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Mining Your Management System’s Underused Functions

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Barry Dorn, owner of Dorn’s Body & Paint in Mechanicsville, Va., has utilized shop management systems since the early 1990s, when he employed the use of 3M’s ARMS program.

And, if there’s one thing Dorn has learned from talking to shop operators, it’s that the industry still has a long way to go when it comes to mastering management software. According to Dorn, most shops do just enough with their management systems to survive, without realizing that lack of thoroughness has a ripple effect for others downstream.

“Spending the extra five minutes [inputting data into management software] can save people a lot of time,” Dorn notes. “For me to take that extra five minutes to do this saves this person 20 minutes, and saves this customer an hour’s worth of hassle.”  

In 2017, management systems―if used properly and to the full extent of their capabilities―can help ensure that shops are operating in the most efficient manner possible. And, modern management systems drive accuracy, not just efficiency, when it comes to documentation of shop data. Additionally, management system software can help drive best practices.

But, if collision repair facilities don’t track everything they can through their management systems, it can make it difficult to diagnose where bottlenecks originate on a shop floor.

Management systems can take time to master, though they offer numerous valuable functions. All of which begs the question: How, exactly, can shop operators utilize their management systems to the full extent of their capabilities? FenderBender spoke with multiple industry veterans to gain insight on that issue.

 

Underutilized Functions

Some shops experience long learning curves when it comes to adapting to management systems. Yet, the investment in time, effort and money is worth it, in the minds of many in the industry (and that aforementioned learning curve can be overcome by taking advantage of vendor training, tutorials and shop visits to areas outside of your market).

These days, most management systems have a “single sign-on” setup. In other words, the days of having to switch back and forth between an estimating system and your shop management software are over. Key information, such as capture rates, can be tracked without having to rely on multiple systems.

But owners need to go beyond simply using their management systems to take note of completed project milestones, notes Kelly Grossenbaugh, director of Elevate Services, the automotive solutions delivery group at CCC Information Services. Otherwise, that’s simply an elementary use of a rapidly evolving technology.

Most industry experts agree that body shops should be using their management software for the following tasks:

Obtaining Customer Data.

Yes, the average driver will only require the use of a collision repair shop once every seven years. Still, body shops need to gather customer information (like email addresses) to stay top of mind for those potential customers, Dorn notes. And, fortunately for shop operators, most management systems, like those offered by CCC, Mitchell International and the like, virtually collect that information for shops, due to modern functionality.  

Inputting customer data within at least 24 hours of a visit can save businesses countless inefficiencies later. An expansive customer database can also help a shop utilize that information later, providing updates on their businesses (regarding recently earned industry awards, perhaps) through measures like email blasts, Dorn notes.

And, while gathering such customer information can occasionally be difficult―as consumers grow more and more wary of modern issues like identity theft―those obstacles can be overcome. Your shop could simply require the information from customers, similar to how patients at dentist offices are instructed to fill out paperwork prior to appointments.

 

Catering to Customers.

Once you have obtained key customer information within your management software, you can use that data to keep clients in the loop during the repair process. Armed with that data, your shop can inform customers in as efficient of a manner as possible, and in the style a customer prefers, whether it’s email, phone call or text messaging.

“There’s a thousand different ways that customers want to be handled,” Dorn says. “You have to give them―each and every one of them―a customized approach, not a blanket approach … You want them to have the ability to have as much information as they want.”

 

Tracking Parts Orders.

You’re probably aware of management software’s ability to aid in the parts procurement process, but you might not be aware of the extent to which modern technology can streamline that entire undertaking through accounting. Parts ordering invoices can easily be received electronically, for example.

And consider this: If you’re still ordering parts via phone calls and not thoroughly tracking that, you’re far more likely to forget to add that to the subsequent estimate, Grossenbaugh says.

 

Tracking Scheduling Completely.

The modern management system is one source to which all employees can turn. As such, scheduling can be tracked in one place all the way through to the CSI stage, so that one shop employee doesn’t have to keep track of each piece of the puzzle. That helps keep the entire staff on the same page.

 

Documenting Blueprinting, then Production.

It’s easy for collision repair facilities to get caught up in focusing mainly on whether they hit the dollar amount they were seeking on repairs. There’s also value, however, in drilling in to discover if any element of a vehicle’s repair could’ve been improved upon, Grossenbaugh says. After all, many shops keep tabs primarily on the start and finish of the repair process, leaving them in danger of losing focus on key elements in the middle―elements that a shop management system can track on your shop’s behalf, if the technology is used correctly.

A management system allows for true tracking of the blueprinting process, helping to ensure that all items on the initial ‘to-do list’ are crossed off. From there, full production phases can be monitored closely to determine where a facility might be susceptible to a bottleneck, Grossenbaugh notes.

Dorn suggests taking your shop’s data implementation process with regard to its management system and continuously fine tuning it, “and taking things that may not have been used and utilizing it and streamlining it to make the communication process better―and to give your team more value,” he says.

 

Tips for Training on a Management System

Steven Tisdale, the longtime owner of Collision King Repair Center in Lubbock, Texas—which has a reputation for being a leader in high-tech collision repair in west Texas—provides insight on training for a new shop management system.

I would recommend this: Find a 20 group, or someone outside your market, and visit their shop. We visited shops and saw how the management system worked in real time. I mean, any sales guy can come in and say, "Oh, it can do this and this," but when you get out on the shop floor and in the real world, it's a little different. How quick is it when you're doing 400 ROs per month?

A lot of shops outside of your competitive area are very willing to welcome you and say, "Hey, this is how we do it." So, just shadow them for a day and pick some things that you can integrate into your own system.

 

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