Utilize Your Management System via Smartphone
Phil Oyer doesn’t really text. He doesn’t make a habit of browsing the Internet from his phone. He has no idea what games his grandchildren are playing on their tablets.
But he is very proficient in one particular mobile app—a certain kind of app that he says every collision repair shop owner should download.
“I’m 61 years old,” he says, laughing. “If I can do this, anyone can.”
Oyer is referring to the app he and all his employees share, which allows them to use Aurora Collision Center Inc.’s management system from their cell phones. From writing estimates to documenting repairs to snapping photos to updating customers and insurance companies, it’s a practice Oyer claims has improved the Aurora, Colo., shop’s efficiency and overall communication significantly.
It’s a feature most major management systems offer, and it’s free to install. Oyer claims the learning curve is low and the reward is high—all it requires is some training, a few process tweaks, and the motivation to take your management system to the next level.
Getting Everyone on Board
At first, Oyer was wary about his employees’ willingness to download the app on their personal cell phones. He brought up the idea at a meeting to gauge the reaction.
“Nobody cared about putting the app on their phone,” says Oyer, whose employees have both Android and Apple phones. “The app is really easy to install. It only takes a couple minutes and they’re in business.”
Oyer says that might not be the case for every shop, however, and that, if necessary, you could buy cheap, used smartphones for everyone to make it work.
After announcing the switch to mobile, Kim—Oyer’s wife and insurance consultant—worked with employees individually and gave a tutorial of the app and how and when to use it.
Oyer’s app make it easy to include everyone in the process, they say. There are tagging features that task employees with respective duties, such as “paint” or “rental” or “vehicle complete.” Push notifications will alert users to updates, so everyone always knows the status of a vehicle.
When the vehicle first comes in, the estimator finds the repair order (which Oyer puts together beforehand from the desktop) on the mobile app, heads out and starts taking photos with his or her phone. Oyer says the photos can be downloaded as a group and attached to the repair order.
Photos taken with the app are automatically labeled, saving time on each repair order. On Oyer’s app, tapping the placeholder on the right top of a photo will automatically label it “right front” and open a space for note taking.
“We take photos all the way around. We get the stickers, the four corners, the odometer, prior damage,” he says. “And then we’ll come in and enter info from the phone and finish the estimate on the desktop, just because it would take too long on the phone.”
Switching to the app, he says, has kept the customer better engaged during the estimating process, increasing the capture rate. It impresses the customer to update an estimate directly from the app while standing with the customer.
Once the vehicle is in the shop, technicians can take closer looks at the photos on their phones. This allows them to look out for any prior damage, or missing or broken parts, from when it first came in.
Oyer says this feature, in particular, has saved his technicians a lot of time and driven up efficiency and productivity.
“You’re not walking up to the office to look at a picture like they used to. Every time you do that, you waste time,” he says. “They can just look at it on their phone and that’s that.”
Techs will continue to document as the vehicle proceeds along, making notes and taking photos in the teardown, body work or paint departments. Oyer’s app will automatically prompt his technicians to document data from the odometer, license plate and fuel gauge whenever those items appear in a photo.
Oyer's management system allows his staff to track the vehicle’s movement on the app, so anyone logged in on their phones can see it at any point. And since the management system has a messaging feature, anyone can follow up on any photo or note that needs clarification.
While all this documentation improves communication within the shop by allowing everyone to access updated repair orders from their mobile devices, it also affords the chance to improve the customer experience, Oyer says. All the contact information from the workfile is shown onscreen in the app, making it easy to update a customer about his or her car. The app will even display the preferred contact and contact method on-screen.
“Every car that’s listed has a picture, so it helps you identify the car,” he says. “If I have the picture of a Toyota 2014 4Runner SR5 and it has the customer’s name, then you can open that up and look at it deeper. No matter where you’re standing, as long as you have your phone, you can let them know where the car is at in the repair process.”
“We have ROs written in water pencils on the front and back windshields” Oyer says. “It’s always easy to see what that RO is and punch it in and look it up pretty quick. You can pull some information from it to answer a customer’s question right away.”
It’s also made communication much smoother with insurance companies. To capture a VIN number, Oyer's estimator can simply position the camera over the barcode on the VIN plate and the app decodes it and finds the insurance documents.