How Savvy Shops Are Staying On Top

Thoughts on the evolution and future of shop management systems.

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, automotive shop management software developers in particular are keeping a close eye on trends to identify those that will impact the repair industry long-term.

Companies with vision are actively transforming their offerings to facilitate advances that will help auto repair shops perform tasks at maximum efficiency, leveraging data to
automate processes and earn precious market reputation and communicating with customers using methods they prefer today.

Over the past 20-plus years, auto repair shop management software has evolved from stand-alone products that tracked customer and vehicle basics, sales, generated statements, possibly some inventory, all on a single computer everyone in the shop had to share. Today’s fully integrated networked systems increasingly leverage advanced customer and business intelligence together, keeping shop owners on top of every aspect of their business and forging ahead of their competition.

As shop management systems incorporate new technologies, there are two primary benefits for auto repair businesses:

1. Improved efficiency in the shop

2. Improved customer communication and engagement

Software developers with vision will continue to provide solutions that further tighten the integration between the front office and the service bay. For example, aggregated repair data (based on actual repairs processed through shop management software) gives technicians valuable insights into common issues and failed components and saves them time diagnosing vehicles.

With immediate access to both OEM repair information and real-world repair insights from professional technicians in the expert community, technicians today can tackle repairs confidently, with a better sense of how systems work and, more importantly, frequent points of failure they can act upon to correct sooner.

Management systems that automate communications help keep customers engaged and also eliminate hours of time spent manually generating postcards or emails. Follow-up postcards and letters were offered two decades ago, but many shops found the process labor intensive and went without the marketing benefits they provided.

By contrast, an evolved CRM application today sends a wide variety of emails for shops – like thank-you notes, service reminders, targeted promotions and appointment reminders – all synced with the customers’ vehicle history in the shop management system. Customers could be included by having their reminders sent via postcards, if they’re not reachable by email.

How many times has a vehicle question or authorization held up a repair because the customer couldn’t be reached? This either tied up a rack or caused additional handling to remove the vehicle to address it later. Text messages are often the fastest way to contact a customer. Using systems with built-in messaging capabilities, the shop can send a text from inside their shop management software and get an immediate response to maintain and improve shop efficiency.

The advent of mobility has had a tremendous impact on both efficiency and communication. This is an area that will continue to be a focus for future development. Today, shops are using mobile devices to greet customers and start multi-point inspections at the vehicle.

Applications running on tablets give shops the added flexibility to write digital estimates and repair orders at the vehicle, to work remotely with access to all shop management functions, communicating better with customers and with each other in the shop. Going mobile also makes a good impression on customers, reinforcing the perception they are bringing their vehicle to a modern, efficient service center that is technologically up-to-date.

Further out on the timeline, the adoption of telematics could impact every phase of the repair industry. While a few players in the automotive software community have developed some initial offerings for the ODB-II port, most are still just keeping an eye on it, to see what “killer apps” develop for this technology. One result might be a customer experience upgrade to a concierge-type level of service. What about self-driving cars? That’s the beginning of a paradigm shift if ever there was one. Stay tuned!

Running a successful auto repair business is no doubt likely to become increasingly complicated. Capitalizing on the data from the management system to supercharge customer communication and deepen customer relationships is the way of the future.

The answer is going to be software companies working hard to provide shop management systems that automate processes, provide enhanced communication tools and watchdog functions and make it simple for shops to get a 360-degree view of their operation. With these tools in hand, shops will be in a better position to make the best decisions in this evolving business technology landscape.
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