Using Technology To Manage Workflow
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Using Technology To Manage Workflow

In all likelihood, your shop management system already has built-In functions to maximize operations.

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Courtesy of Shop Owner

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It’s pretty much a known fact that most everyone has a smartphone today and they come with many preinstalled apps that make our lives simpler and more efficient. But even with all standard apps, the phone gives us the ability to add more features to further augment its capabilities. The same thing goes for the technology that we currently use in our shop. 

Servicing a vehicle is a predictable step-by-step process that starts with an appointment and should end with an exit interview and another appointment set for that same customer to return. Every other step of this process that is in between affects the actual flow of vehicles through the shop. Most all management systems have solutions for each step, which can be augmented by integrated software solutions making them more effective. They just need to be chosen and used properly.

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Start With The Appointment

I’ve been in some shops that, even though the management system supports appointment making, still list appointments on a paper calendar. With minimal customer information at that – maybe including just a customer’s name, sometimes their phone number, or vehicle make and model and nothing else.

Making complete appointments in the management system sets a great foundation for an efficient workflow process for a vehicle. Starting with a customer’s name and phone number, you can easily look up the vehicle make, model and year. And, if your shop is consistent in recording them, you will have access to all previous recommendations that can be brought back to the customer’s attention and possibly added to the appointment. As you set up the appointment, you can also block out time on your schedule, which will allow you to more accurately load each day with enough work, avoiding empty bays. 

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The more information you gather and use to fill out the appointment will also make writing up the customer quicker and more effective when they arrive. This can help with that rush you get every morning. All you need to do is go over the listed appointment details with the customer, get their signature and they are on their way. Also, if a customer does not show up as expected, you have everything in place to easily reach out and reschedule that appointment.

I mentioned recording recommendations because this is another one of those simple things that management systems have, but some shops don’t take advantage of. Whether the management system calls them recommendations, services or whatever, these are important items to list and keep in front of customers so they can prepare for them. Moreso, if your shop does courtesy inspections, especially paper inspections, you have invested tech time in gathering these. Why not get a return for the time invested?

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One of the main reasons that recommendations do not get added into the management system is just due to the fact that advisors may have too much to do. They don’t have the time, and they don’t see the value in future service since they are so focused on making money today.

Automating the entry of recommendations and service due is the best solution for keeping these items in drivers’ minds. This is possible with many digital inspection software suites, as long as it has been set up and turned on. Doing this also makes better use of your management system.

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Inspection Process Can Be More Effective

Integrated digital inspection packages, with a little pre-setup, can automatically insert technician-found recommendations into the management system as they are discovered during the inspection. With this in place, it makes it more likely that the advisor will see and recommend what is found. With paper inspections, where they need to interpret what the techs found, advisors need to look up what the recommendations are going to be. Another advantage to automation is that management can also use this information to monitor advisor and tech efficiency over time.

In many shops, workflow monitoring really begins once the vehicle is written up. Monitoring the vehicle’s path through this service process is sometimes done by stacking colored plastic folders on a counter, or they are placed on clip boards and hung on a rack, or represented by index cards on a hand-drawn grid on a white board or other inefficient methods that have been used for years, even though the management system may already be equipped with a built-in system.

Though these management system-based status methods may be very basic, they can work when used properly. Keeping them updated within the management system requires only a few basic clicks here and there. The advantage to this is that you are already in the management system making changes to the estimate, so changing the status is a click or two away. With these statuses displayed in the “Work in Progress,” it’s always easy to do a summary of the overall shop flow.

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Some integrated add-on digital inspection software packages offer an expanded view of the workflow. But, shops may be so focused on using the digital inspection part of the package, they never use this other built-in technology to make their shops run more efficiently.

For example, Workflow Manager is built into Bolt On Technology’s digital inspection software. Workflow Manager is a “one stop” screen where you not only have an overview of every vehicle’s status in the shop, but you can quickly access specific information about any vehicle with a click or two. With a click on any tile that represents a vehicle, you get immediate access to the inspection, repair order, text messaging the customer, lube sticker printing and more all in one place.

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Customize Workflow

You have full control of how you view the workflow. You can display it by technician or status. The workflow window can even be dragged onto second monitor, making up-to-date status changes immediately available to all.

All you need to do to make the workflow operate is to click, drag and drop each vehicle tile to the status where it belongs. A timer can be applied to each status which will start to flash when the set time has been exceeded. Color coding can be applied to each vehicle tile giving more quick viewed information. For example, a black colored tile can mean that the customer has already been called and the vehicle is OK to hold overnight. This can be understood with just a glance at the tile.

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It’s a proven fact that returning customers buy more. And even though invoicing a ticket should take a vehicle out of your in-the-shop workflow, you should still consider setting the next appointment to get the customer to return as part of your shop’s complete workflow. This can be done by discussing the automatically added recommendations and setting up reminders for your customers to return when they are due. It’s likely that, if your shop isn’t manually adding the recommendations, you are not performing this step either. This results in lost revenue and profits with each vehicle that leaves on any given day.

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Hopefully the main takeaways from this article should help open your eyes to:

  • Your workflow processes should also include your customers in- between visits to your shop using automatic recommendations and reminders.
  • That technology can improve your workflow process in your shop. 
  • These tools are available to you now and can make an immediate positive impact on your shop’s operations and profits. All it will take is acquiring them, setting them up, and letting them help your business succeed.

Going through and re-checking the settings in your current software or adding integrated solutions can reveal that you have options that can automatically add the recommendations and appointments when customer services need to be repeated. Best of all, they are added directly into your management system automatically and, at the same time, can set up automatic text reminders to be sent out to customers reminding them of their upcoming appointments. All it might take is a few clicked check boxes and this part of your technology can go to work for you with NO additional intervention by your staff.

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