Up Your Business is an exclusive GEARS Magazine feature in which I share stories, insights, and reflections about business and life.
Are you looking for new ways to boost productivity as well as sales, profits, and customer satisfaction? Taking your shop paperless may be a great first step… and you can even save a tree.
New-generation auto shop software can make the transition to paperless a painless and seamless process. It will also help make all employees more productive when properly integrated into the overall operational functions of any auto repair business.
New-generation software systems can improve overall shop operations. Software companies have recognized the mistake of focusing solely on the frontend functions of service writing, estimating, and service sales. Things like creating repair orders, estimating jobs, ordering parts, and tracking customer and vehicle data have accounted for huge improvements with the frontend efficiency of shops. But technicians haven’t benefited because the technical and mechanical end of the business hasn’t been fully integrated with the shop software.
That oversight is now in the rearview mirror. Auto repair shops are integrating their traditional software systems with new systems that effectively drive every step of the sales, diagnosis, technical service, and mechanical repair processes, as well as post-repair customer retention systems.
The challenge is to fully train and engage each employee in the computerization process. They need to understand that the more efficiently the shop operates, the more productive and valuable they’ll be, and the natural result is greater profits for the shop and larger paychecks for the team.
IT’S BEING DONE
An article profiling Trans-Tech Transmission and Auto Service, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and its owner, John Braconnier, appeared in the October, 2017 Issue of GEARS Magazine. The following excerpt discusses the shop’s successful computer integration.
…Anyone operating a shop today knows how much computers enter into the daily business operations. But at Trans-Tech, they’ve almost turned it into an art form.
To begin with, Trans-Tech no longer prints out repair orders for the technicians. “We have maybe 10 tablets, and each technician grabs a tablet when he comes in,” explains John, “The shop manager assigns the jobs, punches that information into the system, and hands him the keys.
“The technician has all the vehicle information on his tablet, including the history and the customer’s complaint. Maybe the transmission won’t shift into 3rd or 4th gear. So the technician goes out to the car and checks it over. He makes a note of anything he sees, and takes pictures of any problems. He enters the mileage and takes the car for a drive.
“When he gets back, the shop has Wi-Fi, so he can get everything he needs right on his tablet. They can search for bulletins or research codes on line.
“Say the problem turns out to be the transmission: They pull the trans, tear it down, and take pictures of the damage. That goes to the service writer on the big screen. The service writer works up an estimate and contacts the customer.”
According to John, the tablets have improved their sales by as much as 15%. That’s because the technicians have a checklist on the tablet that they have to follow whenever a car comes in. If they find something wrong, like a leak or a worn component, they can take a picture and send their recommendations to the division manager.
The manager sends the pictures to the customer, along with the estimate, and the customer approves the repair by text or email. In a lot of cases, there’s no phone call, and the approval is linked right to the customer’s records.
“I watch it here; it pops up on my screen who my manager’s talking to. They’re all lined up; he’s sending them texts and emails and they’re all replying. And they pay by credit card and pick up their vehicles that night. It’s that simple.
“It’s amazing and the guys love it. They take pictures of everything and the customers get to see it. They can even take a movie showing the component working. At first the guys were a little skeptical, but now that they’ve gotten used to it, they love it.”…
TEAMWORK IS ESSENTIAL
The shop’s team must embrace this key point: Cars don’t pay them… people do. Without people, all you have is tools, equipment, and a building. But getting the team on board with computerization requires a different kind of training that demonstrates the whole process is the sum of the individual contributions of each team member. The key is integrated teamwork aimed at providing a great experience for the customers.
Once they’re committed to improving their performance to provide better service to the customer and to their fellow employees, show them how their particular tasks fit into the service and repair chain. Also, address how their individual performance positively impacts the overall performance of the team. Finally, explain how effective integration of shop software further improves team performance.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Let’s look at just a few steps in the service-and-repair process and how various features of new-generation software affect virtually all employees at some point.
- Vehicle and Customer Check-In Enhanced by VIN Scanning
- VIN scanning assures accurate vehicle information. The software’s capability to scan VINs eliminates mistakes related to misreading or messy handwriting and saves precious time.
- In some states, you only need to enter the license plate number and the vehicle fields, including the VIN, will self-populate.
- Accurate customer information quickly populates the repair order for preexisting customers. This saves time and shows how professional your shop is.
- Repair Orders Completed on Mobile Devices
- Complete the customer and vehicle information while speaking with them at their cars.
- For returning customers, pending and regularly scheduled services or previously recommended services that haven’t been performed will automatically appear.
- Perform walk-around visual inspections of the vehicles and take pictures of any preexisting conditions. • Record the customer’s comments and service requests.
- Discuss any of the pending services at this time and ask for authorizations.
- Diagnostic Multipoint Inspections on Mobile Devices
- Technicians are empowered by having accurate vehicle information in the palms of their hands.
- They clearly understand why the vehicle is in the shop and what diagnostic routines they’re to perform.
- The diagnostic checklists reduce mistakes and missed service or parts sales opportunities.
- It automatically accesses TSBs and recall notices on the subject vehicle.
- It clearly posts time constraints so techs understand which vehicles are more urgent.
- Techs save time by entering their diagnostic findings and taking pictures of the damage rather than trying to write detailed descriptions.
- By sending their inspection reports and service recommendations directly from their workstation, techs save time and energy previously consumed by walking to and from the service writer’s desk.
- Technicians feel empowered because they can see the importance of their role in the estimating process.
- Mobility Enhances Service Sales
- By receiving quick and accurate diagnostic reports and service recommendations, service writers can quickly prepare estimates.
- They can verify profitability, labor times, and parts availability directly from the repair order before contacting the customer with the price estimate and completion time.
- Wireless auto shop software with built-in text and email functionality speeds up the sales process. The time wasted leaving voicemail messages becomes a thing of the past.
- Customers are more likely to approve services because they get a text or email with a detailed estimate, including pictures of the damages. This is more credible than just hearing a verbal explanation.
- You can order parts directly from the device as soon as the customer approves the job.
- Technicians receive immediate notice to go ahead with the job and they get the parts they need quickly and accurately.
- When the sale happens quicker, the entire shop is more productive. Technicians are happiest when they’re employed and they hate waiting.
- Job Completion Process
- Mobile capability makes it a snap to keep customers informed about job progress and completion.
- When the job is completed, your system will print a detailed, accurate repair order and warranty. It also includes notes regarding future service recommendations.
- The customer can pay with a credit card or PayPal directly from the repair order with total privacy and security.
- Many systems integrate with accounting software such as QuickBooks.
- After the Customer Leaves the Building
- Your new-generation software isn’t finished just because the job is completed and the customer has left the building.
- Your software integrates with CRM and Maintenance Reminder Systems to keep your shop top of mind with your most valuable assets: your customers.
- Keeping Track of Time
- The new-generation systems have integrated time clocks.
- These time clocks are different from the traditional time clocks that only keep track of how long the employee is at work.
- These time clocks track, record, and generate reports that show:
- How long the employee was at work — when he or she arrived, went to lunch, went on break, and went home.
- How long the employee was working on each job.
- How long it should have taken to do the job.
- How long the employee was waiting for parts, next job assignment, or something else.
- The amount of time the employee was engaged in non-revenue activities, such as cleaning up, stocking inventory, or something else.
- When quality employees know they’re being measured fairly and accurately, they’ll seek to improve their individual performance.
- When they learn to function as a team, they’ll also seek to improve one another’s performance.
Seamless integration of all operational functions of an auto repair shop tremendously enhances the overall performance of the shop. The addition of new-generation software will maximize performance.
At this year’s Powertrain Expo, Auto Shop Software by Profitboost is the sponsor of the Management Program. Don’t miss these eight powerful sessions. These are interactive programs with plenty of opportunities to get your questions answered.
Of special note, in the Thursday afternoon’s Shop Owner to Shop Owner program, industry superstar, John Braconnier, will discuss how going paperless revolutionized his company, Trans-Tech Transmission and Auto Service.
Learn firsthand how new-generation software can boost productivity as well as sales, profits, and customer satisfaction, and the benefits of going paperless… and, of course, save a tree.
About the Author
Thom Tschetter has served our industry for nearly four decades as a management and sales educator. He owned a chain of award-winning transmission centers in Washington State for over 25 years.
He calls on over 30 years of experience as a speaker, writer, business consultant, and certified arbitrator for topics for this feature column.
Thom is always eager to help you improve your business and your life. You can contact him by phone at (480) 773-3131 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.