Direct Tire now diagnoses your car’s troubles via video

Direct Tire diagnoses cars using videos
Andrew McWhorter, service adviser at Direct Tire & Auto Service, demos videoing a report for a customer. Photo by Daniel Dern

In late October, when I started to hear a rattling-metal sound in my car’s engine, I dropped off my car at the Galen Street, Watertown, branch of Direct Tire & Auto Service (where I’ve been a loyal customer for over three decades). But before I got the expected phone call to discuss the problems they’d found and the estimated cost, I received an e-mail message linking to a 42-second video showing the broken heat shield beneath the catalytic converter.

The customized video tool, which allows mechanics to create a quick film detailing the problems the find in each car, comes from Quik Video LLC, based in Quincy. “Customers we’ve interviewed say things like, ‘I finally understand what I’m being asked to pay for,'” reports D. Jack Gardner, Quik Video’s COO and national sales director.

Barry Steinberg, Direct Tire’s founder and owner, says he began using the system at its Galen Street branch in early October 2014 as a way to increase “transparency” with his customers.

“Much of the automotive service industry still has a bad reputation in terms of helping customers know what and where problems have been found,” he acknowledged. “And some of these parts can be hard to explain to people who aren’t as familiar with cars. We felt that these videos, combined with the service tech’s audio comments, would help customers see the places we recommended fixing.”

And while the videos are helping Direct Tire with their goal of better-informing customers, the real—and unexpected—benefit, according to Bob Lane, general manager at Direct Tire, is productivity on the repair floor.

“Once a service tech has looked at a car, they usually call the customer to report what they found and discuss the recommendations and prices,” says Lane. Those conversations would take 15 to 20 minutes, he said, and if he made 10 phone calls in a day, about six customers would typically say, ‘Let me get back to you.'”

But Lane reports that customers who see the videos are far quicker to respond: “Calls often go directly to ‘OK, sounds good. What will it cost? Fix it,'” he says. “That gives our service techs more time they can spend working on customers’ vehicles. And with more customers giving the go-ahead quicker, we don’t lose time otherwise spent shuffling cars in and out of service bays. This means better productivity.”

While any current smartphone could create a video on its own, Steinberg says that using Quik Video gives better results. “One of our tech guys tried doing a video with his phone, but it was cloudy and jumpy,” says Lane. “The videos that their app create are much clearer.”

In addition to providing the videos to customers, the Web dashboard lets Direct Tire’s mechanics see when and how many times a customer has opened the video, and provides overall management and data. “Plus, we can set up an automatic e-mail or text reminder for a specific date,” notes Lane. “That’s particularly great if we spot something that doesn’t need immediate work, but shouldn’t be forgotten about, like brake wear.”

“This tool is sensational, and we are the first independent repair facility in the Boston market to have it,” says Steinberg.

The company plans to have the video service available in its other three locations in early 2015.

Watch a video of the service here.