With the UK beta test program now in full swing (and US testers currently being sought), we reveal some of the findings from our focus group research…

The independent automotive sector has demonstrated a huge appetite for change when it comes to software which manages every aspect of their business, according to focus group research we undertook in April 2014.

Almost three-quarters of independent automotive businesses questioned said they want a simple but effective software solution which enables them to manage their garage in ‘one place’, with the ability to access the system from anywhere at any time.

The in-depth interviews uncovered a resounding appetite for one single, simple system with 73% identifying these as the most important factors when it comes to changing how they work, not surprising since almost all (93%) currently use more than one system to manage the core elements of their business such as workshop jobs, labour hours, staffing, CRM and invoices.

Surprisingly, two thirds (66%) still use a paper-based system of one form or another to manage certain aspects of their business with the hand-written diary and manual T-card system still proving popular. More than half (53%) use Microsoft Excel for CRM, invoicing and job tracking purposes.

Almost half (47%) of the testers said a single management system was most important of five factors when asked to rate the advantages of operating a management system. More than a quarter (27%) said ease of use; 13% said improved workshop and job management; and 13% thought better communication with customers to be the most vital.

Newbury-based Razoom, whose directors have a wealth of automotive experience which they draw upon to create innovative software solutions for aftersales, marketing, and operations, has developed a new management system designed specifically for the independent automotive sector.

Carvue, which will be launched later this year, is currently undergoing testing with a wide range of automotive businesses from mobile technicians to large sports car sales and service operations dotted around the UK.

The interviews formed part of Razoom’s process to appoint the very best testers across a wide range of independent motor businesses. The forums were intended to identify the issues of running a software management system in the independent automotive sector. Its research found owners who were keen to be involved in trialling a new system alongside their existing processes which ranged from appointment-booking and tracking software designed for the building trade to garages which still utilised a hand-written diary system. The trial stage is due to finish in May when Razoom will collate the feedback and make amends to the system including additional functionality if possible as identified by the testers.

Commented Razoom marketing director Alex Knight:

“The focus group phrase confirmed our research last year that there is a strong appetite for sophisticated but easy-to-use software to manage the business from one place in the independent sector. 

In the course of identifying our testers, we discovered that the industry was still at different levels of technological maturity. We spoke to a wide range of businesses from one tester who had no systems in place at all, they simply wrote out paper invoices which were provided to their accountant on an annual basis, to a mobile technician who used a web-enabled diagnostic machine, a Windows 8.1 toughbook and carried out all in-the-field operations on an iPad Mini. 

We are delighted with both the calibre and variety of testers we have appointed. As with any software product we produce, real-world industry experience and input is vital, and we’ve been hugely encouraged by the feedback gained from the tests so far. Our testers are investing a lot of their time running CarVue alongside current solutions, so it’s great to hear that they not only like it but are looking to carry on using it once the product is launched to the UK market later on this year.”

This article was also featured in Motor Trade News… read that here