25 years ago Louana and Brian had to the make decision to stay in Auckland or make the move down to Whitianga. When a friend offered to sell them Autobarn Whitianga, the decision was made and they haven’t looked back.

“The amount of money we’ve saved on postage alone has probably paid for SAM over again.”

Why did you start the search for a workshop management system?

We had a very old system that a local computer programmer had written, it was a generic point-of-sale system that had a few customisations for workshops. I knew for years that we needed something more, but I was holding back because implementing a new system is a lot of work.

We were joining the Auto Super Shoppe group and becoming an Isuzu service agent at about the same time so eventually, I just had to bite the bullet.

What made SAM the right choice for your workshop?

I’m with the MTA so was always seeing SAM in the magazine, I knew SAM had been around a long, long time. I thought “if this number of workshops are using it, it must be pretty good”.

The local garage down the road used it, so I spoke to them about how they used SAM and if they would recommend it, which they did.

How did you implement the system?

The SAM team came on-site and got us set up, which included training us on how to use SAM. They were really thorough with making sure we were setting the system up right from day one, what you get out is only as good as what you put in.

There was a lot of information to put into SAM. We were going through old warrant books and entering that information in, importing customer and vehicle information from our old system. There was a heap of work doing that but looking back now it wasn’t actually that bad.

How has SAM helped your business?

Using text messages to reach customers: We implemented the text messaging add-on from day one. We’ve stopped using paper warrant cards now. I was previously handwriting each one and posting it out, now it takes a few minutes each week to send out the text messages to everyone. The amount of money we’ve saved on postage alone has probably paid for SAM over again.

It’s been fantastic to be able to remind people that their booking is the next day, we’ve seen a drop in no-shows. I also use it to let people know their cars are ready for pick up.

Productivity: We’ve seen a big increase in productivity, previously we weren’t capturing much information. I’m quite a perfectionist with paperwork, I like everything tick boxes, especially with repair orders, I wanted follow-ups, etc. so it would take a few minutes on each job to write everything up and it’s much quicker now.

Margins: We now can check the margins on a job when we’re doing the estimate and then again when we’re doing the invoice. It’s definitely had an impact on our profitability.

Reporting: I can now check our margins, sales, parts and see how we’re tracking. I can see how we’re doing for this month compared to last month or this year compared to last year. I couldn’t see any of that before. Now if there’s a drop in sales or margins I can address see it and address the issue.  

Stock management: Previously we didn’t have any stock management in place, parts would come in and the team would grab parts but we didn’t know how much was in stock, or what the value of it was. I now have peace of mind that if the worst happened, we have records of what we have in stock. When we’re low on stock the “suggested buys” feature alerts me. Now on a Friday, I go through the parts on the suggested buys list and, if necessary, I do the order then and there. We never run out of key parts now.

Customer feedback: Customers get sent a text message a week after their appointment asking how their experience was. At first, I was a bit daunted by the possibility of negative feedback, but it has allowed us to identify when there may be an issue. One time we received a very low score and when I followed up with the customer it turned out that it wasn’t actually anything to do with us. I was able to turn that customer’s negative experience into a positive one.

What are your top 3 tips for someone looking to implement a workshop management system?

  1. Do your research. Speak to other garages about what they use.
  2. Get SAM staff to come & train you onsite & ask lots of questions.
  3. Put in the hard work initially with information inputting & you will reap the benefits later.