Ralph Roberts, Croft Autos

Kent garage moves to the cloud for more flexible working

Searching for a flexible solution.

When Ralph Roberts, owner of Kent-based Croft Auto Repairs, started to look for a new garage management system, the most important factor for him was accessibility and access to the system in any situation wherever he may be.

He was looking for a modern system that would work without any of the installation headaches, and one where he could manage all aspects of his business away from his garage. He found the answer in the cloud; the biggest technological revolution sweeping the software world in recent years, that is bringing huge advantages to many industries already, and not just to big corporate businesses.

“I was looking for a cloud-based system for the flexibility and advantages it offers and came across Carvue. Working in the cloud enables me to access my database from home or from a customer’s premises as well as at my workshop. My wife Lorraine undertakes all our accounting which means she can also access the system from wherever she is at whatever time suits her and we can both be on the system at the same time. I usually sort out my jobs for the next day and simply take the iPad into work with me and access Carvue that way.”

As a one man band, Ralph collects and delivers customer vehicles for service and repair work as well as undertaking up to four jobs a day in his workshop in Tonbridge, bringing some of the experiences of the franchised sector, where he has previously worked, adding to the old fashioned values associated with an independent local garage. It means keeping track of appointments on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis made manageable by the Carvue diary system.

With Lorraine undertaking the task of invoicing, the invoice is not only logged in the system against the car and the customer for future reference, but can be emailed at a touch of a button with the option to include a personal message. A feature which Ralph particularly likes.

“My previous system wasn’t cloud based, it was installed on a desktop computer. It was easy enough to use, but not being able to access it anywhere other than where it was installed was limiting. We also had very little support if we needed help or if something went wrong.”

Looking forward

Croft Autos has been live with the system since the summer and is in the process of transferring all its data to Carvue. Ralph plans to use the data next year to run MOT and service reminders in order to encourage customers to book ahead.

CarVue understands that all garages are individual and so allows garage owners to carry out a great deal of customisation in the app. There’s lots of ways that garages can tailor the system to meet their needs, from document templates to product groups down to the colours used on the electronic T-Card board. Best of all, for Croft and the hundreds of other garages running CarVue in the UK, the majority of the improvements, bug fixes, integrations and new features start their lives as a feedback thread in a very active user forum. Following user feedback so far, Carvue has incorporated the engine code in the vehicle look-up data and the added a paint code field whilst areas which developers are currently exploring include a parts inventory module, vehicle health checks and image/document uploads.

“By contrast, we’ve found Carvue support really helpful. When we’ve had questions, we simply ask the team via live chat and the response is immediate and helpful.”

In the early months of using CarVue, Ralph and Lorraine needed support as they found their feet. While CarVue prides itself on being a simple, smart application, getting to grips with any new system can take time to get used to. Croft found that the help and guidance provided by the development and support teams based at the company’s Reading HQ was invaluable. In addition, Carvue’s chief product officer Rob Skidmore, contacted Ralph and Lorraine to give them a one-to-one session on how to make the best use of Carvue to increase their familiarity and understanding of the system as well as to identify the possibility of customising the system to match their exact requirements.

"CarVue provides everything I need. For a small trader to be able replicate the kind of systems and processes typically at work in a larger business is perfect. It has enabled my small garage to adopt efficient processes more associated with a larger business"

– Carl Wilcock, Wilco Motors

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