Auto Repair Shop Management Software: The Ultimate Guide
Posted on Mar 16th 2020 in Best Practices
Automotive repair shops that want to grow invest in one commonly overlooked tool: auto repair shop management software.
Garages and repair shops today are more complex than ever. With more complexity comes the need for better organization.
Without an organized system for shop management, shops waste valuable minutes and hours on the same day-to-day procedures. Wasted time leads to lost revenue and profits.
That’s why it’s important that automotive businesses look for ways to create efficiency.
Enter: auto repair shop management software.
So, What is Auto Repair Shop Management Software?
Auto repair shop management software is software designed to allow auto repair shops to efficiently run the day-to-day operations of their automotive business.
What are Common Features That Make up Auto Repair Shop Management Software?
Different auto repair shop management software vendors will offer their own set of features. To provide examples, common features include the following:
- Ability to create work orders
- Invoices and estimating
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software
- Marketing capabilities
- Labor rates and Time keeping
- Parts and inventory list
- Appointment Booking & Service Reminders
How do I Find the Best Auto Repair Shop Management Software for my Automotive Repair Business?
With so many software vendors that each offer their own specific combinations of features and pricing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choices. Every software vendor that makes auto repair shop management software will inevitably claim that their software is superior to the others.
If you’re in the market for software, perhaps you’re wondering: what is the best auto repair shop management software available for my automotive business?
Here’s the simple answer: It depends.
For the long answer, consider the following:
Every software vendor will inherently have different strengths and weaknesses. Some software vendors focus on the development of certain features more than others. Some may be missing the specific features your shop needs.
Additionally, no two auto repair shops are going to be the same. An auto repair business that completes thousands of repairs in a month will have a different set of needs and requirements than a small mom and pop garage.
Because of all these varying factors, here’s our advice when looking for a software vendor:
Before shopping for auto repair shop management software, create a logical process for your decision-making.
What do we mean by this? Here’s a list of our recommended steps to create a process for buying garage management software:
- Think through your automotive repair shop’s specific needs.
- Compile a list of potential software vendors and their current features.
- Create a shortlist of vendors whose features solve your shop’s needs.
- Test a free trial of your potential software vendors.
Now we’ll explain each step in further detail below.
1. Think through your automotive repair shop’s specific needs.
The first recommended step is take a step back and think through the entire repair process of a customer, from beginning to end. From the moment a customer books an appointment with your auto repair shop to when they leave with their repaired vehicle, what operational steps are taken?
For example, your current shop process may be something like the following:
- Customer makes an appointment with your shop and drops off their car.
- Your repair shop creates a work order or list of possible repairs.
- Repairs are performed and notes are made about the repair.
- After repairs are completed, an invoice is created and the bill is sent to the customer.
- The customer pays for the invoice and leaves with their vehicle.
After you’ve listed out each step, think through the current pain points and bottlenecks. Your list may look something like this:
- We’re spending too much time entering in new work orders.
- It’s currently taking way too long to build invoices for each customer.
- For repeat customers, it’s exhausting having to repeatedly re-enter the same customer data into invoices.
- We’re wasting paper using carbon copy and paper invoices.
After you have your list of pain points and areas of improvement, move on to the next step.
2. Compile a list of potential software vendors and their current features
After you’ve gathered current pain points, do some research on potential software vendors. You can do this a number of ways, such as by searching online or asking for recommendations from other auto repair shop owners. The end result should be a list of at least 5-10 potential software candidates.
Each software vendor should have a website with additional information on their current features. We’d recommend listing out all the features for a current vendor you may be interested in.
An example list of possible features:
- Ability to create PDF and email invoices
- Parts and inventory list
- CRM database for customers
- Multiple user seats
- Quick invoice builder
3. Create a shortlist of vendors whose features solve your shop’s needs.
After you have a full list of features, now is the time to compare your potential software vendors with your list of needs and pain points from Step #1.
Your end goal should be to identify potential features that match up to your automotive business’s current pain points.
In other words, focus on benefits not features.
What do we mean? As you read through each software vendor’s list of features, you may find yourself getting distracted by features that sound helpful at first glance, but that in actuality don’t provide much actual value to your garage. Rather than simply choosing a software vendor with the highest number of features, think through the actual benefit that those features provide to your business.
You may be asking, so what is the difference between features and benefits?
Printwand defines a feature as a statement about a product, i.e. what it can do, its dimensions, or its specifications.
On the other hand, benefits show the end result of what a product can actually accomplish for your business.
There are two reasons to focus on benefits rather than features during this step:
- This ensures that you are only shopping software vendors who offer a solution that will actually solve your business’s pain points.
- This prevents you from overpaying or overbuying a software solution with features you don’t really need.
A feature is a statement about a product, i.e. what it can do, its dimensions, or its specifications.
Benefits show the end result of what a product can actually accomplish for your business.
After taking this step, you should have a clear sense of the possible software vendors with which to test a free trial. Again, your end goal is to identify the features that match up to your automotive business’s current pain points, and then create a short list of those vendors that meet your requirements.
You can cross any software vendors off your list who don’t meet your shop’s needs. Hopefully you’ll have anywhere from 3-5 remaining software vendors left after taking this step.
4. Test a free trial of your potential software vendors.
Now is the time to get your hands dirty. With the remaining software vendors on your list, sign up for free trials with each vendor to get some hands-on experience with the software.
As you go through the free trials, ask yourself questions like the following:
- Does the software meet my expectations?
- Is the software easy to learn and use?
- If I had to teach someone one of my repair shop’s employees how to use this software, how quickly could I do so?
- Does the software’s features really solve my business’s pain points?
The reason for going through with free trials rather than just buying a software should be obvious: there’s no substitute to actually trying a product.
If a potential software vendor doesn’t offer a free trial, we’d recommend thinking long and hard before choosing them to manage your auto repair shop. Move on to the next option on your list. Or at a minimum, if you do want to proceed, you’ll want to ensure that your software vendor offers some kind of money-back guarantee.
Should I Download On-Premise Software, use Cloud Software, or use Open Source Software?
When trying to decide on an auto repair shop management software, one crucial decision you’ll need to make early on is on how your software is deployed. Software has traditionally come in many forms and sizes.
Downloaded software (On-premise software)
Beginning in the 1980’s, using software required that you insert a physical cartridge into your computer for download. After downloading, the software was then hosted on your personal computer.
Eventually the physical cartridges were replaced by cassette tapes and floppy disks. By the 1990’s physical CD’s became more common for software installation, with flash drives later replacing CD’s. With faster internet speeds today, software can be downloaded via the internet without the need for physical storage devices.
With the rise of the internet and cloud computing, software can be deployed over the internet without requiring any download or installation at all. This is the power of cloud software. With cloud software, software can be used in a web browser and accessed via an internet connection. This means that no data or software is hosted on your personal computer. Instead, data is hosted on remote servers and made accessible through the power of the internet.
Open Source Software
For garages and auto shops willing to hire developers or technical help, another option is to build a custom shop management software solution. While this generally more labor intensive and expensive than the two options presented above, there are numerous online resources such as boilerplate code and open source software that make this a viable option.
Depending on your desired amount of customization, budget, and ease of installation and use, you’ll want to assess the best option for your auto shop’s circumstances.
Who Benefits from Auto Repair Shop Management Software?
Once software has been implemented, auto repair shop management software can impact anyone and everyone that comes into contact with your auto repair business:
Any managers at an auto repair shop can benefit from having an all-in-one tool to organize and consolidate their business’s data. In addition to having a central location for customer data, invoices and billing, and parts information, many software solutions also provide reporting and metrics.
Having reporting numbers at their fingertips helps repair shop management better understand the health of their business. For example, if a shop manager can see that the amount of revenue generated for total repairs in a week is falling, this will help them take action to investigate and correct potential issues before they become serious.
Additionally, any marketing and branding capabilities also help shop owners promote their business. If a shop management has automated reminders, this also helps keep customers coming back to the repair shop, ultimately helping the repair business’s bottom line.
Mechanics, Service Writers, Auto Repair Techs
Employees at an auto repair shop can leverage the power of auto repair shop management software to better perform their duties in an efficient manner. As an example of this, many invoicing tasks that were traditionally done by hand using paper invoices can be nearly automated with shop management software. This helps an automotive business’s bottomline: streamlined invoicing equals faster billing, which equals less time for employees building invoices and more time doing business critical tasks.
Customers are the ultimate winners when it comes to auto repair shop management software. Why? Imagine customers in the past who had to spend a long time waiting at the shop as their mechanic manually entered in a work order. After the repair was complete and they received their bill, they’d have to keep track of paper invoices. If they lost their invoice, they were out of luck.
Nowadays, auot repair shop management software provides benefits such as sending invoices in an electronic, email or PDF format, meaning one less piece of paper to keep track of. The same time savings experienced by mechanics and auto techs are also passed on to customers, who have less wait times overall.
Next Steps and Resources
If you’re in the market for auto repair shop management software, hopefully this guide provides a helpful resource as you begin your search for a software solution.
If you’d like more information about Autoshopinvoice, visit our website. If you’re ready for next steps and would like to further assess Autoshopinvoice’s software solutions, we also offer a free trial.
Key Terms [Glossary]
- Auto repair shop management software - Software designed to allow auto repair shops to run the operations of their automotive business.
- Benefits - show the end result of what a product can actually accomplish for your business.
- Cloud Software - On-demand software delivered via the internet. In the case of invoicing software, cloud software is hosted on remote servers and is traditionally accessible across a bevy of devices and operating systems, i.e. Mac, PC, mobile, etc.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) - Software that helps businesses manage customer data and interactions with their customers.
- Diagnostic Fee - A payment made in exchange for a mechanic’s time and labor in troubleshooting a car or vehicle’s issue.
- Downloaded Software (On-premise software) - Software installed on your auto repair business’s computer or device.
- Estimate - An approximate bill created by an automotive business for their customers prior to any payments being made.
- Feature - a statement about a product, i.e. what it can do, its dimensions, or its specifications.
- Free Trial - Temporary access to a product or service before purchase.
- Open Source software - Software for which the source code is made accessible by the creator in order to allow others to modify and build upon the existing code.
- Portable Document Format file (PDF) - A standard that allows you to view documents consistently across different devices and operating systems. With PDFs, the same file should look the same regardless of whether the person viewing is on Mac, PC, etc.
- Quote - A fixed-price proposal for a good or service.
- Service Writer - In the automotive industry, a customer-facing employee that assists in managing repairs and communicating customer needs to mechanics and automotive technicians.
- Software - A scripted set of instructions that tells your computer what to do and how to do it.
- Software Vendor - A software business that offers their product or services for sale.