Having interviewed countless repair shop owners and their technicians over the years, I know that what you accomplish every day is impressive by anyone’s standards. I know that you have spent countless hours and numerous personal sacrifices to establish and grow your business. Blood, sweat and tears are just the visible signs of the price you have paid to make your business a success. And I know that, as difficult as it has been, you think it’s been worth it and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
Those of you who you have been in business for a while have developed long-term customers by taking the time to get to know them and their vehicles. You know their driving habits and know what their interests are. You might even know their kids and what their interests are. Along the way, you have updated your approach to serving your customers, otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this now. Years ago you may have relied entirely on word-of-mouth advertising to attract new customers. If you were an aggressive marketer, you probably sent out flyers or post cards advertising specials or offering coupons off on regular maintenance items such as oil changes.
To retain your customers, you learned that you had to be honest with your customers. You wouldn’t think of doing any unnecessary work; in fact, you advise your customers on what work is needed now and what can wait. You also learned that you didn’t have to be the cheapest repair facility in your area but you do have to charge fair prices for your work and the parts you install. And if you are one of the best shops out there, you have learned that if you install anything less than the very best parts, you are inviting comebacks, which is the first step to losing customers. Not too many customers are going to be forgiving if they have to have the same thing repaired twice because you installed an inferior part even if you take full responsibility and repeat the installation at no charge (which you should, of course).
Looking out from your office, you see the equipment that cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Add to that the tens of thousands of dollars that you pay your service advisors, office staff and technicians. The cost of the upkeep of your facility, the cost of the utilities and the taxes you pay are frightening.
To sum up, you’ve done all of the right things and have made all of the right decisions to run your business professionally. But in the last few years, you have found that the technology age has challenged you. Not new car technology — you have that handled that in spite of Right to Repair obstacles and the need for more costly equipment and better trained technicians. It hasn’t been easy and it’s not going to get any easier, but keeping pace with the OEMs technology has never knocked you out of the game.
The technology that has challenged you…even threatened you…is another OEM-inspired and dealership-induced game called shop management. The dealerships are a savvy bunch and the more you can be like them when it comes to shop management, the fewer worries and more customers you’ll have.
Look at what they’ve done. They threw out the paper R.O.s years ago. Have you? At the same time, they threw out the file cabinets in which to keep the quotes, R.O.s and invoices. Did you? They have automated all of their promotional and internal communications. Have you? They can provide customer quotes instantly. Can you? They can order the right parts quickly. Can you? Their parts ordering, pricing and labor are integrated. Are yours? They have access to educational videos that make a difference in doing things right or doing them wrong. Do you? They can track the progress of work orders at all times. They have access to and can track their customers’ vehicle histories in moments. Can you?
More than likely you have answered yes to some of my questions. If you didn’t answer yes to all of them, then you owe it to yourself to review the shop management system you have in place, as well as look at some other solutions for comparison. One I think you should take the time to review is called MotoSHOP. It’s a good time of year for taking stock of your business and reflecting on what you have and where you want to take your business. Having the right shop management system in place is crucial to helping you make your shop as efficient and profitable as it can be. Anything less might make you wonder what your sacrifices have been for…
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