How Online Booking Can Help Shops 

Jan. 15, 2024
Why giving customers the option to schedule auto repair service online may be a winning play for shop owners.

In auto repair, time is viewed through the lens of billable hours. The adoption of online booking in auto repair shops emerges as a strategic decision driven by time and convenience. Online booking not only provides your customers with a more streamlined experience but also reclaims precious time for your staff. It’s a practice other industries, such as restaurants, salons, and medical practices, have used with success, and auto repair shops, particularly service advisors, can find advantageous for saving time and effort.

Jason Smith, owner of M&M Car Care Center with locations in Merrillville, Schererville, Dyer, and Hammond, Indiana, says online booking is reducing the number of incoming calls his service advisors have to attend to. Smith sees between 5% to 6% percent of total bookings made online each month, with most customers who book online coming in for simple services such as scheduled maintenance and oil changes.  

“With taking that call count down, it allows us to spend more time with the customers that are standing in front of us, and the customers that we speak to on the phone, we can better inform them about their current situation,” Smith says. 

Convenience, the second protagonist in this narrative, plays an equally significant role. It’s the assurance of a hassle-free experience for customers from the comfort of their own devices. No more waiting on hold, no more back-and-forth calls, or miscommunication. Online booking simplifies the process, ensuring a seamless customer journey and making it far more likely you will see your customers again.   


Exercising Your Options 

Booking appointments online may be relatively new to the auto repair industry, but the different ways that repair shops are implementing it is already becoming apparent. Smith’s shop uses a QR code that is generated by AutoOps, which seamlessly integrates online booking with M&M Car Care Centers website and point-of-sale system. The QR code that sends people to his shop’s website or online booking system is printed and sent out on a direct mailer or service reminder, giving people the instant ability to book an appointment upon receipt.   

“When we signed up with Auto-ops they sent us a QR code that we can use for everything and it's a link to our site so basically what happens is that we have the QR code on our direct mailers, in our website, on Google—we have these things all over the place so because everyone's going to want to set up an appointment in whatever (system) they feel the most comfortable with. So, if people get their direct mail piece in the in the mail then they can use that and say, ‘I'm going to make my appointment right now because I just got my mailer,' we're giving them that opportunity," explains Smith.

Bill Nalu, owner of Interstate Auto Care in Madison Heights, Michigan, uses a system within Shopgenie, integrated with Tekmetric, to make a specific number of appointments available for customers to book online. Additional conditions can be specified, such as opening a set number of spaces for certain jobs within a set window of time. This reduces the number of last-minute rush jobs that always seem to show up just before closing time and prevents complications like unavailability of specific parts or unforeseen delays.  

“That’s really the biggest surprise in all this because inside Shopgenie, inside the portal, you can specify how many slots are open for customers to just book an appointment,” Nalu says. “So, they include things like no more than four oil changes in a day, and they all need to be before noon because we don’t want (the) change appointment setup at 4 p.m. It just eliminates those kinds of headaches.” 


How Online Booking Unlocked Unexpected Garage Gains 

Both Nalu and Smith attribute the focused and straightforward nature of online booking as providing a number of unforeseen benefits. Smith notices that the quality of repairs booked online are of a higher level due to “a reduction of wasted energy in appointments.” This refers to those vague communications or redundant discussions that don’t contribute to resolving your customers’ needs efficiently and can be a major cause of frustration for both your customers and shop staff.  

Smith says his online scheduling system allows customers to attach photos or videos to their appointment request, giving a clearer understanding of any potential problems before the vehicle arrives at the workshop. Having more than a vague description of a problem also streamlines the troubleshooting process and aids in a more precise assessment of a vehicle’s condition.


Online Bookings Impact on Overworked Service Advisors 

Integration of online booking systems is already causing a shift in time management strategies by minimizing the need for service advisors to spend significant portions of their workday on the phone. This enables them to focus on pivotal tasks that directly impact customer service and ensure a smoother in-store experience.  

Smith finds that online booking enables his staff to plan their day better and has seen task completion rates jump from 60% to 70% to 100% consistently. This ability for an employee to hit their work-related goals fosters a positive work environment and morale, reducing the risk of employee burnout.  

“As the owner, it literally takes some stress off (my staff), and I want to do that because when you have an environment where everyone’s going 110% people are going to eventually crack and that's going to create a demotivating work culture,” Smith says. 


Insider Insights and a Dash of Caution About Online Booking 

Both Nalu and Smith offer valuable advice to shop owners thinking about integrating an online booking tool into their CRM. Smith emphasizes the professional and streamlined layout of the system as an industry-leading feature that demands serious consideration and something that will define future industry standards.  

Nalu’s advice shop owners on the transformative impact of online scheduling on customer interaction by using it as a tool to assist in building stronger customer relationships. Nalu underscores the necessity of never allowing the human touch in customer relations to be overshadowed by online booking and AI.  

“AI helps in efficiency. Don't think that AI is going to take over a service writer's job by building human relationships or getting new customers faster than anybody ever imagined. The whole point of what I do for a living and the whole point of what I've been doing for a living is the people business. My front-of-shop staff are the best people to talk to my customer about their given problem today and the day that I stopped believing that is the day that I will retire,” Nalu says. 





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