Software Systems Can Feed Growth

May 7, 2021

When tire dealers think about wanting to grow and increase their local market share, they often focus on attracting more customers, retaining the ones they have and providing consumers with services that also boost the business’ profitability.

Upgrading a dealership’s point-of-sale (POS) system might not seem like a priority, but software providers say it should be.

Ashley Hopkins, director of enterprise operations for ASA Automotive Systems Inc., says tire dealers usually start shopping for a new program when they feel like they’ve outgrown their current setup.

“The tipping point for dealers is when their current software doesn’t scale up with their growing business needs and complexities.

“Every tire and auto service business wants to grow,” she says. “It’s a grueling process to ‘make do’ with software that doesn’t do what dealers really want it to do.”

Hopkins says this means dealers need a system that can grow as their businesses grow.

“At the heart of every successful tire and auto service company, (you) will find a strong back-office system — one that empowers owners and managers to wield control over every aspect of the business.”

That includes POS, inventory control, accounts receivable and payable, marketing, business intelligence and analytics. She says dealers need an all-in-one platform that provides “data (that) is integrated and up-to-the-minute accurate.”

City Tire, which is based in Springfield, Mass., utilizes the mobile point-of-sale software offered by ASA Automotive Systems.

Jay Adams, president of MaddenCo Inc., says dealers might start looking for upgrades that affect either the front counter or the back end of their business. “A lot of times though, it is the third option, which is integration between the front end and back end.”

John Fischer, vice president of sales and marketing at Mam Software Inc., agrees that it’s important to recognize the power of both ends of the business working well together.

At the counter, a modern POS system “helps to improve sales, margins, customer service and the customer experience. In the back office, electronic ordering of both tires and parts helps with the reconciliation of outside purchases to the accounts payable module — verifying that all parts

and tires ordered for hotshot delivery either get installed on a vehicle, returned to a vendor or received into inventory. A point-of-sale system needs to help a dealer manage this process.”

As dealers look to increase sales, especially in automotive services, their POS system can play a critical role.

Tim Cifelli, chief revenue officer at Bolt On Technology LLC, says, “Software tools that can enhance the efficiencies and productivity on the repair side in a manner that will also improve customer communications and grow sales is the best of both worlds.”

Steve Brouillard, general manager and vice president of business development at Andreoli & Associates Inc., points to a system’s functionality at the counter, but also in the bays.

“Some dealers want to drive additional functionality to improve customer experience at the sales counter. Others want to be able to be able to further drive workflow efficiencies and improve productivity with their technicians.

“Many prospective clients are looking to further expand beyond their tire service offering to include additional auto repair and quick lube services. Our HITS point-of-sale software will allow retailers to further expand their operations in the tire, auto repair and quick-lube services.”

On the service end, Dan Landrum, senior product manager for Epicor Software Corp., says dealers are looking for “a modern POS platform, along with digital estimating tools that extend beyond tires to include virtually any mechanical repair.”

With such a range of issues pressing dealers to consider a new POS option, we asked these six software providers for guidance on things dealers should consider as they weigh a system upgrade.

As tire dealers need to improve workflow and productivity, Bolt On Technology says its offerings help them focus on the most profitable services.

Priorities At The Sales Counter

MTD: What’s the most important thing a tire dealer needs its POS system to do in 2021?

Brouillard, Andreoli: Most come to us to improve direct access to their top tire suppliers directly from within the point-of-sale software. Our system can locate tires in real time and offer immediate price quoting capability for their customers. Also, we offer the ability to communicate with the customer by utilizing all available means possible. Digital vehicle inspection capabilities show recommended services via texting, email, etc., from within the software. This can also assist to further foster contactless services with their customers.  This is ‘counter’ to the typically direct, in-person care the industry has enjoyed over the years.

Hopkins, ASA: Keeping pace with changing customer behavior, the customer journey and competitors are currently the biggest concerns for tire dealers. Dealers are looking for solutions designed to drive customers to their business with modern methods, such as connecting their company website directly with the point-of-sale (system) to assist with website inquiries, scheduling services, helping build their online reputation and improving their local search presence. Solutions that provide the opportunity to capture customer details for remarketing at every stage of the transaction cycle are proving their worth over time.

A POS system, therefore, needs to do more than merely printing quotes and invoices. Whether it’s a retail, wholesale, commercial dealer or a retread manufacturer, they need a comprehensive business management system that helps optimize their performance, provide refined and efficient process management and boost revenue.

Cifelli, Bolt On: The most important factors a POS should address are the ability to upsell additional services or outstanding recommendations and also book future appointments. These are common business practices for other retail services, such as hair salons and dentist offices. They don’t let the customers leave before booking their next appointment, ensuring future profitability and an ongoing relationship. Bolt On’s software offers that same feature for tire dealerships and repair shops.

Landrum, Epicor: Many tire dealers are trying to increase their share of the mechanical repair market, so they can become the customer’s complete auto care solution.

Consumers are busy. They don’t have the time or inclination to rely on multiple service providers. Tire-centric POS platforms do a fantastic job of helping service writers look up and sell tires.

Unfortunately, once the service writer is forced to exit his or her 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 job.

This issue has led thousands of tire dealers to add the Epicor ISE solution to their point-of-sale systems. ISE enables the user to estimate mechanical repairs and look up and order all the related parts within a matter of clicks. It makes them as proficient at identifying and selling needed mechanical repairs as they are at selling tires. We’ve seen tire dealers immediately increase their non-tire service revenue by 25% simply by adding ISE.

Adams, MaddenCo: Software needs to be reasonably intuitive, so it is easy to train new staff. With turnover being so high these days, ease of use is important. Speed and efficiency in servicing the customer standing in front of you are also very important, obviously.

Fischer, Mam: Improving customer trust at the point of decision. Modern point-of-sale systems will enable dealers to communicate with customers through pictures and videos on vehicle condition. The system needs to quickly and correctly estimate jobs.

Epicor offers solutions for the retail tire dealer, including its Integrated Service Estimator, which helps streamline the creation of an estimate for mechanical repairs with the lookup and ordering of needed parts.

Serving The Back Office

MTD: What department or need most often drives the demand for a new program?

Brouillard, Andreoli: Prospective clients come to us if their bookkeeper or accounting department needs additional controls within a software to better manage data accuracy that is impacting their profit and loss statement. Also, they are looking to properly manage outside purchases, parts tracking, returns/cores and accurate inventory management. Business owners are also looking for flexible end-of-day closing requirements that allow automated data transfers to their preferred accounting software.

Hopkins, ASA: Working with different software providers for point-of-sale and accounting and inventory needs is becoming increasingly challenging for tire dealers. This is because different softwares are built with different goals and purposes in mind, so even if they can pass data back and forth, there is no way to get real-time data when you are using multiple systems. This makes it extremely difficult for owners and managers to wield control over every aspect of the business.

Dealers are now demanding a comprehensive, all-in-one solution that is not reliant on interfaces to third-party software applications, such as accounting and financial software. The all-in-one solution means that the software provider creates the answer to a business problem that ful lls the obvious pain points and extends the solution to tie out the back end in detail, with built-in accounting. This results in less business overhead through the life of the transaction. This approach to business process management also significantly reduces the effort of installation, training, support and maintenance.

Cifelli, Bolt On: Typically, it’s the need to improve workflow and productivity to ensure that the shop is not only busy, but profitable. Implementing automated and integrated communications and reporting systems like Bolt On’s offerings reduce inefficiencies to focus on the most profitable activities, while making sure that all are working smarter versus harder.

Landrum, Epicor: A modern, autospecific customer relationship management program is a must in today’s market. Consider what has happened over the past year. Millions of consumers have dramatically reduced their time behind the wheel and, as a result, they have broken their auto service habits. Every service business is competing to retain its existing customer relationships and develop new ones. This is a period of historic opportunity and competitive threat.

Adams, MaddenCo: Integration to the front end and ease of use in accessing data.

Fischer, Mam: Typically, it is outdated software that is no longer supported. Older software typically does not integrate with other third-party software. Some examples would be national account processing, tire and part electronic ordering and labor guides.

Mam Software’s John Fischer says tire dealers need to think of their point-of-sale systems as a tool to “improve customer trust at the point of decision.”

Overcoming Fear Of A New System

MTD: Some dealers are intimidated by technology and might not have a backup team on staff to help. How would you help them get over their fears and decide it’s time to invest in a modern POS system?

Brouillard, Andreoli: We work with many new clients who have come to us based on our reputation for best-in-class customer care and technical support. Many prospective clients have increased their business to a point they require a software management system to improve their

workflow, operational efficiencies, outside purchase tracking and inventory management. By doing so, the owner can better manage their business, improve profitability and (improve) staff accountability.

Hopkins, ASA: We understand that making a software transition yields a change in business processes and changes in responsibilities. It also comes with the challenges of learning a new system, while still having to continue business operations as usual, and is very intimidating. At ASA, we implement best practices to get dealers onboarded and help make the transition process as smooth as possible. ASA offers classroom training programs, led by a real person in real time, offering instructions, answering questions, providing insight and helping with data backups. This is our assurance against data loss, user error and other setbacks that are all too common with switching software.

We identify possible ‘champions’ from the tire dealership to lead the software transition. We train them first and make them active participants in the roll-out.

One of the most important things is our implementation consultants’ knowledge of the tire and automotive business, many having worked in the tire industry themselves. Our implementation consultants hold dealers’ hands throughout the transition. Whether it’s data backups and configuration or using new software, we work with dealers and we don’t leave them to figure it out by themselves.

Cifelli, Bolt On: Too often, owners work ‘in their business’ rather than ‘on their business,’ not spending nearly enough time and attention on improving their shop. Bolt On offers numerous training and support tools to ensure that the staff is able to get the most out of the software, while also coaching owners on how to get their teams to actually use it.

Landrum, Epicor: Cloud-based technologies have proven their value to businesses of all sizes.  There really is no need for most tire dealers to employ onsite IT personnel or other resources given the solutions now available in the cloud.

Adams, MaddenCo: We would point them to our other users who had the same fears and overcame them when using our software.

Fischer, Mam: Small dealers don’t have the resources to have an internal IT department. A dealer needs to choose a partnering company that will help them with not only their software, but how to find a local hardware/networking company that can be their local resource to help with internet, virus protection, etc.

About the Author

Joy Kopcha | Managing Editor

After more than a dozen years working as a newspaper reporter in Kansas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Joy Kopcha joined Modern Tire Dealer as senior editor in 2014. She has covered murder trials, a prison riot and more city council, county commission, and school board meetings than she cares to remember.