How to Test Repair Shop Software Before You Buy

Auto repair software free trials are limiting. If you really want to find the best system for your shop, you need to schedule a demo. Here’s why.

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How to Test Repair Shop Software Before You Buy
Updated on:
Originally published on:
April 2, 2023
While free trials sound good on paper, they don’t show you the full capabilities of a shop management system. Here’s why we recommend demos over free trials.

Tekmetric is all about transparency. Sugar coating just isn’t in our DNA. If you’re reading this right now, you may be looking for a free shop management software to get you by in the short term. Tekmetric is not free, but it is a long-term solution that can help you achieve your business aspirations.

Before you click off, here’s what we recommend doing: bookmark this page. Or better yet, keep reading. Even if you were looking for a cheaper solution, it’s always best to consider not just the price point but also which auto repair software will deliver the highest return.

Investing in your business is no easy feat. Just as future car owners take cars for a test drive, shop owners—new and experienced—need to do their research and see the software in action. There are factors that go into that, though. Free trials have limitations, and it’s difficult to get the full scope of how impactful shop management software will be.

Let’s talk about how to find a shop management system that will be worth the investment and lead to exponential returns for your shop.

Don't waste time with a trial, we'll show you everything you need to know.

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Let’s Get Real…  

Who doesn’t love free stuff? The best thing about a free trial is it’s free. You don’t have to spend any money out of pocket to take a look at the software,

But free trials aren’t the real deal.

Auto repair software free trials come with limitations. You don’t have the ability to see the software’s full potential because your shop’s metrics and data can’t be transferred over during the trials’ duration. And when your trial ends, the rubber meets the road, and you’ll have to make the choice to keep exploring other solutions or buy into the system you were trialing and hope that their team offers the support you need for a smooth transition.

Once your focus is on growing your shop, sticking with the free trials will cap your shop’s ability to expand and provide for new customers. Luckily, there are other options you can take rather than signing up for that two week or 30 day free trial; you can sign up for a cloud-based auto repair software free demo.

The Difference Between a Trial and a Demo

Oftentimes, the word “trial” and “demo” are used interchangeably. But there’s a significant difference. With auto repair software free trials, you do not actually get to use the shop software in your business because your shop's history and data cannot be migrated within the free trial period.

It’s also worth noting that a good shop management system is more than just a software. It’s a service. The team behind the software should have a connection with you and your team, so that they are accountable for the success of your shop. Simply downloading an auto repair software free trial and playing around doesn’t give you the opportunity to meet the team behind the software, so you don’t get to feel out how reliable their customer service is.

Why choose a demo over a trial

Participating in a demo has several advantages over a free trial:

  • You get to know the customer service side of the software. When you do a demo, you'll see not only how the software performs but also how their customer service stacks up.
  • You get to ask questions. With a live demo, you can ask away and learn if the system does exactly what you need it to do. A good demo presenter should be able to answer your most pressing questions, and will see how their solution relates to your goals as a business owner.
  • You get to talk to the specialist about what onboarding and migration will look like, how long training should last, and ways you can help technicians and service advisors understand their roles on the team.

At Tekmetric, we’re all about the metrics. We relish the opportunity to show you data visualizations that measure your shop’s performance and allow you to make better decisions. That’s why we love the live demo experience: we’ve seen real results on how impactful shop management software can be for auto repair shops, and love the opportunity to display that for people in live conversation.

The thought and care put into designing a system like Tekmetric might not be immediately apparent when clicking around on a free trial. But when a specialist can show you how the system optimizes communication, workflows, and reporting with sample data and use cases, the big idea falls into place: you can grow a shop where everyone wins.

“After talking to some of the staff at Tekmetric and doing the screen-sharing presentation, it was pretty evident that Tekmetric was going in the direction that we needed a shop management system to go in with communication, presentation, and efficiency…We've seen huge gains in our efficiency from using Tekmetric. I can't say enough good things about how the Tekmetric staff has helped us excel. It's not just the tools, either. From the demo to the onboarding and every call back from support, it's the whole package that really makes Tekmetric a game changer for us.”

- Andrew Minkler, Owner of Bavarian Motor Repairs

What Auto Repair Software Free Trials and Free Demos Get You

Demos give you a better sense of what you’re signing up for. You can ask questions, see how it works, and learn the ropes. Trials are self guided; you have to try to figure it all out on your own. A demo is essentially a show and tell where you have the benefit of asking questions.

With a free trial, it’s up to you to find your own answers. Are you testing the system or is the system testing you?

Auto repair software free demos allow shop owners to understand exactly how the software will meet their shop’s needs before committing to it in an absolute way. As previously mentioned, demos are your ideal first look because you’ll be guided by a specialist who can paint a clear picture of all features and benefits within the shop software. In addition, your questions will be answered then and there, preventing unnecessary back-and-forth and miscommunication. When you have to spend your time learning how to use a software while poking around by yourself, your learning curve is steeper, meaning it’ll take more time and effort on your behalf.

How to Set Up an Auto Repair Software Free Demo with Tekmetric:

  1. Once you select “Book a Demo,” you’ll enter your email address.
  2. From there, a Tekmetric specialist will reach out to you to schedule a day and time that works.
  3. The Tekmetric demo specialist will send a calendar invite to you and any additional members of your shop who you want to attend.

What to Expect During Tekmetric’s Demo:

  1. 1. Your shop will meet one-on-one with a specialist over Google Meet for about 1 hour.
  2. During the demo, the specialist will walk you through every aspect of Tekmetric: the workflow boards, Real-Time Reports, the inventory dashboard, and more.  
  3. You will gain a clear understanding of how Tekmetric will enhance the performance of your shop.

What Tekmetric’s Demo Will Teach You:

  • How to maximize shop performance, enhance your customer experience, and build customer loyalty with Tekmetric's intuitive workflow
  • How to leverage Tekmetric's Real-Time Reports to make confident decisions for your business and grow your margins
  • How to innovate and keep moving forward with the help of Tekmetric's industry-leading customer success team

To Try or To Plan?

We live in a day and age that makes the buyer’s journey more simplistic and convenient. According to Brian Garoutte of MyCloudIT, “Back in the day, you had to download a trial version of a product, install it, set it up, and begin the trial phase. And then two weeks to 30 days later, when the trial was over, you would have to go back and buy the full version, download that and do all the configuration once again…But customer’s today aren’t buying the way they used to.”  

Shop management software is a big investment. It touches not only your team’s lives but your customers’ lives as well. Shop software can determine the future success of your business. So it's not as simple as being able to use it for a day or even a month. It involves a lot more planning.

With a shop management system, there's a lot to consider: "Will my team like using it? Will it enhance our customer experience? Will it make running the shop easier? Will we be able to meet our customers’ needs?" It's something that you really need to talk to a specialist about, or maybe even a coach or other shops who have used the system. And if you aren’t sure after your first demo experience, you can always sign up for additional demos, especially if you have more questions or want to bring additional team members to see the software firsthand.

By demoing the system and working on a plan with a specialist, you will be able to create a timeline for making the full transition to paid shop management software. You can create an actionable plan to train every member of your team, set up best practices, and identify and resolve any potential challenges such as bottlenecks in your workflow.

Although free tools sound pretty enticing, they limit your potential. Imagine if one thing doesn’t work, and then there’s a domino effect where several auto repair software free apps stop working, so you’re now having to spend extra time finding another work around for the work around.  

What Auto Repair Software Free Versions Don’t Include

You might see some systems have a freemium version with basic functionality. One issue with freemium software is that you may miss out on more advanced features found in paid solutions that could make your business more profitable. Sometimes paying a little extra for more features can yield a lot in return.

Auto repair software free versions may also set your shop up for potential setbacks as you start to grow and expand. Freemium tools don’t have the capacity to meet each of your customers’ and employees’ needs, which can stunt the growth of your business.

For instance, a free auto repair software might offer an estimating tool, but the software might not give you the option to easily send the estimate to customers for approval. Compare that to a more effective feature that comes with paid software, such as a digital vehicle inspection (DVI).

Tekmetric’s DVI tool lets you share photos of inspection results with customers, and then ties those into an estimate. The transparency provided by DVIs results in a higher close rate; the efficiency of Tekmetric’s workflow means less time spent manually moving information from inspections to estimates to invoices.

Yes, the paid version might cost you upfront, but you’ll find you’re making ten times more money than you’re spending by closing more jobs and finding time to take on more work. The investment is more than justified.

5 Questions To Ask During Your Auto Repair Software Free Demo  

Finding the best shop management software can be a challenge. And the fact that there are a lot of options on the market can make it tricky to narrow down to “the one.” There are a few important questions you can ask during your software demo, or keep an eye on while you’re shopping around.

1. Is it cloud-based?

Shop owners benefit from having all their business data backed up by auto repair shop software. But the ultimate benefit is having the freedom to access that data from anywhere. With cloud-based shop management software, as long as you have access to the internet, you have access to your shop. Cloud-based auto repair software keeps you  in-the-know no matter where you’re at—whether that’s at home, on vacation, or running errands.

“When we started with Tekmetric in 2018, it still had the same foundation and a lot of the great features, but every month it just keeps getting better and better. The thing that really impressed us right away with Tekmetric was the ease-of-use—the ability for anybody in the shop to see what's going on and be able to use it. Because it's cloud-based, everyone in my shop has a computer, and they know what’s going on.”

- Matthew Carlson, Owner of Fix It Forward Auto Care

2. Does it integrate with other systems?

Shop owners, it’s likely you use additional tools that help out with marketing efforts, parts ordering, customer management, and payments. When your shop management system integrates with industry-leading solutions, you can optimize your mix of business tools so that they all work in harmony. And choosing a shop management system that can function as the central hub makes managing your business tools and processes all the more streamlined.

A few of Tekmetric’s integration partners include:

“Before we were on Tekmetric, I wasn’t using any special program for customer retention. Now we use MyShopManager and integrate it with Tekmetric, which has worked well for us. It’s really simple to manage our reputation and respond to our online reviews. I just log on in the evening and go through the list for both stores.”

- Jim Brown, Owner of Speed Auto Repair

3. Does it offer customer communication tools?

The auto repair industry runs on trustworthy and transparent relationships with customers, so make sure to ask about customer experience and communication tools during your auto repair software free demo.

With the right auto repair software, your shop can reach customers how they want to be reached and you can provide a variety of options for them to get in contact with your shop, which makes life easier for you, your team, and your customers.

Avoid communication mishaps and keep everyone in the loop by implementing centralized communication tools, like:

  • Digital Vehicle Inspections (DVIs): Once your team uses DVIs, they won’t want to go back to their old ways. Your technicians can easily keep service advisors in the loop each step of the DVI, and service advisors can send pictures and videos of the tech’s findings to your customers.
  • Text-to-pay: By connecting Tekmetric with Tekmerchant, your customers can pay their invoices directly from a text message. By giving customers this convenient way to pay, you’ll get your earnings faster, and they’ll be back on the road in no time.
  • True two-way texting: Communicate seamlessly with your customers through Tekmessage. Tekmessage gives service advisors the ability to send and receive messages in real time directly from the Tekmetric dashboard. They can see the full scope of customer communication so they’re always in-the-know with what’s going on.

4. Does it offer trackable auto repair notes?

Tracking and storing all customer notes and details will help your shop build customer loyalty. With a paid shop management system, you can document and save unique customer details, like:

  • When customers prefer to be contacted
  • How customers prefer to be contacted
  • Whether there is a language barrier, health condition, or other need for your shop to accommodate
  • Whether a customer has preferences around pictures and videos. For example, “This customer prefers a lot of pictures,” or “Reminder to send this customer a video of the work needed.”
  • Your customers’ mileage

Tek-tip: Elevate customer notes.

Take customer notes even further by documenting:

  • The customers’ favorite drinks or snacks
  • Sports teams they like (so you can switch on the game while they wait)
  • Hobbies that they reference
  • The names of their pets and family members that they bring up in conversation
  • Their birthday

Simply taking a couple extra minutes to log these additional details will make a world of a difference for your customers’ experience and continue to build your Lifetime Customer Value.

By adding tailored notes for each individual driver, your shop will inevitably build more trust. Provide your customers’ with a transparent experience so they come back for future repairs and recommend your shop to their family and friends.

5. Is it backed by a reliable support and customer success team?

A reliable customer success team is an important thing to look for. And shop management software systems are no stranger to regular updates, feature additions, and bug fixes. Having the comfort of knowing that there is a responsive support team ready to answer your questions and provide help at any moment of your work day is undoubtedly advantageous.

So when you’re sitting in on your auto repair software free demo, make sure to ask:

  • How does your team respond to customer questions?
  • If I run into an issue, who do I call?
  • How does your team resolve issues?
  • How fast can I expect a resolution?
  • How does your team announce, roll out, and teach shop owners about new features?
  • Can you take me through your data migration process?

Finding a shop software that not only has the above essentials, but also comes with additional perks is ideal for expanding your auto shop, building relationships with your customers, and enhancing your operations.

Three Additional Features That Will Help Your Shop Go Above and Beyond

1.Unlimited users

Some shop management systems charge per user, making it costly for your shop to grow. If you’re planning on expanding your team but you have to pay per user, your shop is taking on elevated costs during major growing periods, taking money out of your business at a time when you need it most.

Make sure to choose an auto repair shop management system that will allow you to easily and cost-effectively add service advisors, technicians, and other team members as you expand your team. Tekmetric charges per roof, not per user, so you can add unlimited users to each shop.

2. Adaptable Interface

Just as teachers adapt to different learning styles, a shop management system that is able to adapt to whatever your preferred viewing style is will help you plan your day with ease and perform your best.

Tekmetric lets you and your team quickly toggle between different views of workflows, reports, inventory, and other aspects of your shop so that you can quickly find what you’re looking for, and manage it in the way that works best.

3. User-friendly

Ease-of-use is a must. An intuitive system is much easier for your team to learn and use every day. In addition to an adaptable user interface, you want to have search capabilities and filter functions on your job board and on various reports so that something that used to take minutes to find only takes seconds.

A user-friendly shop management software doesn’t just make your life easy; it makes the transition smoother for your entire team, which means less confusion, and more time to get to work before those ROs start stacking up.

When You Know You’ve Outgrown the Auto Repair Software Free Tools

Eventually shops will outgrow free tools that don’t include all of the added benefits. Free software might be beneficial at first when your shop has just a handful of customers, but once word-of-mouth starts, review ratings increase, and you build rapport in your community, it’s time to upgrade your solution.

Only you will know when it’s time for your shop to make the change because you know your shop best. However, it’s easy to stick to the familiar, preventing you from going for the software systems that can help you grow.

Although change can be scary, the excitement of growing your shop greatly outweighs any initial fears. You’ll be able to provide the support your customers deserve while increasing the workflow within your shop, no matter how many new customers come in or how many new locations you open up.

At Tekmetric, we’ve gotten to know quite a few shop owners. We know leaders across the industry who are ready to take the next step in growth for their shop and themselves.  who want to grow and change for the better. We’ve designed Tekmetric to make change easy for those shop owners.

Six Signs You’ve Outgrown the Auto Repair Software Free Tools

1. You have to use tedious workarounds

With auto repair software free tools, you may have to manually enter data yourself and tend to tedious tasks, like going back and forth between two other tools you had to download and patch together to fill in a gap of your original auto repair software free system. A good paid shop management system will minimize workarounds, saving you time and frustration.

2. You can’t keep up with licenses, upgrades, and compliance.

Auto repair software free tools don’t have the capacity or means to automatically update features to accommodate compliance protocols, which adds another tedious task to your plate. A dependable paid shop management software will make required upgrades for you and will have a reliable customer support team that can walk through all of the new adjustments.

3. You’re no longer satisfied with the minimum

With auto repair software free tools, you’ll inevitably reach a dead end. And if you want your shop to move on to bigger and better things in the future, you’ll need to have a software system in place that will provide your customers with the VIP experience they deserve; grow shop profits with real-time reports; make active business decisions with employee reports; and enhance your shop’s efficiency with workflow solutions.

4. You want to provide a variety of options to your customers

Let’s face it: customers want options. They like it when you can text them, and they can text you back. Customers want to be able to pay from their phones, or approve work while they’re out running errands. Some customers might want you to email their estimate to them because that’s how they like to keep track of things. We have yet to see a free tool that gives customers all of these options.

Choose to give your customers the best possible experience. A good shop management system will provide a 21st century experience when it comes to authorizing repairs, contacting your auto shop, and making payments.

5. You don’t know your numbers

To grow your shop, you have to be able to measure how you’re doing in the first place.  Tekmetric can show you what is affecting profits: Close Ratio, service advisor performance, the success of your marketing channels and more.

6. Your shop has reached a growth cap  

There’s a reason why auto repair software free trials are meant to be temporary: they can’t grow with you. If you’re wondering why your revenue or profits have plateaued—or declined—running your shop on limited tools such as freemium software may be part of the problem.

If you want to track data relating to your finances, your customers, and your team so that you can make sound business decisions and grow your shop, a more sophisticated system is the way to go.

How Tekmetric Will Help Your Shop Bust Through Growth Barriers  

We’ve hinted a lot at good, paid shop management solutions. While we encourage you to shop around and check out your options, we’ve also done a careful job to design our system to be in a league of its own. With a robust shop management system like Tekmetric, you will be ready for any unexpected circumstance.

Improve your shop’s organization with workflows

A key feature to auto repair software is the ability to seamlessly move from job to job. With Tekmetric, your shop has access to two boards that will significantly enhance your team’s collaboration: the Job Board and the Tech Board.

Job Board → Service advisors and shop owners will gain a bird’s eye view of different stages in the repair process every step of the way. Tekmetric’s Job Board makes it easy to see which customers are waiting at the shop, and which customers have stepped out. Color-coded stages let service advisors know which jobs are in progress, waiting on parts, waiting for the customer to respond, and more so that they can keep work moving.

Tech Board → Services advisors can visualize each technician’s schedule in a clean, organized format, which helps them easily assign techs to repairs and individual jobs without disrupting tech workflow. The Tech Board also makes it easy to see how much work has been completed on each and every RO.

With Tekmetric’s Tech Board, your technicians can begin each work day with an overview of what lies ahead for the day. And as the day goes on, technicians will be able to track all ROs and jobs on their plate.

Both the Job Board and the Tech Board are your shop’s digital “to-do” lists and will significantly enhance your team’s collaboration.

Always have what you need on- hand with inventory management

Tekmetric’s inventory management dashboard will help your shop manage inventory and ensure all parts needed are in stock. You can filter all parts by type, brand, part name, part number, retail price, or primary vendor. You can also track each part that is on-hand, in-use, ordered, below stock, above stock, or out-of-stock.

Don’t stress about ever having to turn customers away or having to delay jobs based on your inventory. With Tekmetric’s inventory management, you and your service advisors can stay on top of all parts that are below stock before they become out-of-stock.

Boost profits and increase your shop’s Close Ratio with DVIs

DVIs not only build your team’s communication skills, but also build loyalty and trust with your customers. With DVIs, your customers will feel more at ease. They’ll know their vehicle is getting a thorough inspection that they can see right from their phone.

And when your shop’s customers can see what’s wrong through photos or videos, they are more likely to approve work, increasing Close Ratio and Profits.

“With Tekmetric, we have been selling more of the gravy work we're always looking for. The inspections and photos are a tremendous advantage. Our customers get a kick out of our 'new' technology with text and email messages for inspections and estimates. I don't know how we survived as long as we did with our old software.”

- Angelo D., Owner of Imported Auto Center

Build trust across the board with centralized communication

How easy is it for customers to communicate with your shop? Tekmetric provides an easy way to communicate with your customers through texts and emails—keeping everyone in the loop every step of the way.

You can take that communication one step further by adding on Tekmessage and Tekmerchant. Tekmessage allows service writers to text customers without ever having to leave the Tekmetric screen, and customers can text back directly from their phones.

With Tekmerchant, customers can pay straight from their phones. And with digital authorization, your customers can approve work from wherever they are, and everyone in the shop can see what jobs have been approved so they can get started.

Get customers back in the shop with Declined Jobs

Sometimes a customer will want to delay jobs until they have more time or more money set aside.

For those declined jobs, Tekmetric will store them on your customer’s profile so your service writers can remind them of the declined job next time they step foot in the shop, or your team can be proactive and call the customer to remind them of upcoming work to get them back in the shop.

Additionally, Tekmetric will log all declined jobs in the “Declined Jobs Report.”

Grow your business with Real-Time Reports

Tekmetric gives you all the performance metrics that you need to grow your business. Tekmetric’s reports include financial reports, employee reports, customer reports, and parts reports.

Grow Your Margins with Parts Matrices & Labor Matrices

Tekmetric’s shop settings allow you to fine-tune your labor and parts markups so that you can protect your margins and grow profits over time.

Labor Matrix

With Tekmetric’s Labor Matrix, you can maintain effective labor rates to ensure your shop meets your profit goals. Service advisors can easily apply labor markups to estimates while giving customers consistent quotes.

You can also save your service advisors time by creating customizable Labor Matrix markups that will be auto-applied to labor items on estimates.

Estimates with Tekmetric are smooth sailing once you figure out your matrices, labor hours, and any additional markups—or, you can auto-apply markups on labor items found in the Tekmetric Labor Guide.

Parts Markup Matrices

With Tekmetric’s parts markup matrices you can set up multiple parts matrices or apply a flat rate to parts on estimates. By creating custom parts matrices you can standardize your shop’s approach to parts markups.

Additionally, you can easily apply the right markup for each individual part.

You can set it to where a parts matrix is auto-applied across all ROs (and service writers can add in specialty parts matrices as needed), or you can set additional markup matrices right from the inventory dashboard.

Finding the Right Tools for the Job

If you're a shop owner that has put a lot of thought and care into your business, you will know which software feels right for your shop. Taking ownership to the next level begins with a shop management system.

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