While the events of the last year have understandably led many garages to focus primarily on survival, according to Andy Hamilton, CEO at LKQ Euro Car Parts, “this is the time for workshop owners to take back control. While we understand independent garages might have other priorities in the immediate term, the need to digitalise isn’t going away, and there are two gaps to close.
“Firstly, independent garages need to keep up with the rest of the automotive sector in terms of digital capability and connectivity, and secondly, they need match service providers in other sectors to meet their customers’ ever-higher expectations.
“But the onus isn’t just on them. We’re developing our own digital capabilities too, so that we can work with garages to drive efficiencies and make the independent aftermarket more competitive in the long term.”
In a recent survey, LKQ Euro Car Parts uncovered that 29% of independent garages sometimes have to turn away work because they don’t have the skills and/or equipment needed to deliver work on more modern vehicles.
But according to Hamilton, the opportunities for digitalisation stretch far beyond the workshop itself:
“Digital solutions have been proven to have a positive impact all the way along the value chain, starting with the way garages bring in customers, schedule jobs and order parts, right through to taking payment once the work has been completed.
“That’s why we’ve come up with five digital focus areas for garages.”
LKQ Euro Car Parts’ five digital focus areas for garages in 2021
- Digital visibility – Many customers will use an online search to find a local garage, which means those with a credible online presence are best placed to win business. Websites and social media are important tools to give new customers the confidence to book – and subsequent digital communications like emails are all part of providing a quality experience that will secure their repeat custom.
- Digital ordering – Online orders can be faster than buying parts over the phone, as well coming with the added benefit of a digital footprint. The progress of an order placed through our trade website, Omnipart, can be tracked until the moment it’s delivered, and returns and warranties are easier to manage – not to mention the phone lines being freed up for customers to use.
- Digital workload management – Now that seasonal demand patterns have been disrupted, workloads are less predictable, and using data to accurately predict how long each job will take is essential. Our garage management software, CarSys, uses Haynes Pro data to underpin scheduling and quoting for work – supported by stock management features and integration with our catalogue for any parts that need buying in.
- Digital infrastructure – Cars and vans increasingly feature sophisticated systems designed to enhance performance, efficiency, safety, and the overall experience at the wheel – and technology like ADAS is already entering the independent aftermarket. These systems require regular software updates, for which connectivity is key – and advanced tools are required to safely and accurately diagnose and repair any faults with them.
- Digital skills – Digital training is critical for everyone in the business, whether in customer-facing or back office roles, or on the workshop floor. We offer a range of technical and business management courses through our AutoEducation Academy, to ensure independent garages can guarantee a customer experience that can rival the bigger dealerships, and have the technical expertise to back it up.