BY RICK SPAHN: What would you say is the most valuable tool in your auto repair shop? If you did not answer your shop management system, then you could be missing out on many opportunities to streamline your business and maximize success.
More than just writing repair orders, shop management systems are the lifeline of auto repair shops. Let’s face it; incorporating a system into your business that addresses your specific needs is critical to the success of your shop, not to mention keeping your stress level as an owner or employee to a minimal level.
When it comes to selecting a system, the options may be overwhelming. Approaching this madness with some method can help to make the selection process a painless one.
There are certainly numerous factors to consider when choosing a shop management system; however, the top five most important factors to take into consideration include the following: Efficiency, Profitability, Customization, Ease of Use, and Cost Effectiveness.
The best gauge for determining the efficiency of a shop management system is to measure how many time-saving features are incorporated into the software. Eliminating “double processes” such as data entry for repeat clients is a great time saving tool, not to mention an immense helper when it comes to eliminating errors on those days when the atmosphere in your shop is “hectic”.
Managing inventory and customer retention are also huge time and money savers which should be examined. Having the ability to track return and core parts can add up to a surprisingly large amount. Just think of what you could do with that new found money not lost to return and core parts…did somebody say vacation?
Statistics have shown time and time again that it is significantly less expensive to retain an existing customer, than to market to a new one. How many people have brought their vehicle into your shop over the years for repair work, but never came back for routine maintenance? By fixing their vehicle, you have certainly earned their trust, so why not ask them to visit your shop for routine maintenance? Selecting a shop management system that manages customer history and allows you to target market those clients can help your shop to build a healthier bottom line. Having this feature built into the system can help to ensure that the marketing pieces being sent are relevant and not junk mail.
It is important to implement a complete system that includes the tools necessary to manage other aspects of your business, such as marketing and inventory. These additional time-saving, organizational, and comprehensive efficiencies are critical to help maintain consistency throughout all aspects of any given repair shop.
As mentioned earlier, a repair shop’s lifeline is the shop management system on which it operates. Selecting a shop management system that monitors your shops profitability is essential to staying on top of your business. Your shop management system should also be proactive in building that bottom line by trying to gain additional business from your customers when they check their vehicle into your shop. As any service writer can attest, it is easier to talk to the customer and sell additional recommended services when the customer is scheduling their appointment as opposed to a phone call that is made and causes an interruption to the customer’s day. Just by taking this proactive approach to profitability, by showing a customer that they are due for a service, and selling it to them up-front, can help improve a shop’s profitability and efficiency.
While all auto repair shops are in the business of fixing and maintaining vehicles, the way in which they conduct business and handle the workload of the shop vary from location to location. With this being said, having the ability to conform a software program to the processes of an individual shop as opposed to a shop having to learn and adapt to the processes of a software program is an important factor to consider when selecting a shop management system.
Even though a shop management system should be complete, comprehensive and capable of handling multiple aspects of your business, the software should not require two PhD’s from MIT to operate. Clean and simple, well-laid out work-flow paths and processes should be part of the system. A shop management system that offers product training and is easy to use and understand is a system that will have a high success rate in an auto repair shop.
Anyone who has recently been in the market for a new shop management system may have been surprised to learn that pricing for systems is all over the board. From $500 to $15,000 plus, for a single system, there is a wide range of pricing available.
Some things to consider when factoring the cost of a shop management system:
• Do I want to own or lease the system?
• What are the long-term costs associated with a shop management system purchase?
Repair shop owners should be aware of what exactly they are purchasing. While systems that are purchased may initially have a higher price tag, is the extra dollar amount worth it in the end? Take into consideration why you opened an auto repair shop in the first place. Aside from your love of tinkering with the mechanics of cars and a garage full of great tools, you were probably lured into the business because it presents a great opportunity for a nice retirement when you choose to sell your business. Think of how much more valuable your business would be if you had an established shop management system in place with a detailed customer base to sell along with that business. With that in mind, be aware that some shop management programs are leased and cannot be sold with the business. This being said, do you really want to make payments on a system that you will never actually own?
Additionally, it is important to figure into the equation the “add-ons” that are associated with the system. Some features that you may select as a shop owner, are not always part of the core package of a shop management system you may be looking at. Asking the right questions when in the decision making stage of your purchase can help to avoid “surprise” monthly fees associated with operating your system.
In conclusion, have an open mind when looking for a system. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing the data entry processes of your current system with new systems you may be looking at. Remember, the perfect time to make changes for your shop so that it will run the way you envisioned is when you are selecting your shop management system. This is a great time to change things about your shop and to apply the goals you have envisioned. Start with the end in mind. Where do you envision your shop in the future? What are your goals for the shop? What is it about your shop now that you want to change? These are the questions to answer and using the right shop management “tool” will help you get there.
|Rick Spahn is a former ASE-certified technician and owned an auto repair shop in the Chicago area for 13 years. He founded Pace Software in 1988. With the help of talented software developers and input from many shop owners, the program evolved into the YES Management System. He takes great pride in knowing that our software has helped hundreds of shop owners improve their quality of life and achieve their business goals.|
Note: This article was originally published in February 2010 by Mike Hobbs on Diagnostic News.