Whether you are talking about a head of state, a secret spy or an automotive technician, the saying holds true: Information is the key to power. In the automotive world, information makes the difference between a parts changer and a true technician.
There are lots of good wrenches out there who can rebuild, repair or replace any part of any car on the road. Some of those same techs will scratch their heads and look like a deer in the headlights when asked to pull codes or check TSBs or grab the J-2534 data file for that customer’s car in the bay.
The days, they are a changing. While I believe there will always be a place for a good technician who can work with their hands and take complicated things apart and put them back together, I also believe that surviving today as a technician requires the ability to acquire and process an incredible amount of data and information. The volume of this information is greater than any one man or woman can retain in their brains.
The secret to success lies in taking a page from Albert Einstein. The old-world genius was often known to depend on other people and sources of information as opposed to memorizing the data. You, as a technician should do the same. Why memorize something that you will use one time in your life, when that data is a few key strokes away?
Enter shop information systems. There are some incredibly robust systems available now for shop owners and individual techs on a subscription basis. You can choose a one-time, a one-month or a one-year subscription to most of the systems out there. These include access to critical data such as known problems, common fixes, Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs), as well as recalls, wiring diagrams, parts lists with exploded drawings, part numbers and even sources for the parts. It is like having your own research assistant, parts person and mentor, all rolled up in one place.
A relatively new development regarding vehicle information is J-2534 Re-flashing. The federal government mandated that non-dealership (independent) repair facilities be given access to the OEM code to reflash or reprogram vehicle computer operating systems. This program allows the technician to “buy” use of the manufacturer’s code for a specific vehicle. The costs are based on the length of the subscription the user chooses. This can range anywhere from one day to a year. This data is used in conjunction with a computer and an interface device that allows the technician to reprogram the car as needed to correct driveability and operational failures.
Managing Customer Information
Another area of information that is critical for success in automotive repair is customer information management. This covers several topics including RO or Repair Order management, basic customer information such as name-address-billing information. This area also includes information about the customer in terms of repairs done, as well as repairs that will be needed in the future.
Customer information management software can be combined with targeted marketing programs that will allow the shop to enjoy more revenue as well as offer the vehicle owner great service. This can include things like reminders about oil service, tire rotation, winterizing, summer check up, A/C service. The list here is long and provides many opportunities for the shop to provide services beyond break down or emergency repairs.
These systems can help manage customers based on the vehicle’s mileage and make recommendations, reminders for upcoming factory service intervals.
So as you can see, information truly is power and it can also equal profit in the automotive repair business.