Tips for Selecting the Right
3. Determine your interface and integration. Interfacing and integration are key discussion points when searching for the right software for your business. Shop owners must determine whether they want a shop management system that is all-inclusive - that is, it takes care of invoicing, parts ordering, accounting, estimating and more. If a shop owner is not looking for software to take care of all of those items, he or she must be sure that the software system purchased will be compatible with the accounting system they use as well as other estimating or scheduling programs already in place in their shop. The accounting issue is possibly the most important when determining which software to select.
4. Spend some time researching different programs. Software users and shop management companies alike recommend spending several months to a year researching programs that will be a good fit for your shop. AutoInc.'s annual Software Guide is always a good place to start researching the different products on the market. Once you've developed a list of features that your shop is needing, use the various charts to see if companies have the criteria you are looking for in a shop management program.
Don't forget to use your ASA network of other shop owners to get their advice and feedback on what programs they use and what works well for their shops. Also take advantage of events such as the International Autobody Congress & Exposition (NACE) or the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) where you can learn from your peers and gather info through trade shows and seminars on shop management programs.
5. Get some experience. Once you've settled on the top two software packages for your business, spend some time actually using them. If you've found colleagues (particularly locally) in the automotive industry who are using the same software system, go and visit them. Perhaps you could take a technician or two with you. This real-life experience spent shadowing other technicians and shop owners as they work with the system you're researching will go a long way in pointing out flaws or successes in the software. You'll get a feel for the other shop's attitude toward the system. Is the system difficult to use? Time consuming? Is it complicated? On the other hand, these employees may reveal that they find the system very easy and understandable. In either case, time spent getting this real-time experience can be very valuable.
6. Don't forget about support and service. Customer service and support is certainly important and is one reason many shop owners give for their satisfaction with their software system. You'll need to determine the type of support a software company can offer. For example, are you able to reach a "real-live person" when calling a support number? Do they have a website that answers frequently asked questions or regularly experienced problems? Is their website interactive, should you choose to use it? Are there support representatives who can chat online to assist you with your problems?
7. Don't jump in all at once. Once you've selected and purchased a software system, participate in any and all of the training that you can so you can learn how to operate the system. Train your employees well to minimize their frustration at using a new system. But, despite many bells and whistles, it's important not to try to learn how to use each of them immediately. Good luck!
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