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Are you ready to implement artificial intelligence in your shop?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - 06:00
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In late 2017, an article I read on a blog called "Medium" shined a light on a program that major cell phone companies created. Those companies are selling real time data about you – your number, your provider, your address, plan type, type of phone and even current location – to purchasers. 

Granted, your cell phone plan may not reveal a lot about you. But when it’s combined with information about the vehicle you drive and your online purchase history, this metadata builds a picture of you. Who you are, what you like, how you buy. 

This isn’t a warning about your digital privacy, though. I’m telling you that if a large company – say, a car manufacturer – wants to build a profile of a perfect customer, they only need to purchase the data and use AI to identify trends.  

They have purchasing power that independent shops do not: to buy massive amounts of data and AI programmers who can turn that data into actions.  

We are staring down the barrel of manufacturers being able to target and steal your customers with laser-like precision…and half of the owners in our industry don’t even measure how their employees are performing each day. 

How to adapt successfully 
First and foremost, you must close the knowledge gap. 

Our industry is still dominated by poorly-focused, activity-driven marketing. We still allow marketing companies to cherry pick numbers like return on investment without looking at the actual behavior and trust of the customer base they drive. 

In an age of machine learning, that’s unacceptable. If a campaign makes you busy, but ends up replacing your customer base with no-value coupon chasers, it’s wasted money. Doing so when we can quickly measure the effect of marketing is wrong. Doing so when a computer can quickly learn where your best customers are and target them with the right message is conceding that we want the dealerships and chains to win. 

You can probably not afford the data or the payroll needed to do that in-house, so step one must be to switch to a marketing company that is data-driven and results focused. 

That knowledge gap extends to shop measurement. 

We already know that half of shops aren’t measuring their employees regularly. Of those that are measuring, only a fraction are doing so daily. 

The fact of the matter is that we cannot hope to survive long as independent shops if we’re not willing to do the basics. Too many of us are content to look back at the previous month to try to measure going forward. 

Setting aside AI for a moment, this can’t keep happening. If you don’t know how you’re doing until the month is past, it’s too late to fix anything. You can make changes, sure, but the money you lost last month is gone. 

Unless you make the change today, you can’t save this month either. 

The picture is even more clear with AI. Consider what the dealerships and chains can learn with their resources. They can know their most efficient employees, how to effectively dispatch and can manage inventory based on data from locations coast to coast. 

And half of us won’t even do basic measurement. 

The truth is, shop owners are about to face a reckoning. Unless you think techs will be easier to find in the future, or that costs will go down, or that you’ll face less competition, the only answer is to take a giant step forward. We must do better marketing, we must manage smarter, and we must start measuring our business like the future is already here. 

If you want to know how we’re using AI daily in our auto repair shop to measure and market, visit

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