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Make Cell Phones Work for Your Shop

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With technology at our fingertips, it can be difficult to turn it off. Now, most people have their phone’s attached to them at all times, including at work. For technicians, this is no exception.

A recent study from IMR Inc., a full-service automotive market research firm, found that 99.6 percent of automotive repair technicians own a cell phone (no surprise here). With this, however, 87.4 percent of technicians actively use their cell phones while working in their bays.

“Cell phones are more integrated in our lives than ever,” says Bill Thompson, CEO of IMR Inc.

There are many work benefits that cell phones bring, but with texting, internet, and social media in near proximity, auto repair shop operators are concerned that it may be a distraction. Greg Buckley, owner of the technology-forward Buckley’s Auto Care in Wilmington, Del., knows exactly what auto repair shop operators are up against.

“Most shops today face this issue and it depends on what the shop’s stance is on it,” Buckley says. “It comes down to productivity.”

Buckley says a shop could be totally against cell phone usage at work, complete with SOPs and policies outlining the concern, but with today’s technicians and how they learn, he says they might as well take some thread and sew electronics onto their bodies. So, instead of working against cell phones, how can shop owners work toward embracing the digital culture, while ensuring productivity isn’t at stake? 

Recognizing the Benefits

Cell phones can actually be beneficial to an automotive repair business and make technicians more efficient. The IMR study found that the 87.4 percent of techs that are using cell phones in the bays all use it to access technical information, technician manual sites, catalog information, parts manufacturer websites for technical or product information, ordering parts and watching training or instructional videos and content.

“It prevents them from having to leave their bay to do work,” Thompson says.

And, for younger techs coming into the field, accessing this information through their phone or tablet is essentially how they tackle work, even learn.

“That’s just the way that they [learn] today—they’ve grown up with it,” Buckley says. “They feel that there’s valuable content, [the videos] get right to the point, they see it being done, and they know how to execute it.”

Tackling Distractions

With young technicians using their cell phones in their bays, the distractions and time wasting aspects are the main concern. A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that 49 percent of employers believe cell phones and texting are the biggest productivity killers, while 37 percent believe social media is to blame. However, shop owners can turn cell phones into a tool and make it work for their shop’s processes.

Like many shops that have gone digital, Buckley’s technicians are equipped with a digital vehicle inspection tablet. However, he’s fine-tuned them to ensure productivity is still at an all-time high.

For starters, Buckley uses one type of digital operating system, i.e. Android or iOS, to make it more versatile with cell phones. He says everyone utilizing the same platform—in his case, iOS—helps with communication. Plus, all of the devices have the same functions as one another for ease of use.

“Once you get into your personal phone, your apps are going to start talking to you,” Buckley says. “With a work device, it’s limited.”

Yes, the use of the tablets are meant to mimic a technician’s phone, but not with all of the features their personal phone would have; he made sure to add a couple extra features so his technicians have no reason to use their phones. His techs aren’t allowed to have any of their personal social media accounts on the tablets, but Buckley gave them access to other helpful features, like SOPs and vendor websites. 

One feature he did allow to help decrease the use of personal devices? Music. Instead of a technician setting down their tablet to grab their phone, they’re able to use their iPad to play their choice of music. Buckley says this has really helped technicians stay off of their phones. 

Making It Work for You

With that being said, having tablets available at your shop doesn’t mean the use of cell phones will disappear. Buckley stresses not to regulate the use of cell phones, but to moderate it.

“The tablet isn’t used in place of the phone,” Buckley says. “The goal is to have them understand that using your phone wastes time.”

Going digital is a commitment—you’re either all in or all out. Buckley says you have to embrace the digital culture, but how you manage it depends on your comfortability—it may even take a manager or another employee to take the reins. Overall, this technology isn’t going anywhere, so you might as well welcome it into your shop and make technology work for you.

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