Making Connections All Over: Connecting the Car & Your Shop
Connecting Your Shop and POS to Your Smartphone
One of the toughest things about running a successful mobile electronics shop is juggling customers and keeping organized. Unfortunately, people are always forgetting about and breaking appointments. It seems some customers deem their time twice as valuable as our time. There are a few downright nasty customers who exhibit no courtesy whatsoever. But there is a technological solution that can help whip them into shape called the 12V.Biz Toolbox. Imagine an app that automatically sends SMS text alerts to your customers, reminding them of their appointments. You can also send messages when the vehicle is ready for pickup, to request a call from the customer, or to touch base about the installation location of an LED for a security install. This is all done with the click of a button, right from your smartphone or your tech’s smartphone.
The 12V.Biz Toolbox software also has a digital check-in form. Unfortunately, in today’s age, check-engine lights and MIL lamps plague vehicles. The check-in form helps you log the condition of the customer’s vehicle, be it an errant scratch or odd indicator light. It helps keep you off the hook from the bad customer who wants to blame you for the woes of their vehicle’s electrical system. Finally, there is a plug-in for integration with QuickBooks Online if you use the Intuit software for accounting. It syncs with your store’s QuickBooks online database so you no longer need to re-type in the customer information when creating a new work order.
Tony Dehnke was the owner of Driven Mobile Electronics in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Prior to that he was an independent manufacturers rep for 10 years in Canada. He got his start in the industry as a salesperson at a small independent car audio and cellular store. He sold his retail location to concentrate on his new software business venture that allows users to update installations and workorders from any device, anywhere, anytime. The SMS reminder for clients alone is worth the cost of admission.
We were able to chat with software creator Dehnke about the software, and how it all came to be. “The 12v.Biz Toolbox is a new app that solves several key issues mobile electronics retailers face every day in their stores,” he explains, going on to say that “[these include] no-shows for installations, calling clients to remind them of upcoming appointments and keeping track of key elements of each installation [such as] parts used, photos, checklists and notes. When a retailer creates a new appointment on the Toolbox calendar, a digital workorder is automatically created for the job. The workorder stores client, vehicle and job information and has a customizable digital check-in/-out list with the ability to save photos directly to the workorder.” This can be an awesome feature to show customers with big builds updates on how their vehicle is coming along.
Dehnke continues, “Currently, shops are using basic calendars like Google Cal or even paper to book their jobs, then a separate paper check-in form which needs to get filled out manually. Then they hopefully save photos into a separate file system, which is really hard to keep track of. The Toolbox App reduces the manual duplication of information, and keeps everything in one place – easily accessible by all staff, from any mobile, tablet or computer.” Denhke ran a good shop which usually attracted good customers. But no-shows are always inevitable. He notes, “The Toolbox App can automatically send SMS reminders to the client about their upcoming appointments. Staff can also send messages requesting a callback, or letting the client know their vehicle is ready for pickup. Retailers can customize the message templates and add their own message templates as needed.” Once the vehicle has pulled in, the software makes the check-in a breeze. “When a client drops a vehicle off, staff use the digital check-in/check-out system to go through a check-in list of items the store customizes by vehicle type. They can also add notes, take photos to document the vehicle condition, capture a customer signature and email a copy of the check-in to the client. The same can be done at vehicle pickup using the check-out section of the software.”
To keep the shop efficient, installers can easily access a database of what has worked in previous installations. This can really save time. After all, if you know what security system harness worked well on a 2016 Elantra, your next 2016 Elantra will be a slam-dunk. Dehnke states. “Once the job has started, the Toolbox has a dedicated section for notes, photos, parts used and labor time. This data is saved so staff can quickly review a past job from any device to see what was used, or how an installation was done previously. The data is hosted in the cloud, allowing staff to access the system at the shop or out on the road. The Toolbox is also set up to handle multiple calendars for larger operations with more than one location or multiple services.” This can be useful if your store does in-house installations in addition to expeditor dealership work. You can find out more about the software and app by emailing Tony@12v.Biz
Connecting Voice Assistance for Customers
For 2020, connecting to the vehicle with voice assistance is one of the ways specialists will be able to separate themselves from the pack. There will be numerous ways to do it, including the owner’s smartphone. But performance always seems to be better when the device is built for the purpose. JBL is introducing a product to help add a voice command solution while overcoming road noise. This way, users can easily get directions, make calls and find information without frustrating and potentially dangerous driver distraction.
Harman-brand JBL's LINK Drive is a car accessory optimized with the Google Assistant technology that improves voice interactions between smartphones and drivers on the road. The device is outfitted with dual noise-cancelling microphones to mitigate road, wind, engine and general driving sounds that may interfere with voice commands on a standard phone. According to Harman, it is also programmed with Radio Barging technology, allowing drivers to listen to the radio as desired, but will quiet when it detects a voice command with “Hey Google.” Once the request is finalized, content from the radio will resume. This feature also works with incoming phone calls, allowing drivers to have a safe, hands-free conversation without noise inference. Jeffery Fay, vice presdient and general manager of Car Audio Services, says: “Market research shows there is a low engagement rate of motorists using voice-activation technology in cars. We’re finding drivers often experience poor performance with their smartphones due to all the noises inside their vehicle and on the road. The JBL LINK Drive addresses these sound interruptions through innovative noise-cancelling technology, providing a convenient, smarter, and improved user experience. Whether it’s reading texts aloud, playing music or finding an alternate route, it’s more convenient to let the Google Assistant handle the task at hand, especially when driving.”
The JBL unit does not require a pro installation, but it could benefit from one. It just needs a cigarette lighter receptacle that always seems to be in an inconvenient place. Additionally, some newer vehicles are not even coming with cigarette lighter style receptacles, instead relying solely on USB ports. We always thought this was an opportunity to add a convenient one in case a customer ever wants to use something such as a tire inflator. In newer vehicles, the JBL LINK can be hooked through the audio system via Bluetooth. In older vehicles, it can be hooked into an AUX input and bring a world of connectivity to a legacy vehicle. The price is right, too, with an MSRP of $59.95.
Connecting Vendors and MECP
AAMP is recognizing the importance of training. The company has always asked all of its employees to get MECP Certification. Now, there are some tangible benefits as the company announced the industry-first MECP Certified Technician Hotline. According to AAMP, by opening a dedicated technical support line for AAMP products to MECP technicians, AAMP will now provide a quick way for certified installers with difficult problems to quickly get technical assistance, without having to go over basic troubleshooting items that should be checked before reaching out to tech support. AAMP recognizes that techs who are MECP-certified have developed a certain level of professional troubleshooting skills, and employ these skills when installations get tricky. When calling the MECP hotline, callers will be asked to provide their CEA Certificate number. Once cleared, they will receive technical assistance from one of two MECP Master Certified technical support representatives, one of which is an Honorary Master, the highest level of certification one can achieve in the MECP program.
AAMP Technical Services Manager Ernie Hartman says: “We recognize the value of time in today’s busy world. AAMP is very excited to provide a technical support path for MECP-certified technicians that allows them to ‘bypass the line,’ so to speak, avoid all the simple questions, and get right to the matter at hand.” Kris Bulla, representing MECP through the CEA, notes, “AAMP Global and its employees have long supported the MECP program, and they recognize the dedication and focus required to achieve certification. It’s nice to see a tangible benefit tied with our certification program.” The AAMP MECP Certified Tech hotline also supports text messages. If you are MECP-certified and deal with AAMP products, you can reach out to 727-263-1617, and make sure you have your Certificate Number handy, which is also on your certification certificate.