10 Tips for Choosing an Automotive Software Company

Searching for automotive management software to help you optimize your business can be challenging, especially while running your business at the same time. These tips are designed to help you narrow down the field to the best automotive business software candidates for auto repair shops, tire shops, and warehouses, saving you valuable time.

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1.   Begin with a list of your primary business needs.
What are the basic day-to-day functions that need more efficiency & better record-keeping? What areas are most profitable for you, and what can be done to increase and track those profits? What goals do you need help reaching? Getting input from those who will be using the system is very important in creating this “needs” list. 

2.   Only get demos from companies directly targeted to your business type(s) & needs.
Research on the web to find the top few companies likely to meet your needs before you invest time in demos. Also, include your system users in these targeted demos so they learn about the features available to help your business. Including system users also increases “buy-in” to the purchasing decision, which dramatically increases the success of your new tire store software, warehouse business management system, or auto repair software implementation. 

3.   Demo a real version of the program you’ll be using.
Companies that offer demos of their actual working programs understand that you need to know exactly what you are buying. Live online demos are also very useful for giving a comprehensive overview to determine if automotive repair software, auto parts software or tire shop software meets your requirements, or whether you need an automotive business management system that effectively handles all. Be sure the company is open to showing you any aspect of the program you need to see.

4.   Does the company add system integration partners to streamline your workflow?
Can you access labor, parts, ordering, add inventory, etc., without exiting the program?

5.   Does the company sufficiently keep up with technology?
You don’t want to get left behind, or stuck with an antiquated product that can’t be expanded, updated, or integrated with other products in the marketplace. While you don’t want to invest in new computers more often than is necessary for competing in today’s market, you do want a company that uses modern database technology and development tools.

Because software development requires the automotive shop management software company to invest a lot of time and money, some companies continue to use outdated, obscure or propriety databases and/or operating systems. Databases such as Access or flat-file databases, that can’t process the large amounts of data that automotive management systems need, result in slowdowns, and ultimately lead to system crashes that corrupt your data. Operating systems used by some companies, such as Windows XP or earlier versions, or propriety Unix systems, can limit your ability to run commonly needed software along with shop management systems.

6.   Will the company meet your needs now, and in the future?
How often do program updates go out, and how are they delivered? You want a company that will keep you current, help you stay competitive, and enable you to easily grow your business, at minimal cost to you. 

7.   Find out about the company’s availability and ability to support you.
Is the support phone line answered promptly, or do you have to wait for someone to answer an email? What is their turnaround time? Will they be available for an urgent situation, or if a quick answer is needed?

8.   What is the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for the shop management system?
Is it per seat (per computer), unlimited, or per concurrent user? (Per concurrent user is based on a set amount of users that can access the software at one time. For example: 5 concurrent users means a program can be installed on 10 machines but a maximum of 5 people can use the system at once.) How much time will you need to invest? Is it a license purchase or an ongoing subscription? What is the cost of data conversion, and what does it include? Is data storage included? Are updates included with support or are there extra costs? How much are updates, are module updates costed separately, and how often are these costs incurred? Are you required to buy computers or equipment from them?

9.   Is there a guarantee of satisfaction with their auto shop software?

10.  Insist on talking with real references.
In addition to standard questions, find out whether the auto shop management software company listens to customer input.  Do they develop their products from the user’s perspective, and based on users’ needs?

A little groundwork can go a long way in ensuring that you find the right automotive shop management software tools for your company.

Adam Irby