Given the complexity of automotive service and repair, effective customer communication and consumer education are vital components for building trust and satisfaction. Oftentimes traditional methods of explaining repairs and maintenance to customers make it difficult to convey many of the complex scenarios we currently see. However, with many of the modern automotive shop management systems, shop owners and technicians now have powerful tools at their disposal to enhance customer communication and provide detailed consumer education. Furthermore, access to service and repair information is essential in producing successful, long-lasting repairs and maintaining consumer trust. In this article, we will explore several ways shops are leveraging modern shop management and service information systems and discuss some real-world challenges.
The evolution of automotive shop management systems
Automotive shop management systems have come a long way from the days of manual record-keeping and fragmented communication channels. Modern management systems have revolutionized the way automotive repair shops operate, providing comprehensive solutions that streamline workflows, track inventory, manage scheduling, and facilitate communication with customers. These systems integrate various components like customer databases, repair order management, parts ordering, vehicle history tracking, quick specs, recalls, and more, all within a centralized platform. Today, many systems are cloud based and run in a web browser removing many of the potential challenges experienced with running a locally managed client-server system.
Improving customer communication
One of the most significant advantages of modern shop management systems is the ability to capture and share visual documentation of repairs right within an inspection/diagnostic process. By integrating images and videos into repair orders, technicians can showcase the problems and their solutions, allowing customers to better understand the issues their vehicles are facing. During complex diagnostic scenarios, technicians can better track the work being performed on the vehicle with transparency which in my opinion adds value to the service. These consumer touch points help to build trust by providing solid evidence of the repairs carried out. Additionally, in the case where the vehicle arrived with multiple faults, the documentation can provide clarity on what’s up next for service and repair.
Updates and notifications
Effective communication requires timely updates. With modern management systems, customers can receive real-time updates and notifications about the progress of their repairs. And in some cases, can be provided a link to secure view of either recommended services or their invoice where they can take the appropriate action of approving or paying for repairs. Automated messages can be sent at various stages, such as when the vehicle is checked in, when the repairs begin, and when the work is completed. Proactive communication keeps customers informed and minimizes any uncertainties or frustrations they may have about the repair process.
Explaining complex repairs
Automotive repairs can often involve complex technical concepts that are difficult for customers to grasp without proper visualization. By utilizing pictures, videos, technical drawings and more, shop management systems can help bridge this gap. Technicians can record videos, capture images from their test equipment, and or technical information to help explain the repair process step-by-step, breaking down intricate procedures into easily understandable segments. This empowers customers to make informed decisions about their vehicle service and repair and goes a long way towards developing a clear understanding of the work being done. The shear act of performing these steps demonstrates technical competencies and goes a long way towards generating credibility for the business.
Maintenance tips and educational resources
Automotive shop management systems can serve as a platform to provide customers with valuable educational resources. Integrated knowledge libraries can be utilized to create informative articles, videos, and guides on assorted topics, including routine maintenance, common issues, and best practices for car care. By sharing these resources with customers, shops can contribute to their automotive literacy, enabling them to better understand their vehicles' needs and proactively address potential problems. There are services such as MotoVisuals that can provide animated explanations covering just about anything on today’s vehicles. Through our relationship at my service facility with Carquest TechNet, we have access to the entire MotoVisuals library. Through this service we can educate clients on site, remotely, or through a share link, PDF, etc., to help convey the issue at hand. Additionally, their service will also produce assets that you can embed on your own website which of course can continue delivering information for prospective clients. See Figure 1.
In our shop we come across interesting things that get added to a work order and get repurposed by posting to social media or through other consumer-facing channels. Using these practices has been beneficial for us in generating interest and awareness, which of course works as a lead generator. Many of the marketing companies have application programming interfaces (API) that can allow a modern shop management system to continue marketing to your existing clients. For my shop we use a couple of services that help us gain public reviews that can be found on the web and even have them be repopulated right into your website automatically. Other services can work to send out reminders, special communications such as promotions as well. Figure 2 shows how Broadly works with our shop management system by queuing a request for review following the closing of an invoice, sending out appointment reminders and more.
Service information (SI)
Service information today comes in many forms and can be sourced through several channels. From the vehicle owner’s manual to factory service information, we have a plethora of data available to us 24/7. Many of the aftermarket service information resources such as ALLDATA, Mitchell 1, Motor, MotoLogic, and others, provide access to service information resources both through conventional access and with the advancements in digital communications, some of that service information can be delivered right within your service management system. For example, some of the quick specifications needed to carry out specific tasks can be contextually embedded right within the repair order. Given the decades of behind-the-scenes work by groups such as the Auto Care Association and others in linking up relational parts and vehicle component information with vehicle (DNA) build data, modern systems possess the power to work more intelligently providing a path to reduced friction for all of us front-line service providers.
Nontraditional SI channels
An internet search can turn up a ton of info but not all of it can be trusted. However, there are professional service sites such as Diagnostic Network (diag.net), iATN, and others that can also serve as a trusted resource for uncommon situations. Furthermore, adding one or more of these resources to your toolchest can help you stay up to date with emerging trends and technologies. In fact, the Diagnostic Network offers a support channel that can empower shops to find solutions to many of the challenges they face and offers up the opportunity to participate in discourse aimed at raising the automotive service professional’s situational awareness to the highest levels.
Efficient workflow management
Automotive shop management systems not only facilitate customer communication but also optimize the internal operations of repair shops. Custom jobs can be engineered with inspection routines that will help support company processes and procedures. This can serve as a quality assurance step that will go a long way in supporting quality control over each job. Additionally, if your state or jurisdiction has any mandates around service, shop management systems can be leveraged by adding the items needed to solve for mandates. For example, in California we are required to check and adjust the air pressure on every vehicle passing through our facility. So, on any new repair order the tire pressure “job” is automatically added to each work order. In addition, we also have a Quality Control job process added the work order as well. (Figure 3)
Some shop management systems also allow one to tie in direct access with their service information providers allowing a technician to link to their SI source carrying over the vehicle details which oftentimes eliminates a step in the information look up. See Figure 4 which shows a direct link to Mitchell 1 from within a Shop-Ware work order.
The modern information and shop management systems we have access today are helping service professionals conduct business with a little less friction and can go a long way in supporting profitable business operations well into the future.