Take your business digital

Going Digital

The pandemic has accelerated the digital switch in a whole range of different areas. Make sure you’re part of the movement

Going digital doesn’t have to be complex. Simple methods with a low cost commitment include email or a messaging platform such as a Facebook Business page.

Before you start trying to communicate with customers online, create a checklist of information to include in your messages for example, short video clips or photos showing items that require repair, rather than simply providing a written description of a part that may not mean much to a customer. Also make sure that your message actively asks for a reply to authorise work, as that will give you a record that can be exported into a digital invoice or printed off later if required.

Simple solutions like these can really work and might already have made their way into your business communications without much thought. Just be mindful of policies regarding who can use these platforms so that you’re maintaining your organisation’s legal commitment to data security and GDPR. But in practice, with a little time spent reviewing how you’re representing your business and making sure data is stored safely, you should be good to go.

Digital bookkeeping

In recent years, the digital skills required of an approved MOT test station have led to greater digital competency across the board. Digital bookkeeping has therefore become a reality for many aftermarket workshops, often including real-time information reporting for payroll and even making tax digital for VAT purposes.

If you’re simply resigned to the fact that digital resources like these are unavoidable (rather than actively embracing them), you may find that the digital solutions you’re using may not be reaching their full potential. Most providers of accounts software offer free training on their websites, so it may be worth refreshing your memory and checking for any new capabilities, as this type of software is being improved all the time.

Most off-the-shelf digital bookkeeping solutions have the capacity to send emails and include attachments within the invoice. Using these functions intelligently can improve your email writing and help you create a standardised approach to communication with the customer.

Workshop paperwork

Investing in digital “addons” can be extraordinarily cost-effective. For example, choosing a digital provider that can assist with the hardware rollout, training and software setup when it comes to creating job sheets and reports digitally can be a quick and easy way to standardise your paperwork.

These solutions typically include guided processes for the most common workshop operations, assisting with compliance by asking key competency questions throughout the job and then producing a report with embedded photographs and other media collected during repairs.

Internal comms

If you’re willing to invest sufficient time and money, there are also digital solutions out there that will assist with communication across all aspects of your business. This can be an excellent avenue for those who are already digitally literate or who have the confidence to learn a new skill. And even if you don’t have that confidence, most of the big names offering internal communications tools also offer some form of training and ongoing support.

Digital solutions like these can require a lot of maintenance as they need data to function effectively, but the uptake figures are robust, and the desertion rate is very low.

Staying compliant

Handling any kind of data (it doesn’t have to be digital) requires security, and that’s achieved through robust policies. More information can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website, which has numerous free guides and resources to help you stay compliant.

Once you’ve decided what’s the best fit for you, using digital communication tools could help to streamline your business and make the interaction with customers a lot less stressful. We’ve all got used to using digital tools of various kinds over the past year, so making the leap to using the tools available shouldn’t be quite as daunting anymore.

Hayley Pells CAE FIMI is an experienced MOT tester and owner of Avia Speed Shop, Bridgend

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership. Time to find out more about becoming a member of the most influential community in UK automotive…?