Technology Drives Automotive Repair Shop Transformation


Technology changes in and outside the automotive service repair shop are keeping customers on the road and business operations flowing.

In uncertain times, ensuring “business as usual” is much easier said than done – but with rising costs impacting all industries, “business as usual” is now a necessity. For automotive service providers, maintaining “business as usual” will require a business model rethink to better serve customers, remain competitive, and keep profitability high. It’s all about operational gains, new repair models, and supporting software that will ensure these benefits come to fruition inside and outside the repair shop.

Forbes reports significant cost-of-living pressures on consumers. Just under 20% of consumers have had to pull money from “rainy day” savings or take out a loan to cover the basic operating costs of a vehicle, with two-thirds admitting that the rising cost of living has made owning a vehicle more challenging – this includes worries about affording fuel to perform basic journeys such as driving to work or taking their children to school.

The effects of the cost-of-living crisis are widespread – not only are vehicle owners feeling the pinch, but repair shops and automotive service providers are experiencing their own unique set of challenges.

Research from The Motor Ombudsman reveals the true impacts of rising inflation on automotive servicing and repair shops. For eight out of 10 workshops, rises in the cost of living may impact business, with six out of 10 claiming that they would consider increasing costs to consumers in order to maintain profit levels. Retrieving replacement parts ranked as the second largest challenge for workshops, as nearly three-quarters of businesses cited that this would negatively impact operations. For 71% of workshops, reductions in ad hoc spending and routine vehicle maintenance by consumers were already a reality compared to the first six months of last year.

Organizations will need to consider the value of new business models should they wish to succeed in a difficult operating landscape. In fact, McKinsey’s future outlook for this decade explains: “Driven by shared mobility, connectivity services, and feature upgrades, new business models could expand automotive revenue pools by about 30%, adding up to $1.5 trillion.”

It’s time to think long-term – the cost of living is still rising

But as McKinsey cited in its report, thinking out of the box is key to unlocking both better customer offerings and business value – and both of those are symbiotically linked. The route to better customer satisfaction and business growth will involve changing traditional repair shop business models, adapting to meet changing customer preferences and introducing supporting automotive technology inside and outside the physical workshop.

Business change doesn’t have to be worrying – tech is here to help!

It’s where new tech on the repair shop floor holds a threefold advantage. It aids technician productivity and, at the back end, makes parts/inventory management more automated, and essentially keeps the customers on-side with a portal to keep them informed throughout the repair journey.

With a sophisticated software platform, customers can book slots online for vehicle repairs at a time and location that suits them. The platform then tracks the skills level of a technician, work hours, and the work undertaken to not only optimize scheduling but learn from the data to make mobile jobs more efficient. The van operation, which has a 4.8/5 Trustpilot rating, has seen a 70% increase in job productivity and more than a 200% increase in utilization since it started using the platform, demonstrating the potential for greater customer satisfaction from mobile operations.

With this experience in mind, here are the top three areas where tech-led innovations can deliver realizable cost, efficiency, and time benefits across all areas of the automotive repair landscape.

See also: Why Automakers Need Intelligent Manufacturing Operations

The customer remains behind the digital wheel at all times

Automation of tasks and having a coherent digital presence make repair organizations more responsive and time-efficient – better for customer service and for the business bottom line. Whether booking a service inside or outside the workshop, most customer journeys will begin online. This means making sure they can easily book their services at a time and date that suit them – for mobile services, this will also extend to location. Overlaying this with dynamic pricing depending on slot availability allows.

Once the service is booked, it’s important to keep a digital line of communication with the customer through a self-service portal. Customers log in to the portal and can view details about their appointment, including pricing quotes, parts needed, technician name, and more. Automated digital communication is sent to the portal at every stage for the customer to access in real time. Inside the workshop, this could be live updates on the status of their repair. For mobile operations, this could be accurate updates on the whereabouts of the technician coming to execute their repair.

Gain a full view into non-critical faults

By digitizing all customer interactions, repair shops, and automotive service providers can also maintain customer data and history and streamline your services according to this information. Here’s where this can really pay off in the current economic environment. Any non-critical faults that might save the customer some money on this appointment can be flagged and tracked to address later.

Here again, a more predictive maintenance management approach can remind customers to book their next services when needed based on relevant customer data – to capture recurring revenue but also let customers manage and prioritize their requirements on their own terms.

See also: Riding Out Automotive Market Uncertainty with Digital Twins

Reap the rewards of new operational gains

Of course, it’s not just the customer themselves getting better value from more streamlined, intelligent, and efficient processes. Operationally, introducing new tech will have significant business benefits, too – right from initial booking through to job execution and recurring revenue.

Automated scheduling delivers the best outcomes while maximizing efficiencies with our automated scheduling. Dynamic appointment booking easily books customers into lanes, bays, offices, or other site locations from the schedule board. Managers, dispatchers, and admin users have the ability to accommodate walk-in customers, additional jobs, and last-minute changes. Capturing key customer information that integrates with dynamic scheduling ensures added jobs are optimally scheduled to accommodate more services per day.

Getting ahead of shortages

One of the best efficiency benefits that technology and software can offer to automotive repair shops is inventory management. End-to-end software can track inventory levels at all times and trigger responses to shortages accordingly. This type of platform can also connect with vendors and automatically notify them of the required inventory, products, and parts. With the Motor Ombudsman citing inventory shortages was a key pain point right now – automating these processes can significantly alleviate these inventory pressures.

Employees are the gold: Powering back-end operations to keep front-end operations flowing!

Not only should technology optimize stock and resources, but it can also maximize employee productivity too. It begins with assigning the most suitable technician to each specific job. Putting technology into the hands of technicians in auto repair centers and in the field makes their jobs much easier. Tablet-based systems can easily guide technicians through jobs, including integrations to access information such as vehicle identification numbers and all the details of vehicles to make the process quicker and more transparent.

Technicians will need the ability to add additional jobs that are needed on the vehicle – the system, which should then automatically remove completed jobs from the technician’s diary to free up any other available slots throughout the course of the day. Not only will this ensure quality assurance, audit trails, and time stamps, but without the option to adjust labor timings, technicians are encouraged to complete the necessary MOT, service, or repair within the designated time slot.

Tackle the cost-of-living crisis head-on – tech is by your side

It’s no secret that inflationary price rises are affecting both businesses and consumers in many industries – but it’s the forward-thinking companies that look to tackle these increases head-on that will remain competitive and better serve their customers.

While it looks as though this time of economic uncertainty is set to stick for a while, it presents businesses with the ripe opportunity to reconsider their business models. After all, the benefits of a little tech-driven investment are worth it – a healthy bottom line and satisfied customers.


About John Bramley and Karl Baker

John Bramley is Group Operations Director at Halfords. Karl Baker is Head of Halfords Mobile Expert.

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