with:  Jake Durfee, Certified Hail and Dent Inc

Creating a proper estimate is an extremely important step in the automotive hail damage repair cycle.  Insurance carriers have given technicians a guideline on how to price varying levels of damage.  It is up to us to take the guidelines they have provided and create an accurate price for our service.  Proper dent count, sizing, add ons, mark ups, parts cost, and R&I times all need to be inputted into a complete hail damage estimate that can be easily viewed and accepted by the insurance provider covering the claim.  Mobile technology now allows PDR technicians to move away from circling boxes on a matrix to delivering professional printed and digital estimates to body shop estimators and insurance adjusters.  One of the more popular apps available today is Ding Stinger, which was introduced in 2013.  We sit down with one of the creators of the software, Jake Durfee, to learn how the app came about, and how it has improved over the years.

What aspect of PDR do you focus on (dealership, retail, body shops,service centers, hail damage, auctions, etc)? 

I focus mainly on individual retail customers and body shops, fixing door dings, large dents, creases, and hail damage.

When did you and your partner James Bishop decide to build the Ding Stinger? What made you decide to take on the challenge?

The idea first came up while brainstorming ways to improve how we wrote hail estimates in 2012.  It was taking too much time and was very difficult to teach someone that didn’t actually do PDR. We would walk around the vehicle, taking pictures, writing down VIN numbers, counting the dents–losing count in between, referencing a pricing matrix, pulling out a calculator to calculate up charges, trying to remember and note any prior damage, transferring all of that to a triplicate paper estimate, and loading pics from a camera to a computer to email adjusters. We originally thought of an app that could simply calculate estimates using the matrix. This developed into much more.

How did you find a developer for your app?

My older brother had been working as a software engineer for the last 8 years and was learning to develop apps on iOS. He agreed to take on the project.

What was the initial goal or focus of the software?

The initial goal was to simply be able to count dents, take pictures and notes, and calculate costs of repairs. As we worked on it though, it became clear that the app should encompass all other aspects of estimating as well including R&I, conventional work, replacement parts, etc.

How long did it take to develop the first version?

We worked on test versions and countless rounds of changes and additions for about 9 months before launching our first version on the App Store in July, 2013.

Do you know how many different people have downloaded the Ding Stinger app?  Is it a worldwide software solution?

We currently have over 100 companies using our App in 22 different countries. It is mainly being used in the US, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and South Africa.

The Ding Stinger can be used on the iphone, ipad, and ipad mini; what about Android devices?

We have plans to develop for Android in the future, but we cannot say how far out that will be. Developing for Android requires much more testing across almost 100 devices available to make sure it would work properly.

For the amount of features in the app, $30 a month is a very fair price.  Do you think that price will increase over time?

We are considering offering multiple options to subscribe with different levels of features and functionality available at different prices. We have always aimed to keep our software affordable for whoever wants to use it, and we will continue to do so.

How many users or techs can use one license?

The Ding Stinger subscription can be set up and purchased under your business’ iCloud to be shared across 6 devices. This is a restriction put in place by Apple.

I really like how the app can function without internet or cellular service.  Can I save estimates and invoices to the cloud?

Yes. When you write an estimate outside of service or wifi, that information will be saved locally and then uploaded to the iCloud when service becomes available. However, the file created and saved can only be viewed and edited using The Ding Stinger app. PDF versions can be saved and shared easily.

The app has several options for R&I items and part replacement.  How did you calculate the times and part costs?

We tried to average the costs for R&I times among several different manufacturers. We find that our numbers are usually within a few tenths of an hour to what insurance companies are writing. Parts prices can differ so much that we just tried to get a base price established so that replacement can be added to the estimate. Part prices and R&I times can be easily adjusted to match actual costs from the Review Estimate screen with just one tap.

The app includes a feature where you can enter conventional repair time, refinish time, and blend time.  Are you guys using this app to write conventional body shop repairs?

These functions were added in to allow the user to accurately write or match any estimate. Some of our users, including ourselves, offer services other than PDR. We wanted to give them every advantage to charging for their services and providing a legitimate, professional looking estimate–without having to spend hundreds of dollars per month on full collision writing software.

I love how the app allows you to add more than one multiplier (aluminum, double panel, oversized panel) along with selecting if the vehicle has “high value.”  How have the insurance companies received this feature?

In general, we have had a great response from insurance companies and adjusters who receive our Ding Stinger estimates. They love that everything is organized and that pictures can be attached to the estimate. We also find that they rarely question what we are charging because the app is determining the cost. These numbers aren’t just shot from the hip, they are calculated and justified through pictures and descriptive notes. That being said, there will always be that adjuster that wants to negotiate the prices or tell you what they will or won’t pay. You are the expert and if you don’t have an agreement with the insurance company, you can charge what you feel is fair. I say let them knock it down if they want and then turn in another supplement asking for another adjuster if necessary.

Does the app automatically mark-up roof repair prices on large SUV’s and vans?  What about double metal on roof rails?

The app automatically adds up-charges for extended roof panels on SUV’s, extended cab trucks, wagons, and vans. The up charge for double panel, high strength steel, and aluminum must be manually added by the user.

Have you had success with body shop estimators and insurance adjusters using the Ding Stinger to write hail estimates on their own?

We have found that writing an accurate hail estimate is easier than ever using our app. Users have mentioned training a wife or family member in just minutes. Many times, estimators/adjusters are required to use specific collision writing software required by their shop/insurance company. In some cases however, they have purchased the app to use in the field as a fast easy way of capturing the information that they need, and complete the estimate using their collision writing software.

How can this app be used in a hail storm situation where you have out of town contractors working for your local PDR company?  Do let those guys use your ipad loaded with your username or do you have them download their own copy of the software with a different username?

We suggest requiring techs to obtain their own version of the app using your company’s name, logo, address, etc. This eliminates confidentiality or privacy issues that could come up when all of your company’s estimates/invoices are accessible to everyone. We have had success in the past by setting up an email inbox for all estimates/invoices to be sent to by the techs. Then our office manager can audit the invoices and create billing statements based on what gets turned in.

The app now features a “big dent and crease” estimator.  How did you come up with the prices?  Can they be overridden? Can they be adjusted?

We wanted these prices to reflect the difficulty of the repair. The price is calculated by starting with a base price according to the size of the dent. From there, the price increases (approx. 15%) with each added level of difficulty–severity/sharpness of the dent, proximity to body lines/edges of panel, etc. The app will provide a suggested price which can be manually adjusted with one tap.

How do you decide which features to improve on or add?

Many times, we are required to develop simply to keep up with Apple updates. As far as feature improvements/additions, we take suggestions from our users to help fine tune the app to fit their needs. Any suggestions can be sent to info@thedingstinger.com

What new features are you working on now?

We are currently working on adding a customizable customer/account database to better organize and track billing. This feature will also save the user time by not having to enter customer information multiple times. Also, we plan to add a supplement feature to match original amounts and automatically create a supplement sheet. Additional features in the future will include wholesale and multiple vehicle estimating/invoicing and tech tracking.

What make the Ding Stinger better than other hail estimating apps?

The biggest compliment we receive is The Ding Stinger’s ease of use. The layout and feel of the app is clean, easy to understand, and fast. It is also very affordable and hassle free with no startup or registration fees. You can purchase monthly with no contract, or save and purchase for multiple months.

For more info check out www.thedingstinger.com

Download Ding Stinger on iTunes

Learn more about Jake’s PDR company, Certified Hail and Dent Inc and check out his PDR Nation Reviews

UPDATE 06/01/2015

Sadly Ding Stinger has announced they will be closing the app starting January 2016. They will also be offering discounted subscriptions for the rest of the year. The app world is a cut throat industry. There seems to be a wave of new PDR specific hail estimating and invoicing systems hitting the market right now. Which one will capture the hearts of PDR techs world wide? Only time will tell.