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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
There are specific companies that are dedicated to collecting reviews about software solutions. The four main ones are:
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
Cons of Software Review Websites
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
Cons of Google Reviews
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
Cons of Company Case Studies
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:
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!