From the wheel to the light bulb, inventions have advanced human civilization. Even today, there are innovations pushing us forward.
Forgive us for sounding like Carl Sagan here, but it’s kind of mind-blowing when you think about all the innovations and advancements we’ve lived through so far, like the invention of the smartphone and the emergence of social media platforms.
Throughout history, those at the forefront of adapting to innovations gained an advantage over their competitors, maximizing their chances for success. Consider Amazon. The company initially sold books online before moving to other products. Jeff Bezos got into the e-commerce game at the right time and made Amazon one of the first companies to sell its products online, which is one of the reasons why Amazon went on to become a household name.
The auto repair industry is no exception to the fact that adapting quickly to new technology maximizes the chances of success. Of course, not every innovation will stick. Even Amazon has had a few innovations that failed (anyone remember Amazon Destinations?). Giant companies like Amazon have the runway to keep innovating and failing.
Most auto repair businesses aren’t big enough to afford continually investing in failed innovations. That’s why as a shop owner, it’s important that you think carefully about which innovations you embrace and which ones you don’t. However, if you keep an eye on upcoming innovations, prepare your employees to adapt to the most impactful ones, and partner with a company that can afford to innovate and minimize risks for shops like yours, you can stand out from the crowd, win more customers, and boost your ARO. You’ll be able to maintain your status as a modern auto repair shop.
But what does it really mean to be a “modern” auto repair shop? It’s a nuanced question with a nuanced answer. To get to that answer, let’s first dive into some of the biggest innovations that have influenced the auto and auto repair industries, shaping them into what they are today.
Significant Innovations That Have Influenced the Auto Industry and Auto Repair Industry
Ok, bear with us—we’re going to start with the obvious. Horses to cars. The question of who invented the automobile is a complicated one. According to the Library of Congress, there are different inventions by different people that ultimately led to the cars we drive today. For example, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot created a three-wheeled military tractor for the French army in 1769, and Karl Friedrich Benz built the first automobile that ran on an internal combustion engine.
But the point is, were it not for Cugnot, Benz, and others, we might have been getting around by horse and carriage a lot longer. Of course, the cars we drive today don’t look like the earliest cars (like Henry Ford’s Quadricycle). Cars have gone through many transformations over the decades thanks to inventions such as the internal combustion engine, the diesel engine, anti-lock brakes, and automatic transmission.
What have all these innovations to cars translated to? More things for auto repair shops to fix! And when you think about it, the auto repair shops that caught on early to these changes were able to get ahead of the game. For example, auto repair shops that first noticed that diesel engines were becoming prevalent were able to get their technicians trained to work on diesel engines, and as a result, build differentiating expertise and generate more revenue.
Innovations in different fields have also influenced the auto and auto repair industries. GPS is a major one. GPS made paper maps obsolete, making it easier than ever for people to get from point A to point B. And as smartphones started to come onto the scene, drivers no longer had to go out and buy separate GPS devices for their cars. Thanks to map applications, we all have virtual maps in our pockets.
Smartphones (and their cousins, tablets) also revolutionized the way people interact with businesses, including auto repair shops. Drivers now have shop reviews at their fingertips. They can conveniently research different shops close to them and leave ratings of their own. Additionally, it has become easier for drivers to leave their vehicles at shops and go out and run errands, knowing that with their smartphones in their pockets, they can quickly get updates—and as such, they are starting to expect shops to update them on their cars’ repair statuses, rather than just contacting them when everything is complete.
Smartphones and tablets are influencing how shops go about repairs as well.
Here’s an insight from Elliott Schendel, a former executive at SHIFTMobility:
“Cloud-based software subscription models have evolved the shop device of choice from bulky desktop computers to agile tablets and smartphones, reducing both hardware and software spend simultaneously while delivering the freedom of movement necessary to accelerate repairs and optimize bay time...”
Meaning: technicians no longer have to run back and forth from a car to a desktop computer. They can manage their to-do lists without stepping away from the bay.
What Makes an Auto Repair Shop Modern?
Let’s return to the question we asked earlier: What makes an auto repair shop modern?
At Tekmetric, we believe what makes an auto repair shop modern is the ability to anticipate and prepare for technological changes in the auto and auto repair industries, as well as in related industries such as consumer technology.
For example, back when smartphones were becoming prevalent, a modern auto repair shop would have been one that recognized this new innovation as an important medium for customer communication. Perhaps the shop owner asked the service advisors at that shop to start texting customers photos of their cars during different stages of the repair process or calling to provide updates.
How Can You Make Your Auto Repair Shop More Modern?
Modernizing your auto repair shop has obvious benefits. You’ll stand out from the competition, make life easier for yourself and your team, impress your customers, and generate more revenue. But how can you go about making your auto repair shop more modern?
The general, and obvious, answer is that as a shop owner, you should keep an eye on upcoming trends in the auto and auto repair industries, as well as in related industries. You should empower your team to do the same. Some good ways to accomplish this include:
- Joining professional associations: Professional associations such as Shop Fix Academy and MWACA give you access to robust networks of fellow shop owners, special classes, and more. You’ll be able to exchange ideas and continue advancing your knowledge and skills as a business owner.
- Attending industry conferences and trade shows: Events like AAPEX and Transformers feature speakers and companies at the forefront of innovation in the field. You’ll be able to get an early, insider look at what’s up and coming.
- Signing up for webinars: Webinars are more accessible to attend because they don’t involve the time and money needed to travel. Many major associations and companies in the industry regularly host webinars where you can learn valuable tips and tricks of the trade, as well as get a look at what’s ahead.
- Networking with your peers: You can network with people at industry conferences and trade shows, but don’t limit your networking to these events. Keep in touch with folks and see if you can briefly catch up with them every now and then to kick around ideas and see what they’re observing.
- Reading industry publications: Industry publications such as MOTOR Magazine run feature stories, interviews with thought leaders, and more content that can give you a glimpse of how the industry is moving forward.
In addition to gaining new knowledge and insights, you may want to consider embracing modern tools that enable you to:
- Run your business in a more contemporary way with business intelligence, more freedom, and more flexibility
- Set up workflows that increase your team’s autonomy and productivity
- Provide a more seamless customer experience
With the right tools, you, your team, and your customers can embrace a more modern way of doing business; one where everyone is more autonomous. In other words, you won’t have to look over your employees’ shoulders each day and can instead focus on the high-level aspects of propelling your business forward. Your team members won’t have to stress about extra oversight and can feel empowered to take the reins at work. And your customers can have a more active say in the repair process.
One of the best tools for modernizing your business is auto repair shop software. The right auto repair shop software can give your shop an edge now and in the future by enabling you, your team, and your customers to smoothly interact with each other and embrace the latest technology. As you search for modern repair shop software, there are some key features and capabilities to look for.
Modern Features to Look for in Auto Repair Shop Software
The features and capabilities found in modern repair shop software will fall into two main buckets:
- Features that enable you and your team to work more efficiently
- Features that enable you and your team to interact more smoothly with customers
Ultimately, the modern features we’re about to dive into will free up your time as a shop owner. Instead of stressing over small day-to-day details, you’ll be able to focus more on the high-level aspects of advancing your business.
When researching different repair shop software options, the baseline feature you should look for is that it is cloud-based.
What Does It Mean for a System to Be “Cloud-Based?”
Repair shop software that is cloud-based enables you to use the system from anywhere you have internet access and a device. You no longer have to rely on workarounds or bulky, clunky hardware that might crash or get destroyed.
How a Cloud-Based System Modernizes Your Shop
First, with cloud-based software, your team can work more efficiently and autonomously. Technicians can type inspection notes from their smartphones without having to leave their bays, service advisors can check a repair detail if they’re out running an errand, and you can work remotely from anywhere with internet access if you want to step out to attend a trade show or tend to a family matter.
Another benefit of cloud-based repair shop software is you don’t have to pay for and manage expensive overhead costs, like buying new hardware and hiring third-party support staff. And because all of your data is on the cloud, you’ll have more peace of mind that your shop won’t suffer from data loss if the hardware breaks down.
Tekmetric’s Cloud-Based Software
Tekmetric runs entirely on the cloud, enabling you to work anytime, anywhere. And as an added bonus, Tekmetric allows for an unlimited number of users per shop. So, if you decide to hire more service advisors and technicians, you won’t have to pay extra fees for those additional users.
Real-time reports are one of the most useful tools for making savvy business decisions.
What Are Real-Time Reports?
Real-time reports give you deep insights into the health of your business, like your ARO, Car Count, Close Ratio, and GP Dollars. With real-time reports, you can instantly get an accurate picture of how your business is doing; you don’t have to spend valuable time painstakingly running calculations.
How and Why Real-Time Reports Modernize Your Shop
By diving into metrics, you can get answers to important financial questions that will guide you as you grow your business. For example, you’ll be able to determine if you can afford to hire more technicians or install that new bay. Or, if you see that your shop isn’t doing well during a certain quarter, you can increase your marketing efforts to turn things around.
Tekmetric’s Real-Time Reports
Tekmetric offers a wealth of real-time reports that give you clear, accurate insights into how your business is performing at any point in time. With Tekmetric, you can explore your GP Percent, GP Dollars, ARO, Car Count, Close Ratio, and more.
Some of the most useful reports Tekmetric offers shop owners are End-of-Day Reports and Parts Reports. End-of-Day Reports automatically pull all the sales data your team has added to Tekmetric, and then generate crucial business metrics, like your Gross Sales, Profit Margin, and Gross Profit. And you can customize your End-of-Day Reports to reflect any time range.
Each Parts Report is made up of the Parts Purchased Report and Parts Usage Report. By using these two reports alongside each other, you can see which parts your shop has purchased, and which parts vendors your shop actually ended up using, so you can make more strategic parts purchasing decisions in the future.
Digital Vehicle Inspections (DVIs)
Digital vehicle inspections solve the problems that come with paper inspections, like unclear handwriting, lost pages, lack of trust, and more.
What Are DVIs?
Digital vehicle inspections are vehicle inspections adapted for the modern age. Customers can see photos and videos of exactly what’s wrong with their vehicles, see the urgency of each proposed repair, and approve and decline jobs directly from their smartphones (another example of how consumer technology has transformed the auto repair industry).
How and Why DVIs Modernize Your Shop
With digital vehicle inspections, technicians, service advisors, and customers no longer have to fumble with oily paper. Instead, technicians can put together inspections on their smartphones or tablets. From there, service advisors can build estimates and directly send them to customers’ smartphones.
Customers can then approve or decline jobs on the go. In short, digital vehicle inspections move the approval process along faster and minimize the chances of any miscommunications between your team and your customers. In turn, this builds greater trust between your shop and your customers, enabling you to sell more work down the line.
Tekmetric’s Digital Vehicle Inspections
With Tekmetric’s digital vehicle inspections, technicians can build inspections using a color-coded system that indicates the severity of each line item. Tekmetric’s digital vehicle inspections use a “green, yellow, red” color system—jobs marked in “red” require attention ASAP, jobs marked in “yellow” can get serviced the next visit, and jobs marked in “green'' mean everything is in the clear.
Technicians can even attach photos and videos of vehicles to inspections, so customers can see for themselves exactly what’s wrong. From there, service advisors can build estimates based on the information in the inspections, and send those estimates directly to customers’ smartphones. Customers can then approve or decline individual jobs. The system will store a record of what was approved and declined, so service advisors can sell any declined work in the future.
Enhanced Digital Authorization
Records are important for any business—shops are no exception. Having a record of who signed what, and when they signed it, can come to your rescue in the event of a customer dispute. And because these are digital records, you won’t misplace them as you might with paper records.
What Is Enhanced Digital Authorization?
Enhanced digital authorization enables you to have an accurate record of customer authorization history and the details of different repair orders in a system. Customers can digitally sign off on repairs, and your repair shop software will be able to capture their signatures.
How and Why Enhanced Digital Authorization Modernizes Your Shop
Enhanced digital authorization modernizes your shop by protecting you from liability in the event of a customer dispute, maximizing your visibility of key authorization details (like the phone number that the service advisor sent the repair order to), and increasing your efficiency (you no longer have to hit the “print” button repeatedly and shuffle paper notes around, and service advisors no longer have to play telephone tag with customers to clarify important details).
Tekmetric’s Enhanced Digital Authorization
With Tekmetric’s enhanced digital authorization feature, you don’t have to worry about getting your customers’ signatures for approving repair orders on paper. Instead, your service advisors can quickly collect customers’ digital signatures, removing the hassle of back-and-forth calls.
In addition to that efficiency, you’ll also gain more visibility into the repair order approval process. You’ll be able to see details including exactly which number received the authorization documentation and from which IP address the customer signed it. This enhanced visibility gives your shop more protection against liability in the event of a customer dispute. For example, if a customer claims they never approved a particular repair, you have an exact record of when they signed it in Tekmetric.
Digital Customer Notes
When you visit your doctor or dentist, isn’t it nice when they remember who you are and what you talked about last time you visited? Your customers will feel that same appreciation if you and your team recall certain details about them, like their recent repair history and their preferred drink to sip on in the lobby.
What Are Digital Customer Notes?
Digital customer notes enable you to keep track of important details about your customers, like their repair history and preferred appointment times. They are accessible through the repair shop software; you don’t have to fumble with sticky notes or worry about misplacing important files.
How and Why Digital Customer Notes Modernize Your Shop
In this day and age, people value their time more than ever. A customer doesn’t want to painstakingly explain previous repairs to, say, a new technician or service advisor at your shop. They’ll be more impressed if your shop can pull up those details in seconds.
Tekmetric’s Digital Customer Notes
Tekmetric’s digital customer notes make it easy for your team to create new customer profiles and update existing customer profiles with the most recent information (for example, if a customer drives up with an upgraded ride).
Workflow tools enable your team to seamlessly collaborate, removing barriers to productivity.
What Are Workflow Tools?
Think of workflow tools for an auto repair team as project management tools. Service advisors can get a holistic overview of every repair order currently at the shop, and which technician is working on what, so they can appropriately assign repairs. Technicians will know exactly what they are responsible for.
Additionally, your team can work together in harmony, without interrupting each other’s flow. For example, instead of getting up from their workstation to ask a technician to clarify a repair detail, the service advisor can look up the repair order in the system and get that information.
How and Why Workflow Tools Modernize Your Shop
A repair shop where service advisors and technicians are running back-and-forth to clarify details and update each other is a chaotic one. It also sends a negative message to your customers when they see that chaos.
With workflow tools, your team members can get a bird’s eye view of what’s happening by logging onto the system, and will be able to collaborate in real time. With this increased productivity, repairs will wrap up faster, making your customers happy campers (um, drivers).
Tekmetric’s Workflow Tools
Tekmetric has workflow tools for both service advisors and technicians. Technicians can use the Tech Board to see exactly which jobs they’re responsible for, and the built-in timer to track their progress for each repair.
Service advisors can view the Tech Board to see what each technician has on their plate to appropriately designate outstanding repairs. They can turn to the Job Board to see how each repair is humming along so they can update customers as needed.
These days, texting is the most convenient way to get information across. It’s how many people prefer to communicate. Even grandma likes to text!
What Is True Two-Way Texting?
True two-way texting is the ability for your shop to send text messages directly to customers’ smartphones, and for them to directly text your shop back.
How and Why True Two-Way Texting Modernizes Your Shop
These days, customers expect updates on the services they received, such as shipping updates on their packages. Repairs are no exception. Customers are busy and want to know when they can expect to pick up their vehicles.
Thanks to true two-way texting, service advisors can give customers updates and even answer any questions that customers might have about their DVIs. There’s no more disparate communication—messages won’t risk getting lost in the mix, and service advisors will have records of which customers have been updated, and which haven’t. Service advisors can update customers on the status of their repairs in seconds. They don’t have to dial a number or try to find customers in person.
Tekmessage True Two-Way Texting
Tekmessage True Two-Way Texting is Tekmetric’s solution for seamless communication between shops and their customers. With Tekmessage, service advisors and customers can quickly send and receive text messages, and all customer communication is centralized within the Tekmetric dashboard.
Thanks to digital payment tools like Venmo and PayPal, as well as credit cards, people are less likely to carry around and use cash. They prefer punching in a few details on their smartphone or another device to pay a vendor and move their day along. The pandemic has further amplified this trend, with some stores going completely cashless and others implementing touchless payment.
What Is Text-to-Pay?
Text-to-pay is touchless payment—customers can pay invoices directly from their smartphones. They don’t have to physically walk into the shop to hand over cash or a credit card.
How and Why Text-to-Pay Modernizes Your Shop
The 21st century is all about giving people flexibility. Text-to-pay accomplishes just that. Thanks to this flexibility, your shop can even set up a dropbox system so customers can get their cars back after hours, instead of returning to the shop the next day. Since customers can pay on their own schedule, service advisors can go home on time. They don’t have to wait for a customer who’s running late.
Tekmerchant Text-to-Pay enables shops to offer their customers a fast, secure way to pay invoices. Service advisors can send invoices directly to customers’ smartphones, and customers can pay from there. No long lines or fumbling through wallets involved.
Auto repair shops usually use a variety of different software solutions to keep things running.
What Are Integrations?
Integrations within repair shop software are built-in “connections” to other tools you need to keep your business running, including:
- Marketing tools
- Parts ordering platforms
- Management tools
How and Why Integrations Modernize Your Shop
Integrations help you easily use the tools you need to maintain a successful business. You can access all of your crucial business tools in one place; you don’t need to have a million tabs open. For example, you can check on a repair order and then leverage modern marketing tactics with one login.
Tekmetric integrates with over 35 industry-leading solutions. These include marketing tools like Kukui and MyShopManager, parts ordering platforms like Nexpart and PartsTech, and management tools like Slack and the Back Office.
Modern Characteristics to Look for in Auto Repair Shop Software Beyond Features
While certain features are important to have in repair shop software, they aren’t the sole hallmarks of what makes a repair shop software modern. You should also do your due diligence to ensure that the team behind the system is forward-looking. Here are the questions to explore.
How Often Do They Innovate/Update the Software?
As the auto repair industry changes, modern repair shop software will reflect those changes.
You can directly ask the team behind the software you’re considering, “How often do you innovate/update the software?” Or, another way to gather this information is to take a look at the software release notes and any blog posts on feature releases, which are usually on the company’s website.
There’s not a specific cadence of updates you should look for, but you should examine if the team:
- Updates the software fast enough to keep up with changes and trends
- Breaks the mold by staying ahead of the game and making cutting-edge updates that exceed the bar
Do They Regularly Attend Industry Events?
If the team behind the repair shop software you’re considering purchasing regularly attends industry events, that’s a good sign that they care about modernity. Why? Attendance at these events signifies an interest in keeping up with industry trends; they want to know what the next big thing in the industry is and get ahead of it.
You can ask them which industry events they typically attend. Or, you can find out that information with a quick search online. Find out which past events they’ve been to, and you’ll get a good sense of how committed they are to understanding and responding to changes in the industry.
What Is Their Customer Service Like?
Think about the best customer service you’ve ever received. Chances are you were easily able to get in touch with the company, the company listened to the issue you were having, and then quickly helped you resolve that issue.
Reliable, fast customer service means the company cares about its customers. Good customer service indicates modernity because by keeping a pulse on customers’ desires and needs, the company can iterate the software based on their feedback. For example, a customer might give feedback that a certain update would make an existing feature even more efficient, and from there, the team can start to brainstorm how to take action and create a solution that benefits all users.
Things to Come for the Auto Repair Industry
The auto and auto repair industries will continue to see advancements in autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, and mobile auto repair.
Throughout all of these changes, better business intelligence will be more crucial than ever. The ability for shops to track financial information, payment, and customer history will affect their success, especially as they take on new types of repairs on new types of vehicles. As they update their repair offerings in response to new vehicles on the street, shops will need to keep a close eye on their metrics to ensure they are meeting their profit goals.
And of course, shops will have to respond to updates in consumer technology to ensure that they’re keeping their teams and customers happy.