Investing in IT Systems

Investing in IT Systems

This month, David explains how technology helps his business to run efficiently, whilst Peter emphasises the importance of investing in IT systems.

David Clarke
Managing Director, Autosupplies (Chesterfield)

I was recently asked what the biggest threat to the business was. I said, “the biggest worry is technology; technology breaking down can kill a business. We rely so heavily on our phones and computer systems that we have put in place a ‘crisis plan’ to deal with the unlikely situation of losing power. We have a back-up on site and all of our data is backed up in the cloud. We have also just invested in a ‘call centre’ style phone system, but the old system remains as a back-up.” This was an example of the lengths we have to go to.

We have invested further in our MAM Software system to offer customers the ability to order parts online 24/7. This has helped increase sales and allows us to handle and accurately track volumes on a daily basis. We are happy to dedicate time to our customers showing all of its benefits, including how to place orders.

“Origin WebTrade” from MAM is directly integrated within our Autopart business management system, which allows us to manage stock and improve reporting across the business. We process more than 200 orders per day through the Origin WebTrade portal, so it is imperative to have an efficient, easy-to-use system in place.

We used to find that garages relied on our telesales staff to look up items on their behalf; now they are becoming familiar with the online system, they are increasing in confidence and picking up the phone less and less when placing their orders.

Peter Welch
Proprietor, Scotlands Ash Garage

Today, investment in all areas of the business is key for an independent garage to keep pace with change in the automotive trade. Computer systems are no exception. Nearly every part of our business is affected by IT, whether it be when the phone lines are down or when we need to connect and diagnose a fault on a vehicle.

Manually, we still operate a T-card system for booking in jobs, but we rely heavily on our computer system for all other areas of our business. The system allows us to generate invoices, work histories, access catalogue, repair times, and service reminders. Other key features include: customer reminders via SMS or email for MOTs, services, check-ups and more; workshop management, including the creation of quotes, job cards and invoices; access to thousands of vehicle repair times and recommended service schedules.

So, as you can see, there’s no real excuse for garages not to get involved, but IT is worthless without the proper training to go with it. The computerisation of the MOT has compelled garages to become more ‘IT-savvy’ and this, combined with improving vehicle technology, such as the connected car and digitalisation, means that garages will need to be assisted further to be able to service and repair the vehicles of the future.

We talk about the threats facing our business, and IT can really equip a garage with the tools to fight these challenges and be as ‘slick’ as our dealership counterparts. The challenge is on!

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