Six Essential Questions Every Shop Owner Must Consider Before Purchasing Auto Tech Software
Trying to find the best tech solutions for growing your shop? Determining the right answers for your business starts with asking the right questions.
Trying to find the best tech solutions for growing your shop? Determining the right answers for your business starts with asking the right questions.
Thinking about buying auto tech software for your shop? Or changing your auto tech software to one that works better for you and your team?
If so, we support you. Every mile you drive toward running your shop like a well-oiled machine is a mile in the right direction. Choosing and optimizing the right technology to run your shop can lead to growth that accelerates into massive returns on your investment.
Your next move is to make a roadmap, a game plan for your search. Pinpointing the right system is no small task. It takes a fair amount of time to dive into the features and benefits of all available options so you can separate the ones that will leave you stranded from the ones that will get you where you’re going as a business. And you’re probably already pretty busy as it is.
Fortunately, there’s a smooth line of inquiry that will guide you toward the option that is best for your shop. By asking the right questions and thinking through the answers for yourself before you ever get to the demo stage of the buying process, you can walk into every pitch knowing what you’re looking for, and steer yourself toward the solution that gives you and your team the smoothest handle on your shop.
Whether you start off by examining company websites and software reviews, meeting reps at tradeshows, or asking fellow shop owners directly what they like or dislike about their own auto tech software, the time you spend researching systems up front will pay off later. When you choose the right system, your shop will run smoothly, and your customers will be happier than ever to recommend you to their friends and family.
Over the course of your auto tech software buying journey, ask yourself these six key questions:
Because these questions are open-ended, take all of the time you need to fully explore them. You may find that deeper, underlying considerations come up as you ponder each question. The more these considerations arise and solidify in your mind, the more you will deepen your understanding of how each potential auto repair tech software can impact your shop’s success.
A good shop management system will set up your shop so that everyone wins. However, the first person who has to win is you; you´re the shop owner. If you’re having a hard time making money and running your shop, how can anyone else succeed?
Think about your own day-to-day experience in and around your shop. What’s weighing you down? What parts of your process and daily routine cost you time and money? What capabilities do you need from a new system in order to eliminate those pitfalls?
One common pain point for shop owners is having to stay late to crunch numbers. If you use pen and paper to calculate your shop's Gross Profits, Car Count, and Average Repair Order, you might be able to take some of that work with you when you go home. But you still have to go through some paperwork at the shop, such as the day’s receipts, and you’ll still have to spend hours on end figuring out how all those numbers equate to shop performance. And if you accidentally write the wrong numbers on your scratchpad or punch the wrong thing into your calculator, you’ll have an inaccurate view of how your shop is performing in the first place. Now you’re making decisions with bad data, and you have to go back and do even more work to correct your mistakes.
On-premise auto tech software, AKA legacy systems, might calculate shop metrics more cleanly than a person does by hand, but they present a whole other tangle of challenges that make life difficult. On-premise systems, generally speaking, cannot be accessed remotely. More than likely, you will likely have to go on-site to boot up your machine and check your numbers, forcing you to stay in the shop just as long as you did if you were doing the math by hand. That’s pretty dang inconvenient.
Maybe you or someone in your shop can hack around that challenge by downloading third-party software to access an on-premise system remotely, but then you’re using a clunky technology workaround, which could open you up to a whole other mess. How do you know which third-party software will work well with your auto tech software? What if an IT-savvy person sets it up but isn’t around to fix things when the workaround software crashes?
A lot of workaround technologies are like duct tape. They’re quick fixes, and they may work for a bit, but they get sticky and eventually you’re going to need something sturdier as a long-term solution.
These legacy systems are also prone to crashing, which can bring your shop to a halt at random times on random days. Nothing is more frustrating than having your system go down while your shop is busy and then scrambling to figure out how to patchwork and piecemeal your way through until you get your auto tech software back up and running.
For convenience and peace of mind, a cloud-based system is your best bet. Cloud-based shop management systems (like Tekmetric) give shop owners the option to check on their shops remotely. Cloud-based access to your shop’s reports gives you the tools you need to analyze shop performance anytime, anywhere, so you can head home after business hours. You can also see repairs move through the shop and actively work to manage bottlenecks in your shop’s workflow if necessary. Cloud-based systems have better uptime than legacy systems, too, so you can stay up and running.
Being cloud-based isn’t the only feature of an auto tech software that can make life easier and give you some of your time back. Some shop owners spend a lot of time in the shop doing hands-on management of everything going on: team coordination, workflow, customer service, and other tasks that could be handled by service advisors, technicians, or other leaders on your team. A good system will make it so that you can position your team to run the shop by themselves, even when the bays are full of vehicles. An auto tech software that can cleanly track workflows, centralize and simplify how your team talks to customers, and facilitate a simple payment process makes it easy for shop leaders to train team members to handle the day-to-day, taking some of those tasks off your plate.
When your shop runs without you, you can step in and out of the shop as needed to work on the bigger picture for your business, or spend more time living life to the fullest, doing the things you care about with the people you love.
The purpose of any business is to present a solution or an advantage to its customers. In your case, that solution is providing peace of mind while getting folks back on the road. But that’s not always an easy task.
Customers’ vehicles are often their most expensive possession, or their second most expensive possession after their homes. Many drivers depend on their vehicles for activities and responsibilities related to work, friends, and family. Others are car fanatics who have carefully selected the car they’ve always dreamed of owning. Whether the automobile they have brought in is a luxury that they love or their daily way of getting around, people get worried when something is wrong with their cars.
And while the auto repair industry has a lot of good people, some of your customers may have had negative experiences with repair shops in the past. For these customers, walking into an auto repair shop can feel less like they are about to receive a service they can count on and more like they have gotten themselves into a showdown. They might think: “Is this shop going to take care of me and my car? Or are they going to take advantage of me?”
Putting customers at ease isn’t all about the system itself; your team has to show customers that they care with their actions, too. Customers trust shops more when service advisors greet them promptly, address their concerns, show compassion throughout the process, and keep them in the loop as they come and go, all of which rely on your team’s initiative and willingness to help them out.
If your team is already service-oriented though, then an auto tech software built with customer care in mind will help your team make customers’ lives even better from the moment they contact your shop to the moment they pick up their vehicles.
How do you know if a system will help you instill confidence in your customers? It’s all about how its features facilitate communication with customers throughout the process, starting from the moment they contact you to bring their cars in.
Envision yourself as a customer walking into your shop. What do you see? How do you feel? What would make you feel more connected to the service advisor as you approach the desk?
Customers are loyal to the people who make them feel appreciated and respected. The faster your team can get on a first name basis with every customer, the more meaningful your customer service experience will be, and the more opportunities you will have to grow your shop.
The key to staying on a first name basis with customers is to find a shop management system that not only helps you track customer details but also makes it easy to search customers by name, phone number, or their car’s plate number. If a returning customer calls into the shop, your service advisors can greet them by name based on their phone number, even if the service advisor was not the team member who helped them during previous visits. If the customer is new, you can get them in the system immediately so that your team can address them by name from there on out: “How are you doing today, Mrs. Carter? How can I help you?”
Customers may also communicate differently depending on their own approach to vehicle maintenance. If a customer is generally good about taking your shop’s advice, but still tends to fall behind on oil changes, you can proactively suggest they get their oil changed alongside any other vehicle service. If they tend to need a month or two to save up for big ticket items, that tells service advisors that the customer may not want to fix something expensive the day they find out about it, especially if the issue is not immediately critical. On the other hand, if the customer tends to take care of all repairs right away, your service advisor can suggest that they complete all outstanding work to save trips to the shop in the future.
Find a system that tracks the work your shop has completed for each customer and the work they declined to see what kind of jobs your customers commonly do or do not approve. Informed by this information, your service advisors can tailor their conversations to each customer’s general spending habits and needs to win more work. When your shop has a window into customers’ immediate challenges as well as how they have addressed repairs in the past, service advisors can orient conversations based on a broader, more textured understanding of what drivers value and need, speaking to the heart of your customers.
According to VehicleService Pros:
In other words, half of your customers want to text you, and the overwhelming majority would appreciate a text back. Why?
Probably because it’s difficult for customers to work vehicle repairs into their busy schedules. Juggling car repairs along with work, school, and hanging out with friends and family can be a challenge. There’s a good chance that they’ll have to pop in and out of the shop, possibly at unpredictable times as they navigate their lives without their usual mode of transportation. In cases of routine maintenance, customers can plan a little more easily, but 92% of auto repair shop customers take their cars in because they need repairs that they couldn’t really plan for. Their repairs probably don’t fit neatly into their schedules.
As you look for an auto tech software, keep an eye out for two-way texting capabilities. True two-way texting tools empower customers to respond to service advisors directly from their phones. As you test systems, check out how messaging works on both sides of the service desk to make sure the conversations will go smoothly when your team and customers start using it.
Texting may not be the preferred method of communication for every customer, but it keeps the conversation going and literally sends the message that you are there for them as they figure out their repair. And if customers are still concerned or missing context as you text back and forth, your team can always hop on the phone to clarify what’s going on and guide them in the right direction.
It used to be that the most important signatures were made with a pen in hand. Today, many of the most important purchases people make—buying a car, refinancing a home, or paying medical bills—can all be authorized with a signature on a phone or a tablet.
Just like true two-way texting, a clear digital authorization function saves customers time and hassle by preventing them from having to swing by the service desk to authorize work or payment. Instead, they can view and approve work or pay the bill on their phones when they have a moment to slow down and look at what you’ve sent them.
Digital authorizations are also a clearer way for customers to approve work. If you take care of authorizations over a phone call, you could end up with a dispute. Nobody needs that. When customers can look at a document on their device and provide a clear signature, there is no uncertainty about what work was approved. They can be more sure of what they’re approving and text you if they have questions.
As you test the workflows of different auto tech software, examine how authorizations work to make sure the process is clear and easy for the person who has to provide a signature. In particular, ask yourself if the process makes you feel as though you would have more control over your repair authorizations if you were getting your vehicle repaired in your own shop. That small amount of agency will build an immense amount of trust.
Perhaps the most important communication touchpoint between you and your customers is when you reach out to discuss what’s wrong with their vehicles, particularly if you have to break some bad news about what they need. If you can make that part of the process go smoothly, the customer can at least walk away feeling that the rest of the repair process will go smoothly, too, which makes any situation that much easier for them.
Sometimes customers may feel like technicians are speaking another language altogether in describing what needs fixing. To give customers a clear picture, your auto tech software should equip your service advisors to not just tell the customer about the findings, but actually show them what needs to be repaired.
Choose a system with Digital Vehicle Inspections (DVIs). Examine the interface of the system’s DVI features. How does it display what is going on with the car? Is it easy to see everything in one look? And does it track cleanly to the estimate process and all the way through to the invoice and final payment?
The clearer that the system presents inspection results to the customer and your team members, the better. For example, Tekmetric’s DVIs color-code issues by severity, complete with pictures and videos of what’s wrong with the vehicle. If the customer is away, you can text or email them the DVI. If the customer is in the shop, you can pull up the findings on a tablet, or you can print them and look at the findings on paper. The clarity and choice that DVIs bring to the process turn any potential doubts into reassurance that your shop will treat folks right.
“With every DVI, we will always send pictures along with it. Why? Because you can’t lie through pictures. They know exactly what’s happening. In fact, we just did a belt service on a Testarossa. We sent that customer 40 pictures. It’s phenomenal. It helps us communicate with our customers in a transparent way.”
- Mark Darragh, Sphere Motorsports
Estimates are no fun for customers. Everyone’s got bills to pay, and no one wants to add an expensive auto repair bill to their stack.
How can you make viewing a big estimate a little less stressful for the customer? You may not be able to give them the work for free, but you can make it as clear as possible for them to know exactly what they are paying for and what they’re getting in return.
Test the estimate process of any system before you sign up to use it, and think about it as if you were the one receiving the estimate as you went about your day. Send yourself the estimate in the auto tech software and ask, “Would this pricing be clear to me based on previous interactions with my team? Would I be sticker-shocked, or did the DVI and other previous communication with the service advisor clear things up by the time we got to this stage of the process?”
Just like DVIs, estimates should be viewable on the go, and give customers the agency to approve work when it is convenient for them. Estimates should be well-organized for the customer, customizable for you, and allow you to include:
If the system does not allow you to send the estimate directly to the customer and requires your service advisors to take time typing out notes in an email, move on to the next option. Sending emails is cumbersome and can be risky if something isn’t explained well in writing by the service advisor. The estimate process is too important for your shop to take any chances; any system that can’t send out a clearly marked, professional-looking estimate with your shop’s address, logo, and contact information is behind the times.
When the work is done, do you make it easy for customers to pay and get out of there? Do they have to call in, or even physically come into the shop to complete the process before taking their cars home? How do you make sure to keep a clean sales and accounting trail for you and for them in case either party needs to check their records in the future?
Some customers like to talk to service advisors at length when they pick their cars up. Others want to get all the relevant information about their vehicles over the phone before going to the shop, then make their payment, get their vehicles, and promptly go home.
For the sake of both your shop and your customers, testrun the payment and checkout process of different auto tech software solutions. A modern, frictionless payment process should give customers the opportunity to make verified payments from their phones in just a few clicks. Just like your estimates, your invoices should be clearly marked and professionally designed. If customers have any questions, they should be able to text or call your service writers before officially signing off on the bill.
How do you amaze your customers? It’s the little details that make the difference, like sending them a birthday card, or asking about their family when they come into the shop. Those are the moments when you can foster a deeper connection with your customers.
As you look through auto tech software features, think about how they might be applied to make those special moments more common in your shop. Some systems let you pull up a complete list of vehicles each customer has previously brought in, or a list of other people in their family who may pick up and drop off their vehicles at your shop. When you know who brings in what vehicles, your team can ask, “Will Mary be picking up the car?” or “How is Thomas’ Jeep? Tell him we said ‘Hi.’”
If you want to connect with customers in a way few businesses do, here’s an expert-level tip: track your customers’ favorite professional and college sports teams in your auto tech software’s customer notes. Imagine turning the game on while your customer’s favorite team is playing so they can catch a few minutes of the third quarter while they are waiting in line. For a sports fan, watching the game beats flipping through ancient magazines in the waiting room any day of the week.
Sure, you could just ask customers if they like a certain team and turn the game on, and that’s still great service. But what’s extra special is servicing their needs without them even asking you for it. The experience will speak for itself. Thanks to a little extra effort by your service advisors and an assist from your trusty new shop management system, you have left a lasting impression on your customer, and it took mere seconds to make it happen.
At each turn, a good shop management system facilitates a better customer experience. Long-time customers will see how hard your team works to keep them satisfied, never taking their business for granted. New customers will think, “You know, I like this shop!” and stick with you for years to follow.
Customers may be the group of people you are focused on serving as a shop, but what about the people who are going to use your auto tech software every day to serve those customers? What makes life easier for your team?
People have different needs, but one thing we can say for sure about Auto Repair Professionals is that they want to be able to get things done. Technicians want to complete jobs properly and efficiently, and service advisors want to grow in their roles and close more work.
Service advisors are primarily focused on serving your customers, so any auto shop system feature that makes life easier for customers (such as enhanced search, true two-way texting, and DVIs) will help your service advisors, too. But when it comes to directly benefiting the service advisor, the best auto tech software features are the ones that help them close more work and keep jobs moving.
Every day in the shop, your service advisors are servicing your customers. With each interaction, and even the small events that take place inside of those interactions, the service advisor’s performance can ebb and flow. From getting work approved to following up on declined jobs, it’s helpful for service advisors to know how successful certain tactics are with each customer.
If you can provide your high performance service advisors and those who aspire to grow in their roles with customer stats such as Lifetime Close Ratio, Lifetime Average Repair Order, and Lifetime Spend, they can close more deals.
Say you have a customer enter the shop who declines work often but occasionally signs off on a large repair order. If your service advisor is able to see the customer’s past purchasing behavior, they might spend more time than they normally would walking through the pictures and videos of the customer’s digital vehicle inspections to see if that encourages them to get the work done. On the other hand, if service advisors see that a customer has a high lifetime value, meaning they spend a lot of money with your shop, then it becomes essential to treat that customer right so that you can continue to keep their business. It might even be worth throwing that customer a few freebies every now and then to show them that they are really important to you.
Any auto tech software you choose should have Real-Time Reports available to you and your team at the click of a button. Your team can use the reports to learn about their own performance, and if you or other shop leaders see trends in the stats, you can step in and coach.
To complete a single vehicle repair at your shop, a lot of things have to happen: customer information needs to be gathered, inspections need to be conducted and shown to customers, estimates need to be written, work needs to be authorized, parts need to be ordered, invoices need to be sent, payments need to be collected, and if anything comes up along the way, questions need to be answered. And that’s just for a single repair.
Every time another repair order is created, you do the process all over again, and typically there will be multiple vehicles at different stages of the repair process at all times. One vehicle may be undergoing inspection while another is being brought around for pickup. Another customer may enter the shop just as you are switching tasks, throwing another potential wrench into your workflow.
Throughout the process, your service advisors and technicians need to be able to communicate and shift between each of these tasks and repairs without stalling. The old school way to keep work moving is to run the process on carbon-copy forms, or maybe a white board. Some shops may use digital forms, such as PDFs, and send file attachments back and forth via email, or even save files on a single desktop.
All of these workflow methods can lead to stalling between tasks and forgetting crucial details when juggling multiple repairs. Paper forms can get lost or handwriting can be difficult to decipher; whiteboards can get smudged or prematurely erased; PDF files can be overwritten, service advisors may fail to attach files if they’re moving too fast, and customers may not have the right type of PDF reader on their phone or computer to view and sign the document.
So not only do you need a streamlined process to move through one repair, you also need a system for moving between multiple repairs without losing your place. When you’re looking for an auto tech software that will streamline your shop’s workflow, look for a cloud-based system that gives you the big picture of where every repair is in your shop. When your service advisors can see all the jobs in the shop at once, and where each one is in the repair process, they can better manage the shop’s workflow at all times.
Cloud-based systems also offer a simple yet effective advantage over on-premise auto tech software: tabs. Because cloud-based auto tech software runs in your browser, every button is essentially a web-link, meaning that you can right-click any button and open it in a new tab.
Say that you’re in the middle of a repair order, but the customer had to step away to call their spouse about their budget. Instead of having to back out of that repair order to help the next customer (essentially losing all the information you typed out), you can open a new tab for the next repair order and return to the original tab when the other customer gets off the phone. For each new piece of information you want to view or track—a repair order, a Job Board with all jobs in progress, a customer profile, or a report on shop performance—you can open a new tab, and pop in and out of tabs as needed. If you have six different jobs, you can open them all up and work your way through them throughout the day, closing each tab to clear space throughout the shift.
The look and feel of any software you use will take some getting used to. But if just looking at the home screen of a system makes you feel like you're deciphering code, you and your team could probably move a lot faster on a system that’s easier to navigate and understand.
Some of the auto tech software solutions out there feel outdated in other ways. If the system you’re considering crashes all the time, you’ll have to reboot multiple times per day just to run your shop. If you can’t find basic information after an extended search within its interface, your team will spend more time searching for information than they will servicing customers. And if you can only update to the next version with physical hard copies of the program that you have to get in the mail, you’ll be stuck with an outdated version until the mailman shows up.
Modern auto tech software adheres to Global Design standards, so finding your way around should match the way you find information on some of the world’s most functional apps and software, many of which you may already be familiar with. Look for a software with a responsive team that makes development decisions based on user feedback. You can trust that a piece of software won’t become outdated anytime soon if their team has a pulse on what works, what looks appealing to auto repair entrepreneurs and their teams, and how to continue building a system that meets the needs of auto repair shops.
Selecting the right auto tech software is, at its core, a business decision. You’re looking for the right tool for your shop: something that can manage workflow efficiently, free you up to spend your time on important shop decisions, and grow your bottom line.
How do you know if a system is designed to grow your business? At the very least, it must measure your business. If a shop management system cannot accurately measure shop performance, it can’t tell you whether or not using that system has improved your business.
A shop management system that cannot measure the performance of your shop prevents you from making smart adjustments; how will you know what shop processes need changing if you cannot quantify the impact of your business decisions?
Any solid shop management system should at the very least measure:
However, a great shop management system will show you much more, and present the information in a way that is easy to view, analyze, and understand. Intuitive real-time reports equip you to analyze high-level performance stats as well as drill down into more granular performance details across individual team members and profit centers of your business.
With Tekmetric’s Real-Time Reports, you can track key performance indicators including but not limited to:
A system that improves life for you, your team, and your customers will already lead to new growth for your auto repair shop. Real-time reports open up even more overlooked opportunities for growing shop performance.
The decision to upgrade your auto tech software is a positive indicator that your shop is poised for growth in the near future. Your shop management system should be able to help you manage and encourage that growth without nickel-and-diming you every time you want to make an investment in your shop.
As you look at different systems, see if you can add new users without burdensome costs, or if the auto tech software you have chosen requires you to share a login. Some freemium software may limit the number of distinct user accounts, undermining your ability to maintain a track record of which actions different team members have taken throughout the day. If you can’t control who has access to the system, it won’t be secure, and you can’t scale it up.
Another potential impediment to scale is price structure. A shop management system may cost more than you are used to spending. However, the price point itself is a red herring; a system that costs a few hundred dollars per month can deliver massive returns over time, dwarfing your upfront investment in comparison to the return on investment (ROI) of the system.
A more relevant price consideration is whether or not the system you choose will become costly as you grow, or if the price point can be controlled for scale. As you add team members to your shop, you may want to add more user accounts so that everyone on your team can access the system. Does adding users mean increasing costs? If so, those costs will erode your profits and cash on hand. Ideally, adding team members to your system and training them to take on different roles and responsibilities should put more money in the bank, not take money out.
Consider choosing an auto tech software with a pricing model that makes growth easier for your shop. A pay-per-roof model, available across multiple price points with specific sets of available features, works for a wide variety of auto repair shops. With fixed pricing per roof, you can add service advisors, technicians, and other team members, such as a service manager or a parts foreman, to the system without having to do the math on whether or not each new addition is worth the cost. If you open another shop, you can pay a flat rate for that, too, which is a much more manageable way of paying than trying to figure out your costs for the future based on projected hiring patterns.
You work hard to grow your profits. You should be able to keep as much of your payoff as possible.
No auto tech software can be judged independently of the company that built it and the staff that supports it. It’s not just the system you are buying; it’s the service and support of the team that comes with it. Remember: software isn’t human, but the people who build it and support it are. Not all customer service is created equal. Some systems provide top-tier support; others offer virtually none.
Our Co-Founder Sunil Patel and leaders throughout our company instill a shop-first philosophy into Tekmetric as a product and as a company. Tekmetric’s industry-leading customer success, onboarding, and training teams have carefully designed an onboarding process that is seamless enough that any shop owner—no matter what kind of business they operate, or how many shops they run—can make the switch and stay running without major hiccups. We make sure your data can be moved easily, and offer free training time to shorten the learning curve for you and your team. We also offer ongoing training for maximizing your system as your team grows.
The basics of Tekmetric can be learned fast, but the real potential comes from learning everything the system has to offer. Don’t be surprised if you are still finding new ways to leverage Tekmetric for even better returns down the road, especially as updates continue to roll out to our users.
Our development team drives toward the constant pursuit of innovation. Tekmetric never stays static; our system dynamically evolves, keeping shops who use it at the forefront of the auto repair shop industry. We consistently communicate with our users, striving to achieve our max potential. As you innovate as a shop owner and your team grows, we hope to fuel that growth and support you in your goals and ambitions.
At Tekmetric, we enjoy talking to shop owners throughout the industry to learn more about the challenges they face so we can continue to help solve them. We also appreciate the opportunity to discuss whether Tekmetric might be the right auto tech software to help you reach your goals.
We feel confident that, if we have the chance to answer your questions, we can show you how Tekmetric will support your shop as you overcome barriers. And if you stump us with a question we have never heard before, we appreciate that, too. It gives us a chance to do our homework, grow as a company, and continue to drive the industry forward.
So set up a demo and bring your questions. We’re ready.