GMS | Case Study: Swift Motor Services
Glen Strachan has been in the industry for over 30 years. Swift Motor Services became an MOT centre in 1994, and since then, the garage has grown and evolved into two branches. They have worked with multiple software providers before joining Garage Hive. Now the business has tweaked some of the processes and has increased turnover.
“I started in the motor trade in 1985 and eventually became self-employed in 1990. We used to do mobile engine tuning. Mike Perkins and Dez Woods had mobile service as well as a company called Swift Motor Services. In 1994, we joined forces together and opened an MOT station in Worthing. After a while, Mike and Dez decided to move on; that was when my father entered the business. At that stage, we were so busy that we couldn’t cope with just one site. We also wanted to service bigger vehicles as we had a lot of customers asking us to do their vans, so we took on a second site at Willowbrook Road in Worthing. And that went from strength to strength. Eventually, Mike Perkins, the original guy who named the business, came back, and now he’s one of my workshop managers.”
Experience before Garage Hive
How was your journey with garage management software before Garage Hive?
“Everything worked well even before we joined Garage Hive. We have been using various computer systems for years. Mainly they were computer-based rather than cloud-based systems to start with. It worked well when we moved over to a cloud-based system, but we outgrew that provider. We changed to another system, which, again, was working fine.”
“The problem I had with it was its online booking capabilities. That was what prompted me to start looking elsewhere. If it weren’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have even thought to start looking, if I’m honest. When a customer went online to book a service, I found that the system couldn’t distinguish between a Fiat 500 and a Mercedes Sprinter.”
“The prices are wildly different, but my previous system couldn’t differentiate and give a sensible price. This way, we ended up with either a very expensive Fiat or a cheap Mercedes Sprinter. It made me look for something that could tell the difference.”
“In the meantime, I was using a third-party online booking system, and that worked fine. It could differentiate between engine sizes, but it couldn’t tell the difference between a van and a car. But at least it could pick a price range or price bracket, depending on the engine size. Another issue was when a customer booked online; I would get an email saying this customer had booked, I would then have to check the schedule and hope that we have space as it couldn’t actually see our live diary system. We used to have to give a three-day lead time for bookings.”
“Also, when the booking email came through, I would have to put it into our schedule, create the jobsheet manually, send a confirmation to the customer, and then go on to the third-party site and acknowledge that I’ve done all of that. The breaking point was when I found out the third-party company were emailing my customers a year later asking, “do you need a service? Here are some garages in your area with comparative prices.”
“Now we manage all the online bookings through the Garage Hive system; everything’s done automatically.”
How did you find out about Garage Hive?
“We found Garage Hive through various forums and events. Before swapping over to the new garage management software, we chatted with different people and got many positive responses about Garage Hive.”
Experience with Garage Hive
What is the most significant change you have noticed since joining Garage Hive?
“I’ve noticed that the biggest change since joining Garage Hive is the process for our office team, which we didn’t have before. We had a team in the office; the phone would ring, and anyone free would answer the phone and do whatever was needed; in a way, everybody was doing everyone else’s job.”
“This wasn’t something I expected would happen by simply introducing a new garage management system; however, it has now given my brother Boyd a specific role; he deals with the estimates. So, when an estimate request comes through, he is ready to take the phone call to build up the quote. We have front-of-house staff to meet the customers face to face, which ensures they have a familiar face when they drop the car off and pick it up at the end of the day. It has given each member of the office staff a particular responsibility when the red and blue titles light up, everyone knows which tile they are responsible for, and everything is done quickly.”
"Garage Hive definitely made the office a lot more organised, which I wasn't even aware was a problem, to be fair."
How was the initial training with Garage Hive?
“We had Dawn and Tom for the on-site setup and training. That was superb. I don’t think we could have done it without them. Obviously, we tried to book a little bit quieter, but it isn’t easy when you’re so busy in the middle of August.”
“It was interesting that, for the first time, we decided that we were going to track parts. So not only were we moving over to a new garage management system, but we were also beginning our journey with tracking parts with Garage Hive’s Parts Stock Management. A lot of extra work is involved in doing that. It was a little bit of a culture shock for the first month, shall we say? But we got through it; I’m glad we did.”
“We had tried tracking parts on our old system, and we couldn’t make it work. I think maybe it was just through lack of effort, not necessarily anything wrong with the previous garage management system. When switching to Garage Hive, we thought, okay, we’re going to go all in with a new system now. Let’s just get on and do it all. And yeah, it was the right decision.”
What was the biggest challenge of learning the garage management system?
“My biggest challenge is setting up all the background automation within Garage Hive. It is what makes it so effective; automatic parts price markup and fixed price service packages. By spending time with the setup, the garage management system can then identify if it’s a petrol car then it can automatically add spark plugs onto the job sheet. It also knows if it’s a hybrid or an electric vehicle, and it knows if it’s a certain age diesel – it can add some Ad Blue onto the job sheet.”
“Obviously, the more work you put in the background, the easier it will be for the rest of the team. So, learning my way around automatically adding check sheets to creating service sheets and stuff like that was very important for me. The support team have been superb. They have helped me throughout and answered all my questions when it came to me learning the automation setup.”
How do you feel now after using the garage management software for over a year?
“Well, I think we’ve got to the stage where we are very comfortable. It’s now fine-tuning more than anything; we improve something slightly every day. The service packages are an absolute game-changer. Because once you select the vehicle and it knows everything, obviously, the more you program it, the better it becomes.”
What is your favourite feature?
“I think it’s the service packages, Online Booking, and Customer Online Authorisation – something which is relatively new.”
"The customers absolutely love it! We book a vehicle in for a service, then the technician will complete an inspection, this will get priced and at a click of a button, the photographs that the technician has taken appear on the customer's phone with the estimate. They click the link and approve the work they would like, it is easier for them to approve when they can see the proof. It's amazing how much that will sell extra required repairs. Because when you talk to a customer and tell them that their tyres are worn, it's not quite the same as when they see all the evidence, and they've got a photo of it in their hands, that is an incredibly powerful tool."
“Another great feature of Garage Hive is the customer self-check-in which was introduced during COVID. Some people were a bit worried about coming into the office, but with this feature, they could click on the text message and check themselves in without even coming inside. That made life easier. They could confirm their phone number and email address which ensured we had all of their correct details.”
What have your customers said about Customer Online Authorisation?
“They are very impressed with it. Likewise, with online payments. At the end of the day, when the job is done, and we send them a ‘vehicle is ready’ text, they also get a ‘Pay by Garage Link’, so they can click and pay by Google Pay on their phone. And it’s all done before they even arrive. They can see their invoice. They see everything before they get here, so there’s never any confusion about the bill. It’s just a case of them arriving, giving them the keys, and having a friendly chat. It makes the end of the day so much easier.”
What do you think about Garage Hive’s Facebook Community?
“Again, that’s another surprise bonus that I wasn’t expecting. I am surprised by how open and sharing everybody is and eager to help each other. Everyone is sharing information on various vehicles and servicing topics, Garage Hive features, and even talking about specialist tools that will save you time and money. So, it’s a very useful and good thing. It’s a page I visit daily.”
Have you seen any other business improvements in the garage?
"We have. During the lockdown, we closed one of our garages because it had quite a small office space. We condensed it all and had everybody working at the main, larger branch. This way, we concentrated the whole business. And despite that, we're turning over more since joining Garage Hive, and our profits are up. So yeah, it's working very well. An area which has been particularly improved is the parts. "
“Now, very bizarrely, we have been tracking the parts with Garage Hive. Our spending with our suppliers has decreased, but our profit and parts sales have increased. That means we’re either being more careful with the markup or maybe the auto markup is fixing it. What I suspect was happening in the past when we weren’t actually tracking the parts; is that the parts were being fitted to the vehicles and not making it onto the invoice. And now, because we’re creating purchase orders, we know exactly what part is related to what vehicle, and every part is accounted for. It has certainly made a massive impact on our parts’ markup.”
Would you recommend Garage Hive to other independent garages?
“Yeah, definitely. Garage Hive has allowed me to take better control and have a better understanding of every aspect of my business. The regular updates, particularly in the online booking and the customer authorisation areas, have brought our customer’s experience to a different level. Yes, it’s been demanding; you can’t argue that. But it has definitely changed the business.”