Power up your SMS

June 21, 2021
Understand all the features and functions your shop management system offers to you in order to increase efficiency, work captured and most importantly, profitability.
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I feel confident in saying that most of you reading this article have a smartphone and that you only use a small percentage of the apps that are installed. I speculate that most may use a maximum of five applications on a regular basis out of all of those that were installed when you got the phone. Don’t forget to count the additional apps that you may have downloaded and used once or twice and have not used since. 

Of course, some of you will be power users, never using a computer and doing everything right on your smartphone. As power user, you know many of the little tricks that most other people are not even aware exist on a phone. You use the phone as a tool to plan out and run your days. 

No matter which kind of user you may wind up being, you are probably pretty satisfied with how you use your phone and how well it works for you. Even if you are just using the smallest portion of what it can do.  

Then there is your service management system or SMS. It is your point of sale where, on a daily basis, you write up your customers, dispatch work to technicians, build estimates, and upsell work while collecting payment with an invoice. And for the most part, you have it set up to where it works OK for your needs.  

The question is, are you really getting your money’s worth from how you are using your management system? Does your management system give you a return on its investment? In other words, you pay monthly for the SMS to make your shop run smoother and more efficiently, but does it really pay for itself?  

Before answering that question, maybe you need to ask yourself a couple more questions, such as: Are you using all the capabilities that the management system can provide you to run your shop and make good money? Be honest here; go ahead a click on some of those icons or menus you never use and see what lurks behind them. I am sure that you are going to find that there are a lot of functions you never knew of still waiting to be discovered.  

Please know that I am not asking these questions to embarrass anyone. It is something that I have seen time and time again during my travels across the country and going into different shops. A majority of the shops I have been in are using only a small portion of the functionality that is available in their management system. In many cases, this is not their fault. When the software was purchased and installed, many shops are given a single day to learn all that they can about their new management system. Worse yet, they have to learn the management system while still trying to run their shop, which is a recipe for disaster.  

Because of the way that many of us are in this field, we figure out a method to make our management systems work. Unfortunately, many of these work arounds are extremely inefficient and cost the shop time and money every day they are used.   

Management systems come with a wide range of tools that can not only make your shop run more efficiently, but can also help you measure how your shop is running and give you answers on how to fix things that are not operating as they should be. Yet with no basic understanding of how to use a management system, many of the extra tools and reports are inaccurate or completely broken.  

If you now realize that you are one of those folks who is not getting the most out of your management system, do not worry, all is not lost. Taking some time now you can go back and fix things. And in some cases, when you go and put things in place, many of your records — back to day one of using the management system — will also be fixed.   

In order to make all this work, you will need to invest some time. And you must understand that time spent now putting things into order will result in time being saved in every instance in which you use these functions in the future. Also, having accurate reports and other functions work as they should in your SMS will save you time, thus making you more money in the future.  

I recommend reaching out to your SMS company and asking a few questions such as: What kind of training can they offer you? Can you get somebody to work with you directly? Do they have resources available online that you can easily access? Remember, you pay these folks monthly so they should be able to support you in getting your system up and running as it was designed.  

Here are some basic items that you should get straightened out so you can get more of your investment out of your management system. Most SMS support these items but may call them by different names than listed here. Also note that many of the management systems will tell you that putting these items in proper order is extremely important to the software working to its fullest capabilities.  

Categories: Categories make up part of the foundation of most management systems. You can think of categories as being a file. Each time you perform a service, like an alignment, a check mark or a report will be stored inside. At the end of the month, you can run a report that will look into these category files and you will be able to tell how many alignments you did this month. With this information, you can determine if you are selling enough alignments or if you should make an investment in a better alignment rack. 

Canned Jobs: Once you put all the pertinent information into building a canned job, any time after that it will just be a couple of clicks away from adding a job to the estimate. No more re-typing the same items over and over. The use of canned jobs will make the writing up of customers and setting appointments much quicker since all the typing is done in advance. Connecting a category to a canned job gives you even more insight into what kind of jobs are being sold by your advisors.  

Recommendations: The technician spends time on every vehicle and makes recommendations to the customers. Like canned jobs, recommendations can also be prebuilt so that with just a few clicks they can be added to the work order. Also, understanding what section of the repair order to put these recommendations in is important because when you print the invoice, they will be there for the customer to see and hopefully plan to get done in the future. 

There are many other aspects of our management system that you should learn about and start to use. I think the most important takeaway from this article is for you to take a look at your use of your management system. See how much of it you are using compared to what you are not. And spend some time looking into these other functions while learning how to make them part of your daily use. Ultimately, with having your management system set up and working properly, it will not only pay for itself, it should pay you every time you use it.  

About the Author

John Burkhauser

John (JB) Burkhauser has 40-plus years of automotive experience to share. He attended tech school, grew up in dealerships, worked with independent shops, taught 10 years of post-secondary automotive, and trained shops on how to eliminate daily roadblocks to their service process. In his goal to help shops become more successful, he is published in numerous publications such as this one and gives regular webinars sharing what he knows works. Email him with any questions or comments.

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