Auto Care Apps are Making an Impact

Dec. 1, 2016
Mechanical repair shop apps are on the rise, and it’s not just chains that are investing in the technology

In early September, AAMCO Transmissions announced a collaboration with AutoPoint, a Solera Company, to develop a mobile app called “My AAMCO Garage.” In July, Meineke Car Care Centers announced the redesign of its mobile app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices.

Both companies developed apps as a way to enhance customer service. Through these apps, franchise owners can connect directly with their customers in a number of different ways. The apps provide options to book appointments; receive vehicle maintenance alerts and service history; and get customer loyalty points and coupons. 

“With the app, customers can easily schedule an appointment, find the nearest location, view current reward points and more,” says Summer Nunn, VP of marketing for Meineke. “The app means we can have more meaningful conversations with our customers when they visit us because the app makes it easier to understand.”

With technology taking over and franchises already at an advantage when it comes to brand recognition, how can independent shop owners get in on the app game? Short answer: create their own.   

Beneficial for Large and Small Companies 

Nunn says that since the Meineke app launched in July, 2,000 customers have downloaded it for a total of 19,000 sessions. That number may seem impossible to an independent shop owner, but compare that data to that of Advanced Autowerks, a two-location auto service business in San Francisco. The shop hired a company to help build its own app, which launched in April of 2015. Since it launched, the shop has had 451 iPhone downloads and 178 on Android. Keep in mind, those numbers are for a small, two-shop operation as opposed to Meineke, which has over 900 locations worldwide.

“Everyone in San Francisco wants an app,” says Mackenzie Hoffman, manager of Advanced Autowerks. “We wanted to keep up.”

Hoffman’s husband and owner of Advanced Autowerks, Rand, spoke with a shop in North Carolina with its own app that streamlined the communication process between shops and customers by allowing customers to schedule maintenance and receive updates. He liked the template and the reasonable price, so he got the contact information for the company the shop worked with, MobileSoft, and decided to launch a similar app. 

From there, Jason Soto, senior product manager of MobileSoft, helped customize a template that fit the needs of the shop. The app had an upfront cost of $500 and a $49 monthly fee. The cost includes the design and development of the app, plus consistent upkeep. 

“If we change something with our coupons, we let them know and it’s updated within a day,” Hoffman says. 

When asked about the ROI, Hoffman says she’s not sure of the specific numbers, but says Advanced Autowerks didn’t create the app for increased revenue. 

“For us, it’s all about making things easier for the customer,” Hoffman says. 

Most of the Advanced Autowerks customer base is repeat customers, so anything that makes them happier eventually helps the shop, she says.

Making the repair process more convenient for the customer is a focus for nearly every shop that has developed an app. 

“Meineke keeps customers at the forefront of everything we do,” Nunn says. “Meineke’s app development was based off of customer feedback, current trends and market predictions.” 

The Benefits of Apps 

Soto says that MobileSoft has published 40–50 apps for customers and he says all of them are driving new clients. Apps can be designed to a shop’s specifications, although many companies offer basic templates that are already set up. Shop owners can choose features that are important to them, but Soto says the ones he’s seen yield the best results include geo-based coupons. The app recognizes a customer’s location and then will deliver a coupon automatically when customers arrive at the location. 

Another feature that Soto says drives customers is an automated response system that will text customers when it’s time to get maintenance service. Soto says that many people prefer utilizing their smarpthone, so having everything, including a way to schedule appointments, in one place makes the experience easier for the customer. 

Meineke has found multiple ways to use the app to its advantage, including linking its app with Meineke Rewards, which is a points-based rewards system that encourages customers to come in. 

Soto, Nunn and Hoffman agree that by making things easier for the customer, the business as a whole will benefit. 

“Customers love that it’s quick and self-contained,” Hoffman says. “With our app, they can send in pictures of the damage and set up an appointment all in one set.” 

Worth the Investment? 

Creating an app is an investment, and there are some considerations that shop owners should make before moving forward. 

Hoffman says that having an app works for Advanced Autowerks because it’s located in San Francisco, a highly populated city that places a huge emphasis on technology. 

Hoffman says that if you’re a shop owner trying to decide if creating an app is right for your business, look at your customer demographics. Find out the average age of your customers and the method of contact that they prefer. Hoffman says that most of her customers prefer a text to a phone call, which indicated that an app might be beneficial.

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