Paper or plastic; analog or digital; handwritten or software? While printed work tickets have always been around, a digital point of sale (POS) system might be a better fit for a growing tire retailer looking to enhance their efficiency and profitability. Even shops already using a POS system may be due for a reevaluation of their needs and wants for their system.
Big or small, tire retailers have to figure out what works best for them, whether that be a handwritten workflow or a digital one.
Marc Belanski, president of software company ASA Automotive Systems, believes that while the use of digital POS systems is growing, it’s still fine for low-volume shops to be using non-digital methods if it suits them better.
“It’s okay for a store to still be writing things out manually if you can recall every customer, every license plate, every vehicle, and be able to meet the needs and demands of your customer,” says Belanski. “But once you’ve grown beyond that and you need to be able to archive and retrieve data, that’s when you need to start looking at some sort of digital solution.”
Just like analog systems, digital POS systems have pros and cons, too, like price and training requirements. According David Andreoli, vice president of Andreoli Software, what it really comes down to is which choice is going to have the most positive impact on customers and their experience.
Mark Davis, director and general manager of software products for TCS, said the ability to see and manage the details of your operation in a single view can help you be more effective.
“Digital systems will provide you a great view of your day in a single page: I can see what work orders I have, I can see what invoices I’ve done, and I can see what work is waiting to be done. Seeing their day means being able to plan a better day for a better return,” said Davis.
Tyler DeVault, general manager of Gwynn’s Tire Pros, recently switched from an analog method to a digital POS system almost 4 years ago. After experiencing a daily nightmare of 75-80 cars worth of paperwork with the addition of things not getting billed or paid right lead DeVault to reach his breaking point and invest in a digital system.
“It took me a half hour of my day to go down stairs, sort through the stack of invoices, get the information, then refile the stack, when it should have been taking me 30 seconds like it does now,” said DeVault.
While DeVault had doubts early on about the new system when he couldn’t just write up a quick ticket without getting extensive contact information, now he says he could never go back to paper tickets.
“Once you get your system built, nine out of 10 times your customers are already in your system and it pops right up,” says DeVault. “For the first year it took a while to get everyone’s information in, but now that we’ve been doing it for almost four years, our entry time is getting less and less each day.”
Basic Features Every POS System Should Have
Should a dealer decide to switch to a digital POS system, there are some basic features to consider in order to pick the best software for their business.
A well-rounded basic POS system should be able to do these five things:
1. Tender cash or credit
2. Create invoices
3. Create a quote with shop’s labor rate
4. Schedule appointments and work orders
5. Archive customer data and profile
The Bells and Whistles of POS
If you’re content with your digital POS system but want to go beyond the basics, you may want to look into some new up and coming hot features on the POS system market.
More advanced features include:
1. Inventory tracking and management
2. Online appointment scheduling
3. Time keeping for employees
4. Integrated accounting software
5. Rewards program management
Davis says inventory management can help dealers minimize their stock while maximizing their turnovers. Inventory management, with the addition of vendor integration, goes hand in hand to benefit the dealer and customer.
Another trending advanced POS feature is the option to make appointments online on demand without having to call the shop.
“As a part of the millennial generation, I think that we expect if we take a car somewhere and they say it’s going to be ready at a certain time that they’re actually going to deliver on that promise,” says Andreoli.
Belanski adds that being able to wrap your arms and head around a shop’s finances will help you out in the long run when making decisions.
“Having integrated accounting as a part of your total workflow creates greater access to information while it also creates a data warehouse because you’re creating information over time about a customer or a vehicle and or other parts of your organization,” says Belanski. “You can track and measure the efficiency of technicians and tool efficiency, so essentially you’re creating that data warehouse by having an all in one system and the ability to mine [and take action on] that data.”
Recently, Wholesale Tire & Auto went through a total rehaul of their digital POS system after their provider went out of business. Vice President Bill Wymer says that a revamp was much needed regardless. After training for a month on a brand new software system from ASA, his team is ready and excited to use the new features included in the upgrade.
“My retail people can’t wait to use it; they just see what we’re going to gain once it’s turned on versus what we’ve been able to do in the past,” says Wymer. “We’ve been looking for a way to integrate a retail rewards program for the longest time to drive customers back to us, but we couldn’t find it until ASA came along…. It’s a traffic builder and relationship builder.
“Our system has parts and labor guides integrated into the retail package, which we didn’t originally have. That’s going to make life so much simpler for our retail counter people,” said Wymer. “It orders the parts from the vendor. It says when the parts will be delivered, how long the job takes. We plug in our labor rate and it gives them the cost of the parts and labor to give the customer a quote. It’s going to be lightyears beyond what we currently have.”
Up in the Cloud, Down on the Ground
Local versus cloud-based software continues to be a hot topic in the POS industry and software providers say that there are pros and cons to using either.
“I think the the pro to being cloud based is that dealers don’t have to do maintenance themselves,” says Davis. “However, then their whole business is contingent upon their internet provider and the internet itself.”
So if the internet is down, the shop with a local server doesn’t come to a screeching halt like those relying on cloud-based or internet-based servers.
Belanski says that if a store already has a robust I.T department, it might make sense to have an on premise, local based solution due to the skill set available. But says the store that doesn’t want to have to worry about a maintaining server equipment should look into cloud-based software.
In the end, Andreoli adds that dealers should figure out what’s easiest for them and how much computer knowledge the shop has in order to make the best decision.
Things to Keep in Mind
Whether it’s a dealer’s first POS system or they’re looking to upgrade systems, there are a few things to keep in mind when making a purchase to avoid issues down the road.
“Make sure that POS providers [that dealers] are looking at integrate with understand other areas of [the] business, like marketing,” says Belanski. “Always do a checklist to make sure [they know the software] services you’re using know if they’re using to see if they’re integrated [or can be integrated] with sales.”
Another thing to keep in mind when selecting a POS system is the amount and level of training each system requires for tire shop employees to become proficient using the software. If training would be too complex, consider a different system or one with a less complicated interface.
In the end, Belanski suggests talking to the sales consultant from the POS system company you’re considering buying from, as they can better help the dealer determine his or her needs in the shop.
“We offer texting services, an advanced appointment scheduler, a very robust declined services module with reporting, and that’s all well and good, but does it really matter to that person’s business? Do they even need it,” says Belanski. “It all starts with the identification of the need to truly understand your business and then what levers you need to pull to make your business more efficient.”
Wymer believes that while analog POS users might be happy with what they have, they might not know what else is out there that would make their jobs easier, and their business more profitable.
“They just have to walk up to the diving board and jump off and take the leap. In the end I think there’ll be a little pain in getting the system ramped up and training people to use it but in the end, I think it would be beneficial beyond what they could have imagined.”
The Future of POS
With technology constantly changing and becoming more intuitive, there are a lot of changes on the horizon for POS systems. One of which Andreoli says may be government regulations that dictate what type of information POS software needs to record.
“We think in the next few years people will have to report things like DOT numbers, and you’re going to have to be compliant, where every shop is going to have to submit that stuff,” predicts Andreoli. “Dealers are going to have to have a system in place that tracks compliance information to be submitted to the government since it’ll be hard for the people to keep up with all that paperwork.”
Belanski emphasizes data and analytics are pervading in every industry and the retail tire industry is no different.
“I think as a business owner, if they don’t have a strong data and analytics skillset or mindset, then they need to find the resources within their organization or outside of their organization to help them,” says Belanski. “[The ability to use your] data makes managing a business less of a rear-view mirror idea and more about what can I be doing this morning in my business to be more efficient and and more relevant to my customers.”