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How Point-of-Sale Systems Can Help You Work Smarter

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"The biggest trend is extending the capabilities of a POS platform to help identify hidden service opportunities, accelerate the estimating process - particularly in non-tire services - and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty," says Courtney Sobocinski, product manager of automotive business at Epicor Software Corp.

| Photo Credit: Epicor Software Corp.

This MTD feature was provided by Maggie Olson, a freelance writer and editor with a background in automotive and tire testing. 


Point-of-sale (POS) systems have evolved beyond being simple transaction tools. Tire dealers rely on their POS systems for robust features that support more efficient operations throughout their business, from the front desk to inventory. 


“Most dealers looking to grow are leveraging tire-focused software to better manage operations,” says Hasan Askari, executive director of GTX operations, ASA Automotive Systems Inc., who adds that a good POS system can help business owners work smarter, not harder. 


Jay Adams, president of MaddenCo Inc., says many tire dealers are using their POS systems to “mine data (for) business analytics. More and more, tire dealers want to see how their businesses are doing, where they can get more efficient, what products and services are lagging, etc.” 


POS systems help tire dealers drill down into key analytics that will inform important decisions and make a meaningful difference in revenue by streamlining operations. POS systems also are helping dealers cope with supply chain challenges.


“Running POS reports on the most-used tire sizes and types their shop installs can help (dealers) keep popular tires in inventory, helping them circumvent shortages of the more common types of tires,” says Tim Cifelli, chief marketing officer at Bolt On Technology LLC. 


Most POS software and systems offer additional inventory management tools beyond reporting. MaddenCo, in particular, has an inventory scanning feature. “It just saves so much time and is more accurate than hand counts,” says Adams. 


Saving time and eliminating inefficiencies are vital to optimizing productivity. Small pockets of lost time - in the form of extra clicks or programs that don’t synchronize - can add up to lost productivity and revenue quickly. 


Many POS software companies, including Epicor Software Corp., are making drastic changes to their programs to address these inefficiencies and tire dealers are experiencing big wins as a result. 


Epicor’s Integrated Service Estimator system “enables the service writer to estimate mechanical repairs and look up and order all the necessary parts within a matter of clicks,” says Courtney Sobocinsk, product manager of automotive business, Epicor. 


Kerridge Commercial Systems (formerly MAM Software Inc.) offers a similar tool for more efficient electronic ordering and better customer service. “Dealers have the ability to connect their POS to part and tire vendors for integrated ordering,” says John Fischer, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. 


Another critical element of any revenue growth strategy is better customer relationships. Outdated customer relationship management tools can be inefficient and clumsy to use, which is a disadvantage when seeking customer details quickly. POS software offers a convenient solution. 


“Most every POS system has a customer notes section,” says David Andreoli, president of Andreoli Software. He encourages dealers to keep track of personal details they hear from customers. 


“Today’s customers are busier than ever and have less time and interest in shopping around for auto service providers,” says Sobocinski. “By having all the right tools to serve them more efficiently and thoroughly over the phone or at the counter, tire dealers have the opportunity to become their customers’ single service provider.”


We asked representatives from POS system providers to discuss how tire dealers can use POS systems to boost their efficiencies and ultimately generate more revenue. 


MTD: What’s the biggest trend in retail tire store POS systems at the moment? Andreoli (Andreoli Software): Shops are looking to streamline operations with paperless workflows and digital communications with their customers. Many POS systems have paperless features built-in and almost all systems have an integration with a digital inspection product. 


Askari (ASA): Operational visibility is one of the key benefits of tire software and embedded business intelligence (BI) is changing the game by turning static reports, which create a reactive response from the business, into automated threshold detection and triggered actions. BI is the trend we’re seeing as the highest growth in the market. With embedded BI, every aspect of the business data becomes dynamic, actionable information. We can get an understanding of how successful segments of operations are behaving and create best practices and automation to help bridge the gap across the business. This benefit is especially pronounced for solutions that have integrated accounting as part of their POS and inventory solution, as dealers can drill down from aggregate reporting, which identified the problem, to the transaction (in order) to understand the behaviors driving the problem. With this kind of data at their fingertips, we’re seeing dealers being able to automate actions in their businesses that were previously based on manual triggers


Cifelli (Bolt On): The continuing issues with raw materials and supply line interruptions are sometimes making it difficult to get tires. A shop that isn’t on top of their inventory is going to come up short at a time they could have made a sale. Running POS reports on the most used tire sizes and types their shop installs can help (dealers) keep popular tires in inventory, helping them circumvent shortages of the more common type of tires. 


Sobocinski (Epicor): From our perspective, as a partner to many point-of-sale providers, the biggest trend is extending the capabilities of a POS platform to help identify hidden service opportunities, accelerate the estimating process - particularly in non-tire services - and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. 


Adams (MaddenCo.): Three trends come to mind. The first is the desire to mine data to use business analytics. The second is constant, or at least regular, contact with customers. That can be accomplished through texting and/or emailing customers when their vehicles are in the shop or through advertising or mailers that keep the dealer’s name on the mind of the customer. The third is tire dealers diversifying to a mixed market, meaning adding a commercial element to their businesses. Having their POS system easily handle price supports, contracts and national account requirements for delivery receipts is important. 


Fischer (Kerridge): We have seen two big trends in automotive POS. First, we have seen many companies move their offerings to the cloud. This has helped tire stores reduce their infrastructure costs. Additionally, this has given shop owners the ability to access their system from anywhere. The second trend that we have seen is the acceptance of digital vehicle inspection (DVI) tools. DVI tools have allowed our customers to more efficiently inspect the vehicles that come through their shop, increase their average repair order and improve their customer’s experience. 


MTD: What’s the most infrequently used POS system feature or function that tire dealers should utilize more? 


Andreoli (Andreoli Software): Most every POS system has a customer notes section. While interacting with a customer, if they mention their kids, hobbies or something they find interesting, make a note in their customer file. Then the next time they are in, you can strike up a conversation with them about what is most important to them. This helps you understand your customer better and creates a relationship to drive return business. 


Askari (ASA): Capturing and retaining customer inquiries and needs with quoting and estimating features is frequently ignored by dealers who use a system only to manage work in progress and invoicing. Most retailers would be familiar with the concept of conversion. Unfortunately, many dealers are only looking at data for what they have sold instead of the universe of transactions that touch their business. Given most retailers average between a 15% to 30% conversion rate, 70% to 85% of information relevant to their market is being lost daily. Are they losing sales to the dealer down the street because of pricing or maybe because they don’t have the right stock? There are hundreds of data points being lost each day by not recording what dealers are quoting customers on the phone or through vehicle inspections. This data lives briefly on sticky notes and pieces of paper. Looking at reports of what you have sold only highlights where you are already successful. The bigger piece of the picture is the business that came to you and walked away. Not recording/knowing that information is the biggest miss when it comes to system/ feature usage. Capturing and retaining data by using quoting/estimating in integrated POS solutions allows you to understand your entire market - not just your wins. 


Cifelli (Bolt On): When the wheels are off, access to items that result in higher profit margins is granted. Brakes, struts, suspensions and more are right there for the checking. Noting the condition of most of these items will have an effect on how long tires will last - yet another reason to be checking and recording what is found. Having a digital inspection to document and record these findings and linking them to the POS will help a shop build a wear history for customers. Being able to show customers digital proof of why struts, tie rods and such are being recommended - in addition to noting these items in the POS — help keep them at the forefront of customers’ minds, reducing the sticker shock. They know (repairs are) coming, so they can mentally and financially prepare for the work. 


Sobocinski (Epicor): By far the most underrated feature is the electronic catalog embedded into a POS system. The e-catalog is the sales engine for mechanical parts and service and a huge efficiency tool that helps tire dealers complete more jobs per day. If it’s not (using) a truly best-in-class e-catalog with all the content needed to easily identify parts and sell the job, the tire dealership is likely costing itself money every day. 


Adams (MaddenCo): Inventory scanning saves so much time and is more accurate than hand counts. Admittedly, there are some up-front costs involved with building out a location for scanning connectivity, but those costs don’t compare to the time savings that are gained on the back end. 


Fischer (Kerridge): One feature that dealers don’t use enough is electronic ordering. Dealers have the ability to connect their POS to part and tire vendors for integrated ordering. This allows dealers to find the best price for their customers, while simplifying their quoting process. 


MTD: How can tire dealers use their POS systems to drive more sales? 


Andreoli (Andreoli Software): Follow up with customers. Have a process in place to call customers who have declined quoted work. Most POS systems have quote tickets that can be saved. If a customer declines recommended work on today’s visit, push the quote ticket out 30 or 60 days and call the customer back, offering the customer a discount to schedule the work on a day of the week that is typically slow. This is also a good opportunity to ask the customer how products the customer did purchase are working out. 


Askari (ASA): Prompting customer engagement at the point of sale for staff to recommend preventive maintenance services due and remind (customers) about previously declined/quoted services will generate the most immediate revenue impact. Using available tools to mine the database of your existing customers can increase loyalty, decrease lost customer attrition to competitors and ultimately drive more annual revenue from the existing client base - all more cost-effective than funds spent in the constant effort to attract new customers. 


Cifelli (Bolt On): The POS system gives the shop the ability to track their customers through mileage and time. Add digital inspections and you have the recipe to get customers back. The data collected in most POS systems can be used to develop an automatic reminder to keep customers abreast of what is due on their vehicles - providing a better chance that they will return for future service. If your shop already commits to giving customers free alignments once a year after replacement of tires, why not use the POS data to remind them of this service so that you once again get an easy look at those high-profit items? If you are using digital inspections, you can even show your customers how items have worn since their last visit and whether they need to be addressed now. With a marketing/CRM tool connected to your POS, you can create more repeat customers of good quality through retention marketing to your customer base, filtered specifically to align with the type of customers that will help increase your profit the most. For example, a tire shop can sell tires and include the first alignment and then MyShopManager can read the last alignment and send an automated campaign reminding the customer that they are due for their next alignment. 


Sobocinski (Epicor): Tire-centric POS platforms do a fantastic job helping service writers look up and sell tires. Unfortunately, once service writers are forced to exit their normal workflow to estimate and source parts for a mechanical repair, they become far less proficient. And the longer this process takes, the less likely they are to get approval for the extra work. This issue has led thousands of tire dealerships to add our Integrated Service Estimator Solution to their POS systems. We offer another solution, SideKick360, that automatically identifies preventative maintenance and other common add-on service opportunities for each vehicle that enters a repair bay. 


Adams (MaddenCo): Tire dealers can follow up on items such as estimates, declined services and routine service intervals if good data is (entered) into their systems. It is also possible to include add-ons when building tickets for customers so that counter people can easily quote other possible parts and labor. 


Fischer (Kerridge): When used correctly, a POS system can help a business increase its sales in many ways. By utilizing electronic ordering connections, dealers can quickly compare prices from their local vendors so that they can provide their customers with competitive pricing. Our POS allows dealers to control their profit margins for each service or product sold through the system. Dealers can use sales data to send customers service reminders and discounts to drive more sales. 


Maggie Olson is a freelance writer and editor, with a background in automotive and tire testing. Her work has been published in Modern Tire Dealer, The Financial Diet and other publications. She can be reached at margaret.b.olson@gmail.com


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