 year, 36,000 mile warranty – three to twelve times the warranty of most dealers and other shops for the same work.

Whenever we do work for you which carries a warranty, your invoice will clearly show that with a green “warranty box”, which describes the duration of the warranty for that particular work.

Because we also note the date and your vehicle’s mileage on each invoice, you can easily see whether a repair is still covered. (And if it is, we’ll fix it, of course.)

You Can Plan Ahead

When we notice things during your service which might need your attention, we try to prioritize those items for you in the What We Recommend section of the new invoice.

Related Post: How we make recommendations at Lowell’s.

We color-code each recommendation to help you understand its urgency: Red means that the item represents a potential safety issue, and should be addressed immediately; Orange means that the item could damage your vehicle soon if left untreated; Yellow denotes items which you should address to keep your vehicle operating smoothly; and Gray indicates items which might be due according to your vehicle’s mileage (usually these are items we can’t confirm the need for with a simple visual check and which might have been done elsewhere).

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Our new invoice clarifies our work, and helps you plan how to keep your car running long into the future. We think it reflects the unique ‘spirit’ of Lowell’s toward automotive repair: open, direct, clear, and easy to understand.

As always, we’d love to know how we can do better (with this invoice or any other aspect of our service). Let us know what you’d like to see in the comments below.

No Stupid Charges

Reason #54 from our Why Should I Choose Lowell’s? series.

Since the economy slowed a few years ago, it seems that a lot of businesses have found some ‘creative’ ways to inflate their prices with unexplained (and inexplicable) charges.

These silly fees have found their way into the auto repair industry, too. Some places tack on up to 15% more to your invoice with them.

Here’s a screwball example from a local dealer:

SillyFees1

This invoice describes a fairly standard brake job for $252.88.  But then the dealer goes on to add $18.89 in “miscellaneous” charges:

SillyFees3

In this case, the miscellaneous charges magically add another 7.5% to the bill!

Document Retention Fees. Shop Supplies Charges. Environmental Disposal Fees. Fuel Surcharges. What the heck are these things, anyway?

This dealer is basically making customers pay its bills.  Next thing you know, they’ll just forward their electrical bill to you.  Or tack on a “staff training charge” or a “we-just-bought-new-equipment fee”.  Just kidding.  Hopefully.

We think the whole idea is just silly.

We don’t like it when our suppliers apply stupid fees to us. And we bet you don’t like it either.

So we don’t do it at Lowell’s.

Instead, we figure out a fair price for our service, and quote that to you.  Then – and this is the key – we deliver our work for that price.

That’s it.  Pretty simple, huh?

At Lowell’s, the price we quote is the price you pay. No silly games. No hidden fees. No unpleasant surprises when you pick up your car.

We think that’s a smarter way to run a business. We hope you do, too.

When your car still isn’t right

Hi everyone!  Keith here and today’s topic is a difficult – but important – one.

BrakesWhat do you do when there is a problem with your car soon after you pick it up from Lowell’s? Do you bring it back or do you take it somewhere else?

While you may be tempted to take your vehicle elsewhere, we hope that you will bring it back to us so we may address your concern.  If we ever let you down, we ask for the chance to make things right.

I can honestly say everyone here is dedicated to doing the job right the first time. Sometimes, though, we might miss something or may not communicate something that you need to know.

As such, we’d like to correct any discrepancy there may be.  We try to resolve any issues with customers — however large or small.

If you bring your vehicle back to Lowell’s, I can promise we will do our best to make it right.  If we made mistakes during your service, we can usually resolve the problem at no extra cost to you.  If for some reason you still are not satisfied, please contact Rob personally.

We appreciate the trust you place in Lowell’s, and will always work hard to keep it.

Introducing the Lowell’s Courtesy iPad

We’re always looking for ways to make your Lowell’s experience better.

IPad2You might have gotten a ride to work in our courtesy shuttle van.  If we needed to keep your car for a while, you might have driven one of our courtesy loaner vehicles.  Some of you have even ridden our courtesy bikes around downtown!

Now, the next time you are waiting in our lobby, try out our new courtesy iPad 2!

Use our iPad to cruise the internet, to catch up on news, or even to play a few rounds of Angry Birds while we fix your car!

 

Share the Knowlege

Keith3Hello everyone!  My name is Keith Shelburne. I have been working for Lowells for just over 6 years now, and have been asked by Rob to be a  contributor to the blog.

I have been turning wrenches (as they say) for over 26 years and am an ASE Master Certified Technician.

My objective will be to share my knowlege with everyone on the blog.  Things from the write up to service to what we do when we technicians get your car, as well as any specifics on the cars.

I will try to be as informative as possible without being too technical.  I would like to hear any questions about appointments, personnel, write-ups, training,  service work or technical topics.

Do you have a topic already? Just let me know what you would like to see covered.  Check back soon to see what the first topic may be.

Thanks,  Keith S

Easier Appointments

Online2 We're pleased to release a long-needed upgrade to our online system for making service appointments or checking your service history.

If you used the application over the past couple of years, you were taken to an older section of our site which looked very different from our main site: different logo, different background, different navigation.  

In fact, it looked so different that it confused some customers.  Were they even on the same site?

We've tried to update the look and feel of the application to make it clearer and easier to use.

Try it out and let us know how you like it.  And, as always, please let us know what we can do better.

LowellsSquare

“Do You Always Use Genuine Toyota Parts?”

Customers often ask us, “Do you always use genuine Toyota parts?”

No, not always.

Genuine Toyota Brake Pads Throughout our history, we’ve consistently used a mixture of genuine Toyota parts and high-quality aftermarket (in other words, “non-Toyota”) parts.

We choose parts based on part quality, availability, and price.  If a Toyota part costs too much or takes too long to get in, and we can offer a high-quality alternative, we will.

On critical categories of parts – such as brake pads, oil filters, antifreeze, and ignition coils – we use only Toyota materials because we think Toyota offers superior quality.

When we do use aftermarket parts, we try to ensure that they are equivalent in quality to Toyota parts – usually by choosing a supplier who also supplies Toyota (such as NGK or Denso).

We know that our parts quality is key to our customers’ satisfaction – and to the future of Lowell’s. Without great parts, we wouldn’t be able to stand behind our exceptional three-year / 36,000-mile warranty on most repairs (where other shops and dealers usually offer 1-year or 90-day warranties).

If you ever have questions about your parts, please feel free to ask.  We’re always happy to explain how we work on your car.

LowellsSquare

Year-End Schedule

Year End 2010Following our long-standing tradition, Lowell's will be closed for the last week of the year.  

That means we will be closing early (at 2 PM) on December 24th, and will remain closed until we reopen for business on January 3rd, 2011.

If you need to schedule service with us prior to your holiday travel, please keep this schedule in mind.  You can make an appointment online, or call us the shop at 233-1173.

Thank you so much for a great 2010, and we look forward to seeing you again in 2011!

Rob, Suzanne, and your friends at Lowell's

789 Free Oil Changes

789As part of our 30th Anniversary, Lowell's gave away 789 free oil changes during the last 3 months of 2009 during our Lowell's Community Service program. In total, those oil changes were worth over $18,500. 

Community Service was our way to say "thank you" for 30 years of support – and for making Lowell's Lexington's "Best Honest Mechanic" (Ace Weekly's Best of Lex Awards) and "Favorite Auto Repair Shop" (Herald-Leader's Reader's Choice Awards) in 2009.

As we start 2010, we're looking at other innovative ways we can serve
our loyal customers and our community – please let us know if you have
great ideas!

We thank you for supporting us for the past 30 years, and we look
forward to serving Lexington in 2010 and beyond. Happy New Year!

We love you, too!

One of the great things about working at a service-oriented company like Lowell’s is how much our customers appreciate what we do.  Our hope is that treating customers with generosity will pay future dividends – we want to build the most loyal band of customers in the city.

And, occasionally, we’re able to do something which touches peoples’ lives for the better.  We did that a couple of times last week.

J.I. sent us this note in response to our Community Service program (a FREE full-service oil change, with no strings, no catches, and no charge), our way of saying “thank you” to our community in celebration of our 30th anniversary:

Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 3:45 PM

Subject: I LOVE LOWELL’S

I just wanted to share something with you.  I have been experiencing a
bit of financial difficulty these past few months.  I guess I too am a
victim of the bad economy.  Anyway, my service light came on yesterday
and I quickly realized I needed an oil change.  I decided to check out
your web site to see if I could get a good deal on an oil change and to
my amazement I saw the ad for a free oil change.  I will be contacting
you to make my appointment! 🙂  I wanted to say thanks for the years of
GREAT service you provide Lexington and your decision to offer a free
oil change. It is a BLESSING to me!  May you get all that you deserve in
return for being so honest and giving!

J.I.

That same week, we got a bowl full of candy and this wonderful note from C.H., who used one of our 20-year-old loaner Camrys over the weekend:

Thank you so much for the use of the loaner car while mine was being fixed.  I must admit that I panicked not quite knowing how to work out the details of not having a car.  Your loaner looked better than any luxury car could ever look to me this weekend!!

You all truly deserve the reputation you have as giving excellent customer service!!

With gratitude,
C.H.

Both of these notes make us proud to be in the business of helping people.  We’re always looking for ways to be an even better mechanic.  It is really nice when you tell us that we’re on the right track.

We love you, too!