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How to Narrow Down Your Options When Reading Automotive Repair Shop Software Reviews

Are you looking for a new shop management system? Reading automotive repair shop software reviews is one of the best ways you can narrow down your options. However, it’s good to know where to look for these reviews and what to look for when reading them.

Do you and your team feel truly in control of your shop? Perhaps you feel like you need a better grasp of your numbers, a more air-tight repair order process, or just more freedom to step away from your shop to focus on the high-level aspects of your business.

Investing in an auto repair shop management system is one of the best ways to refine your shop’s processes and get things under control. However, the decision to invest in a shop management system is a big one.

Transitioning to a new system and onboarding your employees takes time. And if it turns out that the system doesn't meet your needs, you'll have to spend additional time shopping for a new system—time that can be frustrating to your customers and team members, and potentially hurt your bottom line.

When you start researching different shop management systems and reading through various websites and marketing materials, you’ll quickly notice that some are stronger than others. And if you’re like most consumers, you’ll have reservations about marketing, and instead, trust what other shop owners have to say about a particular shop management system.

In other words, you read the reviews.

But, complicating matters more is that you’ll find automotive repair shop software reviews on various platforms, including Google, third-party software review sites, product pages, and case studies. You might wonder:

  1. Which of these should I focus on?
  2. Which of these should I trust?

Think about the journey your own customers go on when they’re deciding which auto repair shop to go with. Their search begins when they notice their car is having an issue. From there, they might search online for auto repair shops close to them, read different reviews, and maybe call up a few of the shops to compare prices. They might even visit a few shops in person to get different opinions, and ultimately choose the one that best fits their budget and needs.

As you search for a suitable shop management system, you’ll go through a similar process. And due to the stakes, it’s important that you diligently research any shop management system you’re considering. But before you begin researching different options on the market, you should ask yourself two key questions:

  1. Am I at the stage where I need a new shop management system?
  2. What do I want from a shop management system?

Determine If It’s Time to Upgrade Your Shop Management System

The first question to ask yourself is if you’re actually at the stage where you need a new shop management system. If you roll out a new shop management system when your shop doesn’t yet have a use case for it, you risk sinking your money into a tool that your team might leave idle for a while. But if you wait until you’re 100% sure you need a shop management system, you can start benefiting from your investment immediately.

Here are some scenarios in which you might decide you need a new shop management system:

Reason Why It Might Call for a Shop Management System
Your current system is crashing. If your current system is crashing, your business reaches a stand-still of sorts because you can’t operate. Meanwhile, you’re spending valuable time trying to deal with it. A new, more reliable shop management system will help your business pick back up and help you regain your focus as a business leader.
You want your shop to grow. A growing shop comes with growing demands. A shop management system can help your team streamline workflows and more effectively juggle an influx of repair orders. And, you’ll gain a better understanding of your numbers so you can make the decisions that will grow your business.
You feel tied to your shop. If you feel like you constantly have to be at your shop, you likely don’t have as much time to work on your business (rather than in your business). A cloud-based shop management system gives you the flexibility to keep an eye on things from afar, so you can attend industry conferences, be there for your family, and more.
You want to get a better grasp of your shop’s metrics. Having a deep understanding of your shop’s number, such as ARO and how much you’ve spent on parts in a given month, will help you make smarter financial decisions for your business. A shop management system with detailed reports can give you these insights in real time, so you can move forward with more confidence.

Of course, these aren’t the only reasons why you might decide your shop is ready for a new shop management system. After all, each shop is unique, and your reasons for getting a new solution might be different from that of the shop owner across the street.

Ask Yourself What’s Important to You

If you’ve decided that it’s time for your shop to get a new shop management system, assess what’s important to you in a solution, so you can conduct your research with those needs in mind. Again, remember that your shop and your team are unique. Just because a fellow shop owner might deem that something is important to have in a shop management system doesn’t mean that it will carry the same weight for you.

Based on our research, here are the top things shop owners want from a shop management system. Specifically, they want a shop management system that enables them to:

  1. Achieve higher shop profitability
  2. Set up easier workflows for their team
  3. Work from anywhere
  4. Save time each day so they can focus on higher-level business needs
  5. Smoothen their operations
  6. Gain a better understanding of their numbers
  7. Modernize their customer interactions
  8. Receive excellent customer support from their shop management solution provider

Your priorities, again, will likely be in a different order from another shop owner. For example, perhaps saving time is the number one need for your shop, whereas another shop owner might prioritize setting up easier workflows for their team. Ideally, you do want a shop management system that covers all of your needs. It’s a major investment, and you don’t want a situation where you feel like something is missing in your software solution.

As you go through this exercise, write things down! Number each priority from the most important to the least important. That way, you can evaluate everything more clearly—writing things down by hand helps you remember things better.

Narrow Down Your Options

Once you’ve listed what you want to accomplish with a shop management system, you’re now ready to narrow down the solutions you want to look into.

First, build a list of all the solutions you’re considering. These could be solutions you’ve heard your peers in the industry use, solutions you’ve seen ads for, etc. From there, you can begin the process of elimination—compare and contrast your list of “shop management needs” with “shop management solution options.”

Here are some examples of how you can see if the shop management solutions you’re considering align with your priorities:

Priority What to Look For in a Shop Management Solution Candidate
Achieve higher shop profitability Detailed reports of your shop’s metrics.
Set up easier workflows for your team. Management dashboards for service advisors and technicians to create and keep track of repair orders.

Integrations that work directly within the software.
Work from anywhere. A cloud-based solution.
Save time to focus on higher-level business needs. A fast repair order estimate process.
Integrations with other solutions, such as marketing tools and parts ordering platforms.
Smoothen your shop’s operations. Customer communication tools like text-to-pay and true two-way texting.
Gain a better understanding of your shop’s numbers. Automatic reporting tools that break down your shop’s performance in real time.
Modernize customer interactions. Digital vehicle inspections and estimates that you can text or email guests.
Receiving excellent customer support from your solution provider. A company culture that revolves around service and support.

As you go through your list, cross out the solutions that don’t have the features you need to accomplish your goals. So, for example, if your top priority is being able to work from anywhere and one of the solutions you’re considering is not cloud-based, that makes that solution a no-go for your shop.

You should strive to narrow your list down to three to five solutions. That way, you won’t feel limited during your search, nor will you feel overwhelmed.

Where to Look For Automotive Repair Shop Software Reviews

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, you can start to find and evaluate reviews. You can find these reviews in various places on the internet, and it’s important to keep some pros and cons in mind for each source.

Software Review Websites

There are specific companies that are dedicated to collecting reviews about software solutions. The four main ones are:

  1. G2
  2. Capterra
  3. GetApp
  4. Software Advice

If the auto repair shop management system has a profile on these websites, you’ll be able to find more comprehensive information. Additionally, you’re likely to find a list of benefits and features, as well as company and pricing overviews, on these sites. Many software review websites run comparisons between two or more shop management systems, doing the heavy lifting of sorting through different features and benefits for you.

As for the reviews, you’ll generally be able to sort them by various factors, such as ratings, reviewer’s role, and length of use. With this filtering, you can further zone into reading reviews that have the benefits you’re looking for.

Here’s a recap of the pros and cons of software review sites like G2, Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice:

Pros of Software Review Websites

  • Comprehensive information about various shop management systems, including a list of benefits and features and company and pricing overviews.
  • The ability to sort reviews by different factors, such as the reviewer’s role and filtering.
  • The option to run comparisons between two or more shop management systems.

Cons of Software Review Websites

  • Product descriptions are provided by the companies, so they could be biased.

Google Reviews

The majority of people use Google to find and review businesses, making it one of the most common places to find automotive repair shop software reviews. Just search the company’s name, and the reviews will pop up in the company’s business profile.

At a glance, you’ll be able to see the overall rating users have given the company, and can get more specifics by clicking into the reviews. However, while Google reviews are the easiest to find, they’re not necessarily going to be the most in-depth. Users will generally leave a sentence or a paragraph describing their experience.

Here’s a recap of the pros and cons of Google reviews:

Pros of Google Reviews

  • Easy to find.
  • Can get an “at-a-glance” overview of the shop management system’s rating.
  • Very visible and more likely to be candid.

Cons of Google Reviews

  • Not always the most in-depth.
  • Virtually anyone can leave a review, even if they aren’t an actual user of the product.
  • Reviewers might not give valuable context that will help you better make sense of the review, such as their job title.

Company Case Studies

Auto repair shop software companies frequently publish customer case studies that break down how their customers have benefited from their system, as well as how they’re using it.

We know, we know—this is marketing, and it’s natural to want to brush off company case studies. However, marketing can be a resource that helps you weed out solutions faster.

Case studies can give you the most in-depth information because they are based on detailed interviews the company conducts with its customers. For example, Tekmetric’s Shop Spotlights highlight the challenges that shop owners have faced, what their growing pains were, and how they’re using Tekmetric to continue taking their shops to the next level.

By reading case studies, you can identify shops that have had similar challenges to you. You can see how, say, Prestige European Auto Service (a shop that services European cars), used Tekmerchant, Tekmetric’s text-to-pay feature, to set up a touchless payment and pick-up-and-drop-off system for customers at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can see how over at Turbo Tim’s Anything Automotive, owners Tim Suggs and Rachel Grewell use Tekmetric’s detailed reports to manage their technicians more fairly.

However, keep in mind that because these case studies are produced by the companies themselves, they’ll have some natural bias.

Here’s a recap of the pros and cons of company case studies:

Pros of Company Case Studies

  • Provide an insider look at specific shops and their challenges.
  • Show you exactly how specific shops used the shop management system to solve those challenges.

Cons of Company Case Studies

  • Have some natural bias because they are produced by the companies themselves.
  • They can take longer for you to sift through.

What to Look For in Automotive Repair Shop Software Reviews

Whether you turn to software review sites, Google, case studies, or a mix of all of these sources, there are several general things you should look for when you’re reading these reviews. Here’s a breakdown:

What to Look For Why Look For It
Reference to your desired features in a shop management system. Reviewers that point to specific features you want in a shop management system will give you an idea of how good those features are in a particular system.
How long the reviewer has been using the shop management system. Generally, the longer the tenure, the better understanding the user has of the system and all of its pros and cons.
The reviewer’s job title. A shop owner and a service advisor might have different valuable takes on the same solution. Knowing the role of each reviewer will help you read and understand the review from their perspective.
A stated reason for switching to that system. Knowing why the reviewer decided to switch to that shop management system will help you further understand their review in context.
Their likes and dislikes about the system. This seems obvious, but knowing what they don’t like is just as important as knowing what they do like about the solution. After all, no solution is the perfect choice for every user.
How easy it was for them to transition to their new system. The smoother the onboarding process for a new shop management is, the happier your team will be. You don’t want to spend valuable time and energy on a confusing, frustrating onboarding process.
What their experience with the shop management system provider’s customer support team has been like. Good customer support makes a world of difference. The faster you can get your questions answered and your issues resolved, the faster you can return to running your business.

Of course, there are some specific types of phrases you should look for as well, based on what you want to prioritize from a shop management system. Here’s a rundown:

  1. Achieve higher shop profitability
  2. Set up easier workflows for their team
  3. Work from anywhere
  4. Save time each day so they can focus on higher-level business needs
  5. Smoothen their operations
  6. Gain a better understanding of their numbers
  7. Modernize their customer interactions
  8. Getting support from their shop management system providers as soon as needed
Priority Example Phrases to Look For
Achieve higher shop profitability. “I was able to increase my ARO.”
Set up easier workflows for your team. “My service advisors and technicians can now collaborate more effectively, without stepping away from their tasks.”
Work from anywhere. “I don’t always have to be at my shop because I can keep an eye on things from wherever I’m at.”
Save time to focus on higher-level business needs. “What used to take an hour now takes 20 minutes to complete.”
Smoothen your shop’s operations. “My team is working more efficiently than ever before. My service advisors and technicians have a clear idea of what to do at any given time."
How easy it was for them to transition to their new system. The smoother the onboarding process for a new shop management is, the happier your team will be. You don’t want to spend valuable time and energy on a confusing, frustrating onboarding process.
Gain a better understanding of your numbers. “All my numbers are right there. I get to see my shop’s metrics in real time.”
Modernize your shop’s customer interactions. “My customers love the new system and how I can send an estimate to their phone!”
Get support from your shop management system providers as soon as you need it. “Whenever I need help, their support team is an email away. I don’t have to spend days trying to get my questions answered.”

Next Steps After Reading Automotive Repair Shop Software Reviews

After reading multiple reviews, you still might want to gather more information before you set up a demo with the company. You can get that information from various sources.

Reach Out to the Reviewers Themselves

If the reviewer leaves enough information, you’ll usually be able to find their contact information online. For example, you might see that Billy from The GOAT Automotive left a detailed review for a solution you’re considering, one that hit on your features of choice. You search him up online and see that his shop is a similar size to yours, and he even works in the same general region. You might even find his LinkedIn profile, and see that he has a business philosophy that’s similar to yours.

You can reach out to Billy to ask him for a short chat so you can learn more about his experience using that particular solution. Simply tell him that you’re a fellow shop owner, and you’re researching shop management solutions, and you’d like to see how he’s been liking using that solution. Some questions you can ask other shop owners include:

  • “What made you decide to pick this particular solution over the others?”
  • “What do you like most about it?”
  • “What do you like the least about it?”
  • “How long did it take for your team to learn the ropes?”
  • “Does your team enjoy using the solution?”

However, remember that these shop owners are busy like you! Be considerate of their time, and try to keep the conversations short—we recommend no more than twenty minutes and make it clear in your initial outreach that the conversation will take twenty minutes or less.

Ask Your Existing Network  

You can also connect with your network in the auto repair industry to see if anyone you know (or anyone in your extended network) uses the shop management system you’re considering.

This avenue is a bit more time-consuming than reaching out to the reviewers themselves because it’s not a guarantee that you’ll quickly find people in your network who are currently using the solution (or have done so in the past).

Join Coaching Groups

If you’re not already a part of any industry coaching groups like Shop Fix Academy, Elite Worldwide, Automotive Training Institute, or Transformers Institute, it can be worth checking them out to expand your network and get more information on shop management systems.

These coaching groups encourage shop owners to think like CEOs. Some coaching groups advise looking at certain numbers, and some shop management systems make generating certain types of reports easier than others. In fact, a few shop management systems actually work with coaching groups to generate the exact reports they advise. That’s why the majority of members in these coaching groups might use the same one or two systems.

By joining a coaching group, you’ll be able to grow your business and find a shop management system that caters to the specific business growth practices.

Read Industry Publications  

Industry publications like Ratchet + Wrench, Auto Service World, and Vehicle Service Pros (which runs publications like Professional Tool & Equipment News) have a wealth of articles about various shop management systems. By reading these pieces, you can further contextualize your understanding of each shop management system you’re considering.

For instance, perhaps one of the solutions on your list doesn’t have a particular feature you’re looking for, but you read a news article in Ratchet + Wrench that states that the company is releasing that feature in the next quarter. With that knowledge, you might decide that you’re willing to wait just a few more months for that feature to go with that shop management system.

Follow Shop Management Systems on Social Media and Beyond

Some great ways to get the 101 on new feature releases, upcoming trade show appearances, and more is by following the shop management systems you’re interested in on social media (check out their Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram pages).

You can also sign up for their email newsletters, especially if you’re waiting for news about a particular feature update or just want to learn more before you sign up for a demo.

Questions to Ask the Automotive Repair Shop Software Team

After you’ve narrowed down your search, you might decide it’s time to schedule a demo with the team behind the shop management system you’re considering. Ultimately, a demo really is the best way to gain an understanding of how a particular shop management system actually runs in practice and to get a feel for the team behind it.

It’s a good idea to write out some questions so you can be sure to ask them during the demo. Here are some good questions to use as a starting point:

  • “Who makes up your leadership team—any former shop owners?”
  • “What specific features do you have to help me boost my shop’s profitability?”
  • “What specific features do you have to make my team’s operations smoother?”
  • “Do you offer email and text notifications as part of your communication tools, so we can reach our guests more effectively?”
  • “How can I best save time at my shop by using your shop management system?”
  • “What’s the learning curve for learning your system, and what kind of training do you offer?”
  • “Is your solution cloud-based?”
  • “What kind of support does your team offer?”  

During the demo, take notes and ask follow-up questions if needed. If you can, try and schedule a second demo with a few of your service advisors and technicians. After all, you want everyone on your team to be happy with the shop management solution you roll out. When everyone benefits from it, your shop’s chances of leveling up are maximized.

Tekmetric: Your Shop Management Needs in One Place

With Tekmetric, you can grow your shop’s profits, set up easier workflows for your team, work from anywhere, save time, smoothen your shop’s operations, and more, thanks to features like our digital vehicle inspections, Tekmessage™ True Two-Way Texting, and detailed financial reports.

Of course, seeing is believing. Ready to see how Tekmetric works for yourself? Schedule a demo today!