Technician-turned-shop-owner Kurt Kennedy doesn’t consider himself a techie, but he says shops not taking advantage of these critical innovations need to schedule demos today.

Kurt Kennedy was shocked. Over a two-month period, the average time it took his clients to open a text sent through his Shop Boss shop management system and click on the link to view their vehicle’s inspection report — the result of an integration between his SMS and a third-party digital vehicle inspection (DVI) provider — was 63 seconds.

Even more impressive was how long it took those clients to pick up the phone to call his Houston-based shop, Kennedy Auto Solutions, to approve the work: two minutes and 47 seconds, on average.

“So, that’s taking a very long process down to less than three minutes,” the ASE Master Technician with L1 certification said. “They know what’s wrong with the car. They have pictures, they know what it’s going to cost, and they know how to pay us. Then it’s, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do that.’

“Now we’re ready to rock and roll.”

Kennedy shared his findings during a recent “Inside the Shop” webinar hosted by Ratchet + Wrench. The focus was on how software integrations have turned into revenue drivers for repair shops. Panelist and business development executive for 360 Payments Jesse Meddaugh had his own story to share, courtesy of a Buellton, Calif.-based repair shop and customer of the payment solutions provider.

Through the integration between the shop’s SMS and 360 Payments’ Text-to-Pay solution, a customer who towed his car to the location in the middle of the night learned about, approved and paid for the repair, and picked up his vehicle without ever speaking with someone at the shop.

“The shop owner never even met or saw this customer,” Meddaugh said. “They put his keys in the lockbox, and the guy picked it up at night.”

Kennedy noted that 25% to 30% of his repairs end the same way, adding: “We know who they are, met them at some point. Now that we have the lockbox, we don’t see them.”

Pandemic Driven

COVID-19 forced many repair shops to embrace technologies that hadn’t before — solutions that received updates in the lead-up to the pandemic. As Meddaugh noted, these technologies served as critical lifelines for repair shops, especially for businesses forced to operate without waiting rooms and the ability to take payments in the shop.

“Lots of dealers are saying if they didn’t have Text-to-Pay, they wouldn’t be in business,” Meddaugh. “These types of things were a huge benefit for a lot of shops, even in terms of communication within in the dealership.

“Some shops now offer a more concierge-type of feel where they walk up to a customer in the waiting room with a wireless terminal to review an invoice or to take a payment,” he continued. “Now, you want to interact with customers in your waiting room.”

The most significant benefit is that payment technologies like Text-to-Pay eliminate the awkward back and forth with a customer over a $2,000 repair bill. That has opened opportunities for shops to have more fruitful conversations, such as what customers should plan to take care of on their next visit.

Being able to text a digital vehicle inspection — complete with demonstration photos and videos — has also gone a long way toward turning around that “big bad repair shop reputation” owners like Kennedy combat daily.

“We try to be as transparent as possible,” he said. “We go as far as to check the tread depth on tires but have that integrated with the DVI. Customers see the picture of the tread depth and what the tires look like.”

Meddaugh added: “There’s a trust factor there, but it’s also professionalism. It’s easy for me to work with a shop that way. If you make it easy for me as a customer and everything works how you say it’s going to work, I trust you. And I’m going to come back.”

Change Management

There are other subtle, not-so-visible integrations impacting Kennedy’s shop; the shop owner pointed to parts and labor guide integrations as giving his shop a few hours back each day.

“One of the biggest time sucks for the service advisor is making estimates, tracking down labor times, the right parts, the right diagram, then making sure you have the parts the technician requested,” Kennedy said. “So having that integration with MOTOR, ProDemand, or whoever you have integrated with your SMS, you can see everything right there. One-click and the part is on the ticket, and the labor matrix does the pricing for you.

“So, it takes a 15-minute estimate down to three minutes,” he continued. “That’s a huge timesaver if you’re doing five to 10 tickets a day.”

Meddaugh added that these integrations are also making metric and KPI tracking automatic. Training is much easier as well. “If your shop isn’t using one of those integrated technologies, you need to catch up,” the 360 Payments executive said. “We’ve had a lot of shops that have been in business 20 to 50 years that still say, ‘This is how we’ve always done it.’ Well, you’re going to get left behind. Because the shops that are super-efficient and can push an additional 10 cars through their shop a day and make it easy for their customers will start drawing more of the business.”

‘Get Those Demos’

The webinar opened with a poll question that asked audience members what percentage of their shop’s software is integrated. Most respondents indicated 50%, prompting Kennedy to note a similar ratio when he first opened his Kennedy Auto Solutions. As the shop grew busier, however, efficiency became vital.

Tons of research and demos followed, Kennedy said. Ensuring his employees would use the technology was a primary consideration. After trial and error, he landed on Shop Boss.

“So, the biggest thing I would say is it’s not nearly as challenging as you think the jump would be,” Kennedy noted. “The best part of the integration is it happens behind the scenes. I thought it would be a massive undertaking to learn these integrations. Once I showed it to my team, they were all for it.

“As a shop owner, I think we as an industry are behind the times. I remember 20 years ago when a plumber sent me a photo of what was wrong. I thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing that in automotive,’” Kennedy continued. “Truth is, the next three to five years are going to be pretty awesome in terms of technology. There’s already software that connects to a camera in the stall, with the recording starting once a vehicle enters. As a technician turned shop owner, I want to know the efficiency of that side of the shop. I want to know how long it takes to get a part after submitting the order. I want to make it as easy as possible for a customer to make a payment. Yeah, we’re a little behind as shop owners, but it’s not a lot to figure out. Just start getting that information and get those demos. You’ll find it’s very easy and not a huge learning curve.”

One way operators can position their auto repair shop for the changing times is to have automotive shop management software like Shop Boss. Meticulously designed by a former shop owner, Shop Boss allows users to efficiently manage shop operations from anywhere through an intuitive cloud-based interface. Integrated features such as a repair labor guide, estimating, parts ordering, markup calculator, and customer self-check-in ensure shops of all sizes keep those cars coming through their bays this year and beyond. Ask about a free trial today.