Tim Benson's family business – Oldfields Garage - was established by his parents over 30 years ago in Leominster. Before taking over the business, Tim worked with the main dealer parts department and has been in the industry for 15 years.
About the company
Tim Benson’s family business – Oldfields Garage – was established by his parents over 30 years ago in Leominster. Before taking over the business, Tim worked with the main dealer parts department and has been in the industry for 15 years.
Oldfields Garage joined Garage Hive in 2020 July and now has 8 staff in total. There are three full-time technicians in the workshop, an apprentice and a part-time employee using the clocking terminal user, as well as two in the office.
Their focus is trying to polish the workflow using Garage Hive to enable the business to be managed from the office, rather than the workshop itself.
"We aim to provide the best customer service experience. We’ve got quite high numbers based on the ratio of technicians to office, because I am office based. Garage Hive gives us the chance to provide the communication that customers expect now, and this helps us to provide a higher quality service than other independent garages in our area."
“The long-term aim is to look and see if we can open another garage elsewhere. I don’t have a timeframe on that. But I feel that with Garage Hive, it would be perfectly possible because I could see what’s going on at any site very, very easily at the touch of a button and that’s something that I’m aspiring towards.”
What were the main problems or frustrations you faced before Garage Hive?
“We have used the various garage management software packages for probably fifteen years, so it isn’t anything new to us, moving online was a natural step and made it easier to access systems any time.”
“To be honest, I didn’t really have an issue with the previous system, the information they provided me enabled me to run the business pretty well. The issues I had were glitches in the system and, you know, things like that could be improved, and there was no response to development requests. It was a prolonged process in bringing improvements and making changes to the system.”
"The first time I saw Garage Hive was at a conference set up by an automotive group. I also spoke to other people within the industry to see what people were using. The feedback from the Garage Hive community was very positive. Whenever there was any forums or anything, there were always people jumping in with Garage Hive speaking very positively. Although, I appreciate that not everybody will like it because it does involve quite a lot of work in terms of inputs. But it isn't any different from other software we have used. If you want accurate data, it is important you put the right information in, in the first place. And, you know, it's always a challenge because you have to enter information accurately."
“I started to look at other options again when it did not feel like we were being listened to on our previous system. That’s when I came across Garage Hive the second time; I decided to go and talk to somebody, I went up to the Lindleys Autocentres in Arnold and met with Alex, and he showed me the system. And that’s where it all started with Garage Hive.”
What drove the decision to join Garage Hive?
“When I went to meet with Alex, he didn’t sell Garage Hive to me. It wasn’t sold to me as something that you need to have. The way he showed it to me and answered any questions that I got, the thing that grabbed me very quickly was the way that it took you through a whole business process. I spent probably more time than Alex would normally do on that area of the software because it took you from beginning to end, and the system naturally pushes you in the right direction without forcing you. It was one of the things that I thought would help us to streamline our processes. That was the first thing that made me think about Garage Hive as a tool for my business, and it became a straightforward decision.”
"I looked at it more as an investment into the business rather than an actual direct cost. When I was looking at new software, I treated it the same as if we would buy a new tool for the workshop. What would it enable us to do, or how would it benefit us? That's my angle there. And the fact that it does cost us money is irrelevant because of what it will do for us. That's the key thing - it is more of an investment than anything."
“I was also invited into the community group on Facebook prior to us joining Garage Hive. There we could ask questions about anything we wanted to know from people who are using the system; I admire the transparency.”
“The community aspect, I’ve got to meet and speak with other garages who are similar to us trying to be a good garage, trying to run a profitable business. And, you know, we all face the same sorts of challenges in different ways. But being able to link with like-minded people who want to invest in their business; has been a big part of the attraction for onboarding with Garage Hive.”
"I liked the fact that it's only six months initial contract, if you've had enough, you can go without any fight, without any difficulty, if needed. I realised that it is strong confidence in the system from the Garage Hive team."
How was your experience during the implementation process?
“Rhys came down for our onsite implementation; it felt like Garage Hive held our hand during an initial couple of days. We adapted to it pretty well; the support was rapid and on hand. I didn’t feel that we were left alone to get on with it.”
“Everybody learns differently. I watched the videos beforehand to prepare for the install, but nothing beats learning while being shown how to use the live system. Having onsite training helped massively to gain confidence in using the system. I’d also say that the other people in the Garage Hive team were very swift to help and not just wait for me to ring but actually to check if everything was okay. That was something that I’ve not experienced before using Garage Hive.”
"My advice, for anybody who is looking to move on to a management system, whether it is Garage Hive or not, is actually to take the training and initially get somebody onsite because that enabled us to use a system quickly. So having somebody come down and show us how to use it all set us up to be able to use the software instantly. I don't think that would have been the case if we didn't have had the onsite training."
How is it going now?
“We’ve got it integrated into our business, it’s all up and running, and it’s functioning day to day. We now need to look at some of those tweaks to try and improve it, you know, from the technician’s point of view, from the office, the front of house. But that’s something that we need to make a conscious effort for ourselves. We need to do it; otherwise, if you carry on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get the same result.”
“A lot of things have become second nature. And in honesty, we may only use a small portion of what Garage Hive can do. We needed to have a settling in period where we got used to it, which we’ve done; we need to start looking at the data that it provides and making some decisions based on that. Now the focus is more on the standardisation within the system, like service packages to enable us to have better outputs, more work on the checklists. Set to enable us to make that process easier.”
What are some of your favourite features?
"Customer surveys are good because I can monitor them, and I don't have to be there to watch that. Ultimately, Garage Hive enabled me to work less in the office, which means I’m now able to work one day a week out of the office. I've got regular feedback from customers and continuous feedback from the Garage Hive reports and figures. I know how we're doing when I'm not here. It means that the business can run without me here, and I can see how the company is performing. I don't think I could have easily had time out of the office with the other systems we've used previously. "
“Online booking is very integrated within Garage Hive system. It is linked into our schedule which works really nicely as it reduces our admin internally. The customers are putting their information online, and we’re expecting it on our role centre and monitoring it. Certainly, our booking numbers have increased, probably because people are more used to doing everything online anyway. For us, they range between 30 to 65 a month – although they are not high numbers, online booking still has decreased admin work and increased convenience.”
“I also like the live schedule because you can follow whether we are behind or ahead of the day. And it’s useful when tiles light up red to draw attention for certain areas and tasks that need to be done.”
Have you seen any changes since you started using Garage Hive?
“Overall, our efficiency has improved. Our turnover in the last financial year was higher than the previous financial year. And within that financial year, we had five weeks closed and five weeks with partial staff. Our sales figures were powerful, at least partly contributed by Garage Hive – having the finger on the pulse of exactly what’s happening and when. Results like this definitely had a positive impact, or efficiencies have been increased overall as a business. Our average invoice value has also been marked up in the last 12 months.”
“It is easy with Garage Hive Reporting to follow the data and notice things like hours lost and gained or average labour value, which we have actioned on and improved the efficiency since joining the software.”
“The other thing that I would say has another good impact is the measuring of the vehicle inspections. We are inspecting higher proportions of vehicles that come through the workshop now. And it’s self-fulfilling. If you check more things, you’re likely to find more sales. We don’t push sales, which might seem a bit strange for a business, but I don’t want our technicians selling something that isn’t needed within a reasonable time scale.”
“An area that we’ve identified in the last two months of our business that we’re doing inspections, but we’re not dealing with reminders properly. We are working on a process for making sure that when we do VI inspections and when we finish it, we put the reminders right away. It all can be done with the Garage Hive system. This way, over time, we won’t need to find lots of new customers. We need to do better with what we’ve got already.”
"Having spoken to and listened to various people in the Garage Hive community, we have reduced the hours we book in daily from a full day per tech to 6 hours and are looking to reduce this further. By using Garage Hive, inspecting more vehicles properly and concentrating on a better customer information and service we are looking to increase our average invoice value. The new online authorisation BETA we’ve started trialing will really help with this process."
Based on what Garage Hive has done for you, would you recommend it to another garage owner?
“The reason I like and recommend Garage Hive is that it enables us to track the processes, because of the process you can be more organised and efficient and have a chance to improve your overall business. When you couple it up with reporting, it works well to see which areas need tweaking and working on. The continual effort by the Garage Hive team to develop and improve the system is second to none. The new online authorisation that is currently in a BETA version is an exciting development and will help improve our processes and I can’t wait to see how we can improve over the coming years.”
"The support ecosystem is great from both the Garage Hive team and the community which I have not experienced before, and it goes even beyond the software. I really value it."