In the past year, several essential services were modernized and innovated in order to efficiently meet the expectations of their customers. Grocery stores made roadside pickup and grocery delivery more common, while restaurants offered menus in various apps to make takeout and delivery more accessible.
As another important service, auto repair shops are next up for this type of innovation designed to help both customers and operators of these repair shops. AutoLeap, based in Toronto, is a startup looking to take the lead.
New software for old problems
“I think back to my childhood when I went into a store with my parents and things haven’t really changed since then,” said Steve Lau, Co-CEO of AutoLeap. He says AutoLeap is an all-in-one solution for auto repair shops designed to bring more organization to stores of all sizes.
“We visited at least 200 stores and were surprised at the level of technology and file retention methods,” he explains. “By and large, they are using legacy software, monochrome content, or pen and paper.”
The AutoLeap solution starts here with more intuitive software for auto repair shops to help them manage their work and customers.
“What used to take 10-15 clicks now takes 2 clicks with AutoLeap,” says Lau. “In terms of training, it’s much more intuitive and takes less time, there are fewer mistakes. It’s faster and more responsive. “
Improvement of shop management and customer service
AutoLeap provides the shop with a detailed dashboard with information. It can show the number of cars being worked on and the efficiency of the technicians.
“We’re also enabling automated follow-ups to improve the shop’s customer service game,” he says. Customers can receive surveys about their experiences and give the shop important feedback.
“Businesses want loyal customers and customers want trust and an established reputation,” he said. Although people rely on shops to keep their vehicles on the road, there are many customers who distrust shopkeepers and technicians, wondering if all of the specified services are necessary.
Show and tell
AutoLeap has an answer for that too. “We have what is known as a digital vehicle inspection, which is intended to close the gap between the technician and the customer,” says Lau. While working on a vehicle, a technician can use a mobile device to take a photo of something on the vehicle that may need addressing. The technician can then send the photo to the customer. Instead of taking the technician’s word about additional recommended work, the customer can see and decide for himself.
“We’re looking for seamless communication,” he says, suggesting that other features are on the way, such as automated communication, order reminders for customers, and the ability to text back and forth with your mechanic. “It’s about being proactive and building a relationship with the customer, with a lot of transparency.”
Previous launch success
And for anyone who thinks this applies to the big dealerships and auto repair chains, Lau has a lot of experience working for outsiders and small businesses. He and his co-CEO Rameez Ansari come from another software start-up called FieldEdge. Lau and Ansari found that HVAC companies and technicians were overwhelmed with paperwork and took a low-tech approach to their service.
“We saw a lot of the same things that we see now in auto repair shops,” says Lau. “Many pen and paper managers and some companies spent ten hours a week organizing their orders and invoices.”
FieldEdge saved a lot of time for these small businesses and workers. What started small ended with nearly 30,000 employees, all supporting the HVAC industry in North America.
Lau and Ansari noted many similarities between independent auto repair life and the HVAC companies. “We have a weakness for outsiders,” says Lau; “We’re in for the long run, there is so much to do in this room.” With over 350,000 stores in the US and Canada, AutoLeap really wants to hurt the industry.
They caught the attention of a few key players with numerous Silicon Valley investors as well as a former GM CEO. Lau adds that the Canadian partners with interest from Tirecraft and Car Holdings have been great.
Does it make sense?
Speaking to Driving.ca dealership expert Brian Turner, it seems like the people at AutoLeap are up to something.
“Most stores have really outdated software. I’m talking about things from the Windows 98 era, ”explains Brian Turner. These systems are tried and tested, but are sometimes slow.
“But what concerns the businesses with the old software is whether the new platform will allow data to be transferred. Some stores have a data and vehicle history of 10 to 15 years that needs to be carried over to the new software. “
A new platform like AutoLeap needs to properly manage all of this information, not to mention its associated data like guarantees. New parts have longer warranties than before, so the new software must process this data.
When I describe some of the AutoLeap’s features to Turner, he explains that he sees many benefits. “Proper management is essential for some businesses with limited service points or limited space.”
Turner was impressed with the digital vehicle inspection. “This should have happened 10 years ago when smartphones were common,” he says, adding that this platform should provide some protection for customer data. Customer car photos and other data must be handled carefully.
Turner adds that success comes from managing expectations. Customers want to know how much a job should cost, how long it should take, and how often to pick up their car and sometimes there are problems meeting those expectations. “By improving communications and updating your vehicle during maintenance, you can reduce wasted time,” he said. It also clears up crowded waiting rooms.
Focus on the small business
AutoLeap has the potential to streamline many auto repair processes, and the leadership team has a history of success. However, stores need to subscribe to a monthly flat rate and invest in mobile devices for the digital vehicle inspection function. As much as AutoLeap has some well-known investors and a lot of interest in the industry, Lau says they haven’t forgotten about the smaller companies.
“While our software applies to OEMs and large chains, our focus is on the smaller businesses,” he says. “That is what appeals to us and our team the most.”
Technology has helped small businesses stay afloat in the past few months. With auto repair shops being seen as essential, it is now time for mechanics and technicians to modernize and connect with consumers in a new way.
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