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paper work

I've been self employed for 4 years in a one man shop. I have probably pushed my luck some in this area as I've never really done any type of authorization to start repair forms or anything like that, just always done the job, got paid and gave them a receipt. Was wondering what type of paper work you guys do with customers before work starts. I do a mixture of collision and restoration, but I am hoping to get away from the collision stuff in the future. Any info or advice would be appreciated.
Some states require signatures for everything. I've always worked with detailed estimates, explanations that satisfy the customer's concerns, and a handshake. Any changes must be approved in advance, verbal over the phone is okay but I prefer in-person visits to show what's needed and why. So far I have been fortunate in that nobody has tried to lie about what I said I would do or any BS like that. I think sometimes I can sniff those kinds of customers out at the door and make sure what I tell them will ensure they don't want me to work for them.
On collision work I give estimates. I recently switched from web est to audatex estimating so an estimate is no problem. some of the shops I used to work at I know had several documents a customer had to sign before they would begin repairs and I was just wondering if I needed something like that myself. On resto work I use a note book as a log to track hours and materials with times and dates, customer has to come buy see what has been done and pay at least every 2 weeks although I prefer weekly if I am putting many hours into the project. The biggest reason I was asking about this type of paper work is more for the restoration stuff. I was thinking it might help protect me and at the same time be a polite way to weed out some of the low ball stuff by reminding potential customers they are in a place of business. My shop has its own address and drive but it is next door to my house so I feel like a lot of people have the idea its like it was 7 or 8 years ago when I worked somewhere else and did side work, need to remind them that its a business now and the overhead isn't cheap.
first check your state laws on recording . i have a pocket voice activated recorder that is in my pocket every time i talk with a customer. if you use written estimates have them signed. post your labor rates in plain view and never negotiate on rates .
I would think signatures are needed for any type of insurance work, they do that to set the limits of the expectations of the job, like using restoration materials, or salvaged parts to repair their vehicle, so the next problem that comes up is covered. That is really how you are protecting yourself. I looked into the software for auto repair software, you basically put your hourly rate in and it spits out an estimate by an established time frame for that type of repair to get made. Your rate would include your overhead and your own hourly wage. They figured out how long it should take a shop to make a repair and bills accordingly. It might help you to see if you have been charging enough along the way, but getting a signature ahead of time is just protecting yourself for that person that comes back complaining about fit or floppy metal. It does not sound like you have had many customers that complained that you did not do what you said you were going to do. I also think paperwork is important for your insurance, if something catastrophic happened while you had possession of the car.

As far as being a previous customer of body shops, man, the last thing I needed to hear was about the shops overhead, I just want my car back like it was before the accident or before the floors fell out, its your choice to buy bigger and better equipment that will allow you to work faster at higher profit rates. Bottom line, what would you expect from someone you dropped your personal vehicle off at? What if they decided to make a bunch of repairs you did not ask for and billed you for it? That is usually the best way to decide, put yourself in the customers shoes and if what you are doing is enough, adding software and a system is basically adding cost to your overhead. It will allow you to estimate faster and show them that any shop will expect to spend the same time on the repairs.

Just seems like its a step to make yourself feel more like a business and not just side work, but with that, comes all the pains of feeling like you are going to get screwed every job.
I guess for now I'll just have them sign the estimate and draw up a authorization to begin repair form based an acceptance of the estimate while explaining that supplements do happen and are an additional cost, and that they'll be notified before any additional work is performed. For my resto work though its all time and materials and I don't give estimates so I not sure how I would word something for that stuff. I never really had any issues with any body as far as paying goes except for twice but that was my fault. I let two different individuals stiff me on their deductible, one asked up front Thaif they could pay over a couple months and stupid me said yes, they gave me 50 twice on a 500 deductible. the other time lady told me she didn't realize she owed a deductible, I already had the insurance check and she asked if she could go ahead and have her car, said she would be back at end of the week to pay and you can guess what happened. For the most part though I have good customers and a lot of them are repeat.


Trying to be the best me, I can be
Supplements in the Insurance Biz are common and expected. (by the Insurance Co.) If you are doing Insurance work today you've got to have a modern estimating system like CCC One. http://www.cccis.com/ It will print anything along the lines of what you are talking about, from preliminary estimates to repair authorization forms. Downside is the expense. But in this day and age when you need to communicate with the Insurance company and send pictures attachments etc, CCC One is invaluable. It also makes you look more professional in the eyes of the Insurance Companies.
Thanks for the input. I did some more looking online and found some generic form I can use as a guide line. After looking at my estimating software again it seems there is some diferent options there as well. So far I have only written a couple estimates with the Audatex system so still learning it as it is formatted a lot different than the Web Est I was using. Chris before I switched to Audatex I looked at CCC One and its definitely a great program, it's just way more than I wanted to pay. The Audatex system I use is subscription based like Web Est I used to use was, either one will make a nice looking estimates, provide labor times, paint material calculation, and part pricing at about a 1/4 of the price of CCC One. As I grow I can ad a lot of features such as the ability to attach images directly to the estimate, but additional features do cost more. Usually when I deal with insurance companies I just fax a copy of the estimate and email the pictures separately. I am in a rural area so I don't do a bunch of insurance work usually only 1 or 2 a month and haven't had any issues dealing with any of them. again thanks to everyone for the advice sometimes it just helps to see what others are doing.