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Jared Hamilton
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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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The Case for a Simplified Service Invoice

As a service advisor, one of the most consistent complaints I ever received was not about fixed first visit issues, nor was it about being overpriced. There were occasionally concerns about how long it took to get an appointment, but that was an ebb-and-flow situation. The concern I saw routinely was about invoicing. Particularly, the invoice didn’t match the quote – or so it seemed.

Looking at it as a consumer, the complaints are completely founded. I think service invoices are unnecessarily complicated even if it isn’t maliciously so. Partly, it’s an effort to collect a little extra money from customers but in most cases, it’s a minor discrepancy or a communication issue.

What would solve it? A simplified invoice.

Why is that even important? For one reason – customer trust. When a customer thinks they’re being charged one amount and it ends up being higher, they think they’re being either lied to or nickel-and-dimed. The moment you offer a customer a chance to mistrust you, your chances of retaining their future business decrease.

Problems with Invoices

Let’s look at a few problems with invoices and how they can be corrected.

Shop Supplies Not Disclosed

Personally, I hate charging shop supplies on an invoice. When someone asks how shop supplies are charged, the answer is, “They’re a portion of the labor cost up to a maximum of XX. It covers things we use only a portion of like cleaner, lubricant, blah blah blah…”

As a consumer, alarm bells sound. They think, “Wait, you’re charging me for things you might or might not have used? Aren’t they the cost of doing business?”

I agree. Cost of doing business. In business, we understand that costs are passed along to the end user, but why separate it out? I prefer an increase in labor charges and eliminating the Shop Supplies line from the invoice.

Taxes Not Included in Quotes

It’s a fair assumption that taxes are extra for all prices. If a customer receives a call for an added service or repair, though, it’s a good practice to let them know how much it will be, taxes included. A customer is more likely to take your quote at full value over the phone. For example, if you call and say that an add-on will be $100 extra, they believe their total will be $100 more, not $100 plus taxes. At least, there’s a portion who think that.

It's easily corrected. When giving quotes, provide the amount and tack on the words “Plus taxes, coming to $XX altogether.” Now they know the base price AND the extended, tax-included price.

Minor Differences Between Advisor and Booker

This concern will depend on how your service department is structured, but I assume it’s a similar situation in many places. The advisor gives the customer all the pricing and the work gets completed, but lines are booked by someone else before it’s invoiced in the cashier’s office. Somehow, little discrepancies sneak through like an extra .1 or .2 hours or a few extra nuts and bolts charged out. Those little things can add up and contribute to mistrust in the service department when a customer picks up on them.

I believe service advisors should always review each line on an invoice. Extra parts not quoted should be tracked to the tech responsible and reviewed monthly – plus the cost should be internalized. Any labor differences should be flagged as well, and customers only charged what was quoted.

It usually isn’t the booker’s fault (assuming it isn’t the service advisor). But when service advisors aren’t reviewing their own invoices, it leads to disparities that frustrate and repel customers.


The goal is simple – build trust with customers. Accurate, simplified invoicing practices are a great way to uncomplicate the relationship in a meaningful way. At least, that’s my opinion.

Chris K Leslie

All great points Jason. I am going to look at how we do our service invoices a little more. 

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