“We’re Just Getting Started”: Sunil Patel Discusses How Tekmetric is Revolutionizing the Automotive Industry on Ratchet + Wrench Radio

Relationships are key to running a successful auto repair shop. Here’s what our Co-Founder Sunil Patel had to say on Ratchet+Wrench Radio about how Tekmetric is changing the game.

Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Tekmetric Sunil Patel joined Editor Chris Jones on Ratchet+Wrench Radio to talk about how shop management software suites are changing the landscape of the auto repair industry, especially when it comes to building relationships and communicating effectively. Sunil also touched on the history of some of Tekmetric’s relationships and how Tekmetric makes sure the voices of shop owners are heard.

Listen here, or catch some of the highlights below.

Note: some of the following answers have been condensed for clarity and brevity.

Relationship-Building 101: Laying Down a Solid Foundation

Jones: The last time we saw each other was at WorldPac STX in Orlando. And that’s where you guys announced a partnership with Advance Auto Parts. I know a lot of our readers have seen it, but can you share a little bit about the details with our audience, just from your own words and perspective?

Patel: So we’ve had a great relationship with Advance Auto Parts for a very long time. And we wanted to leverage the relationship to try to get more shops to use Tekmetric, and it just happened to be the right place, right time.

[side note] For those that don’t know, Advance Auto Parts actually owns WorldPac and Sunil Patel’s relationship with both goes way back. Before co-founding Tekmetric, Patel owned an auto repair shop that was one of the highest purchasers of parts from WorldPac in Houston for almost a decade.

Jones: That’s kind of cool to see how the relationship evolved over the years.

Patel: It’s a big company. It’s not like turning a speedboat, it’s like turning a steamship. Sometimes it just takes time to let some of these relationships play out. It affects so many people. We have to be absolutely sure of how this is going to play out, and how it’s going to work.

Tek-Tip: Read our guide about how to make sure your business partnerships are a two-way street.

Building a Relationship With Your Team: Using Shop Management Software to Get Everyone on the Same Page

Jones: So let’s talk about shop ownership a little bit. You were once a shop owner kind of in the Dark Ages before we had these robust shop management software suites. What was it like for you to operate on these limited tools?

Patel: You know, it was tough. Customers didn't always respond back, and we would always have to follow up with a phone call. There was always a disconnect.

We were probably ahead of our time 12 years ago trying to get some of this stuff out. Tekmetric used a combination of manual processes and text messaging. Text messaging was pretty popular back then, but MMS or multimedia messaging or picture messaging was not so popular. So adding that in the mix with communications and whatnot into one platform has been very paramount to the success of our company because it closes the loop between the vehicle owner, the shop owner, the technician, and the service writer. It keeps everybody on the same platform and communications thread. That way everybody has full visibility into what's going on with the repair of that vehicle to ensure a timely repair—ultimately making the customer happy.

Building a Relationship With Customers Based on Trust: Putting the Power of Approval in the Vehicle Owner’s Hands

Jones: How does shop software improve the structure and efficiency of shops?

Patel: Manual processes hold shops back by reducing efficiency. Shops that communicate with customers over the phone for updates, approvals, and payment, for example, are likely spending extra time and resources that could be spent elsewhere, like moving repairs along.

So when you actually start combining how many minutes in the day it takes to accomplish some of these tasks, it becomes clear how much efficiency we can bring to these repair shops by automating a lot of these processes. It's a very transparent process from the top-down. We help shops ensure that the vehicle is repaired with the utmost trust involved because we use digital vehicle inspections to put the power of approval in the vehicle owner’s hands.

[Side note] Some shop owners might be hesitant to switch to a digital shop management system because of several common myths circulating around, but Sunil Patel wants to ease any concerns.  

Patel: Some shop owners still believe today that the only way to sell anything is to actually get customers on the phone. I would love to prove to them that when you actually let the car owner make the decision on what's wrong with their vehicle by providing them with videos and pictures, it ultimately increases the number of tickets that close or the approval rate on repairs. It subconsciously alleviates that trust factor by saying, “Here are the facts, you decide.” So that's been huge in getting repair shops to get more and more approvals done.

Using Feedback to Develop Relationships

Jones: One thing you said to me when we were at STX was that you encourage Tekmetric users to submit ideas for implementation. As we dive deeper into the digital experience with customers, how does shop software need to evolve to keep up with customer desires and the needs of shop owners?

Patel: We were the first shop management system to implement a true feedback request form on our platform. We would traditionally grab feedback from our users and make a Google spreadsheet to collect feedback, but that became very difficult to manage as we continued to grow. So we have implemented a feedback request board inside of our software that allows shop owners to vote for features that they would like to see. It allows visibility across all of our users on what features they would like to have implemented.

[Side note] Over the span of the last 10 years, Tekmetric has grown to include more than 3,000 shops across the United States and Canada.

Becoming the Hub of Auto Repair Shops

Jones: No single software can do everything that a shop needs. How important is having a shop management system that integrates with other platforms?

Patel: When we first launched Tekmetric several years ago, we thought we could do it all. But we quickly realized that we don't need to do it all. We created a very open platform to allow shop owners to pick and choose the integration partners they wish to have, and we've got about 40 to 50 different integration partners now inside of our software. The reason why we created this open community and network is that we want to be the hub of the repair shop but still ultimately let the shop owners pick and choose what integrations work best for them.

Jones: As a shop owner or former shop owner, and as someone who's developing technology to help shops grow and change with the pace of the industry, what really excites you right now? What really gets you jazzed up about the industry?

Patel: What I would say is this, Chris: we’re just getting started. There is an amazing amount of new technologies we'd like to incorporate into our software as time goes on to truly provide a revolutionary experience for the shop owner. We're working behind the scenes on making that happen. And it is an exciting time for all of us.

Bring structure and visibility to your shop.

Demo Tekmetric