Maybe you’re interested in auto shop management software because you’ve heard it can improve your cash flow, simplify daily retail operations and improve client loyalty — and all of the above is true! But before you start experiencing these benefits, you need to narrow down exactly what your needs and expectations are. We've compiled 5 questions you'll need to answer that will help you during your research:
1. Why do you want auto shop management software?
Perhaps you have your eye on opening more locations and want a customer and vehicle management system that’s user-friendly and scalable. Your goal could also be as simple as wanting a better understanding of technician time management. Here are more examples of objectives a software can help you accomplish:
✓ Turn more one-time visitors into returning customers
✓ Better educate customers on the variety of auto services I offer
✓ Reach a 45% profit margin on parts and accessories
✓ Spend less time on daily administrative tasks like scheduling
✓ Book my shop at least 3 months out
Identifying these goals will not only help you determine the nonnegotiable features in a auto shop management software for your business, but it will also allow you to stick to that checklist as you compare options and consult with software vendors and experts.
2. What is your budget for this software?
Software costs, especially auto shop management software, depend on a number of factors and range widely. Do you want to go with the most common option, which is a cloud-based solution you pay a monthly subscription to access, or an “on-premise software,” which you install on your desktop and buy or lease a license to use? Some subscriptions are based on the number of users, locations or computers/mobile devices. Then there are related costs. Some vendors offer free setup and training; others charge hefty fees for transferring data and offer a limited number of training sessions.
With all that in mind, the best way to dive into choosing a auto shop management software is to determine your budget first! The most popular subscription-based softwares can range anywhere from $10/mo to $400/ mo. Installed softwares are generally more expensive, ranging from a $100 one-time fee to thousands. A trustworthy software expert will find you the best software that fits your budget — not reach past your budget for a software that works. TransNational Payments’ software specialists will help you minimize your software spend by negotiating with vendors and finding smart savings for you!
3. What software features does your unique business need?
Before you answer, it’s important to remember that no one software is going to be perfect. Each one will offer a different user experience and of course, different features. You may not find one that does everything exactly the way you want or need it to, but you can find one that empowers you to accomplish the goals you wrote down in Question 1.
Your list of features should look different from that of another business type, and there are niche softwares built with that in mind.
For example, an auto detailing owner’s feature checklist might look like this:
✓ VIN barcode scanning and decoding
✓ Picture and video capabilities from mobile devices
✓ Smart marketing features to push targeted sales, discounts and promotions
While the owner of marine repair business might have a feature checklist that looks like this:
✓ Technician scheduling, dispatching and messaging for field repairs
✓ Seamless customer communication features via text and email
✓ Fast digital invoicing and same-day mobile payments
4. When do you want to start using the software?
The right auto shop management software can help set your business up for success for many years to come, but first you’ll need to tackle setup, user training and transferring over any physical or digital data customer information (known as data migration). Some software vendors will facilitate all of this for free — offering onsite installation, training sessions and robust online databases with video tutorials — and some will charge fees. These fees may be worth it for the right software; teaching a new system to yourself and your staff can be time-consuming depending on the resources available to you, or unrealistic if you have 50+ regular users and multiple locations.
While most software vendors should be able to get you up and running within a few phone calls, generally in most cases you are looking at 4–6 weeks for the full completion of setup, so beginning the selection process as early as possible is the best route!
5. What hardware and services do you have in place now?
One of the most complicated things about the software selection process is integrating it with the other software, providers and equipment you may already be using. For example, some auto shop management software vendors require merchants to process their payments through them, and they may have a payment processor they’ve partnered with exclusively — effectively locking merchants into a set of credit card rates, favorable or not, in order to use their software. Be sure you verify whether the software and hardware you use (Google Calendar, QuickBooks, credit card terminals, Apple products, etc.) are compatible, and if not, ask how the vendor will help make the transition to your new software as seamless as possible.
In just a few minutes, our experts at TransNational Payments can help you narrow down your choices and find the right auto shop management software for your business!