Technology driving improved shop relations

Jan. 1, 2020
Sitting in the midst of broad and fundamental change, the view might be no more extraordinary than sitting in the eye of a hurricane. But just as that eye eventually will move on, switiching over to a storm-ravaged environment, so, too, is change swi

Getting to know social media, smartphones and mobile technology is a must for your shop's success.

social media technology business management automotive aftermarket leadership repair shop management repair shop repair shops Sitting in the midst of broad and fundamental change, the view might be no more extraordinary than sitting in the eye of a hurricane. But just as that eye eventually will move on, switching over to a storm-ravaged environment, so, too, is change swirling around the tire and automotive repair industries. Though the vehicles we drive are on the cutting edge of technology, for the average tire or automotive repair shop, technology is revolutionizing how we conduct business — whether we want it to or not.

A tool, any tool, is only useful if we actually pick it up and use it. But these next-generation business tools, unique and very adaptable to the tire and automotive repair industries, have the potential to revolutionize how we market, manage our operation, assure profitability and interact with our customers. This is cutting-edge business process at its very best.

Though many of us would still hold on to an earlier time of direct interaction with our customers, and marketing that was straightforward and honest (and mostly ended up in the trash), the ways that we engage our customers in today's service world demand that we step out from behind that counter and that we try new ways of attracting and retaining customers. Not for the sake of new, but for the much more practical reason that this is where our customers are. It also is where we have to go if we want to find them — and if we want to retain the ones we already have. Welcome to the world of social media.

A Social Media Tour

In this first stop on this technology tour, two very important and very recognizable names to remember are Facebook and Twitter. I apologize if these names set you on edge or fail to capture your imagination. In the world of social media, these are the giants who continue to grow users, revenue and net operating profit at an incredible 30 percent or more per year.

Again, this is where a great many of our customers and would-be customers spend time — and for that reason alone, we have to be there as well. People are not opening that big yellow book when they need tires or their car serviced; the Internet, mobile technology and social media have changed all of that. You need to hop on and ride that change as well. The links below will set you on the shore of the vast ocean that social media represents. All you need to do is steel yourself for the journey ahead, and jump on in. A world of new and different customer interactions is waiting.

Getting Started Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=167124440013852

Getting Started Twitter: http://business.twitter.com/

Mobile Motivation

Applications, or apps, are web-based programs that deliver a narrow suite of functions that can be anything from live weather forecasts from The Weather Channel to video games, satellite navigation systems or the maintenance reminders for our cars. A tablet or smartphone has an App Store function tied to a credit card that allows me to shop by category and instantly download apps that I want. You just go to the App Store on your phone or tablet and select the app you want, and it is instantly downloaded to your device.

Another far-reaching impact of mobile technology is search engine optimization, or SEO. Many of us are only just now getting used to the idea and theory of SEO, and here comes Apple's Siri, available on the iPhone 4S — and we now have to look at restructuring our SEO efforts to include the impact of mobile technology on our local search engine optimization. AJ Kumar of Entrepreneur magazine says, "Siri can call you a cab after a night on the town by automatically processing information about local cab companies in response to the query, 'Call me a cab.' Automating the search process means you never look up 'cab companies in your area' in the search engines, avoiding the traditional search engine results pages and pay-per-click advertisements entirely, therefore limiting their importance and influence."

In other words, the website you have worked so hard to set up will be invisible to mobile applications, which is huge. The very strong trend is toward people signing on to the Internet through a mobile device. If you are not being seen, it is very difficult to attract new customers — and just as difficult to retain the ones you have.

Marketing Lessons

Away from mobile technology and the impact social media are having on how we market and touch our customers, shop management systems and marketing tools have undergone a dramatic change and upgrade in recent years.

Mitchell 1 matches huge functionality with intuitive applications that give the shop owner or manager powerful tools that put everything from customer information and service history to reputation management and business reporting right at our fingertips. ALLDATA has long provided online repair manuals and TSBs, but also automates the maintenance reminder process and brings maintenance marketing into the world of mobile devices: Huge technical data paired with a vetted and reliable reminder system.

Any discussion of shop management would have to include the broad and intuitive functions available from the people at RO Writer. With profitability and productivity tools, a fully automated parts loading and ordering function, these guys put incredible power in our hands — and in a package that is both convenient and smart.

From the marketing perspective, there are nearly as many new and exciting tools and trends out there as there are on the shop management side. CustomerLink Systems, Demandforce and Mudlick Mail are just a few. All go after your market in unique ways, and have strategies that grow your brand. All three have a big presence in the social media world, and all three are mobile-enabled applications.

The rules of marketing are in the midst of huge change. That big yellow book many of us used over the years is gone, and our being visible on the Internet and on our smartphones would seem the preferred path to automotive salvation. Marketing remains critical, and as difficult a decision as it has always been. The three heavy hitters noted here understand the automotive world, are forward-thinking and would seem good bets in the midst of marketing uncertainty.

The technology that goes into running a successful shop today changes nearly as fast and with the same regularity as the technology you see in the cars we are working on. And just like with those cars, the job demands that you update those tools every once in a while.

Technology lights the way; we need to embrace it.

Brian Canning is a 30-year veteran of the automotive repair industry who recently moved to the federal sector as a business analyst. For most of the past seven years, he worked for a leading coaching company as a leadership and management coach and team leader, working with tire and repair shop owners from across the country. He started his career as a Goodyear service manager in suburban Washington, D.C., moving on to oversee several stores and later, a region. He also has been a retail sales manager for a distributor, run a large fleet operation and headed a large multi-state sales territory for an independent manufacturer of automotive parts.

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