Many service shop owners build customer relations with the philosophy that seeing is believing. If you subscribe to this theory, purchasing a video camera may be a smart long-term investment for your service department. When it comes to verifying the need for unexpected repairs, prudent use of a camcorder gives service personnel the proof they long for when dealing with dis-trustful or cantankerous customers. Most dealers and many of their workers already own a camera and have experience using it.
What's more, the growing popularity of video cameras has lowered selling prices considerably since the technology first hit the market. Compared with what some dealers spend on shop equipment or on other customer-relations projects, the price of a camcorder is not extravagant.
Car-restoration specialists I know work strictly on a time and material basis. To them, familiarity with a particular make and model doesn't clarify how much paint stripping, rust repair and parts fabrication a restoration job may entail. They must totally disassemble the vehicle first.
Generally, people who order top-shelf restoration jobs can afford to do so, but they also tend to be shrewd business people who want to know how their money's being spent. Therefore, some restoration shops document the entire project-from teardown and initial inspection to final reassembly-with color photographs. Therefore, the cost of photographing the project is part of their normal cost of doing business.
More recently, restoration shops have begun shooting videos of their work, finding it's more cost effective for them and more impressive for customers.
I've seen Polaroid cameras in many service shops that are used to document unusual parts failures or to give technicians an accurate reference of how complicated linkages or assemblies go together. But camcorders are still relatively rare items in service shops.
Oddly enough, it was a recent dental checkup that really drove home the value of video verification. Fillings are only supposed to last 10 years, but I have several that are almost 20 years old. One after another, these fillings are finally failing-usually due to stress cracks. Every time I'm in for the regularly scheduled ``service,'' the dental technician finds another cracked old filling.
The dentist's staff joked that my situation reminded them of the motorist who's car needs another repair when it arrives for routine maintenance. They were right-some customers would be suspicious.
To enhance credibility with both customers and dental insurance companies, the dentist invested in video gear that allows him to quickly videotape a damaged tooth from several angles using a special camera probe. Then he can replay the video for you. Or, with the touch of a button, his equipment creates a color photo print from any frame on the videotape!
Understandably, this approach has speeded up the insurance claim process because insurers can see the same damage the dentist saw-as can the customer.
Videotaping the vehicle-from a whole-car, wide-angle shot down to close ups of different problems techs find during vehicle inspections-should stop ``Doubting Thomases'' in their tracks.
Allow them to review the videotape in the store's waiting room, in an unused store office, or at home. I think it will impress them as much as the dentist's or restoration specialists' videos impressed and reassured their customers. After all, it's a video age and seeing is still believing for most people.