How to Set Up an Efficient Repair Shop

How to Set Up an Efficient Repair Shop

There is so much you cannot control completely in an electronics repair shop. But with the right workflow and the right repair shop software, you can offer a great customer experience and build an efficient and profitable business.

Bas De Vries
Bas De Vries - COO and Director of IT-Operations at Amac

Your repair shop or business is unique in many ways. So, it's nearly impossible for an outsider to set up the most efficient repair workflow for you.

However, repair and service businesses also have several things in common if they're working on similar devices and in the same place (states, countries, or tax territories).

As a shop owner or a service manager, you need to have control over the business without having to worry about all of the minor details. We're hoping to provide the best answers based on over a million repairs logged in our repair and service management solution.

And from all the in-depth conversations we've had with clients.

A repair business can maximize profits by considering three major factors.  However, you need to remember that not every variable can be accounted for. For example, you don't always have control over the price that you negotiate for parts with wholesalers, your location, or the policies set in place by OEMs.

This blog will look at things you can optimize through proper management and better business practices. The results will be a better experience for your customers, time saved, the ability to charge more for services, the option to work with fewer people at a repair location, and even grow your business.

  1. The people you employ and how you manage them.
  2. The repair workflow you've set up and your ability to understand how well it's working.
  3. How you use software to automate work.

We’ll address each one in turn and show you what you need to pay attention to. We understand that each repair business has its own unique needs, so we won’t go into the specific details here. We will not be able to cover all of them here because of how much things can differ based on the devices you handle, the kind of customers you have, the countries that you operate in, the OEM and insurance partners with whom you work, etc.

If you want to get a better idea about how our repair shop software can be tailored to improve your repair business, book a demo now. We will create a workflow that best fits your business.

Okay, let's get started on how you can analyze your workflow and set up one that is most efficient for you.

The People You Employ & How You Manage Them

Never underestimate the human element in a repair business. From diagnosing an issue with the device to dealing with customers, the most important part of the repair workflow needs people management.

Let's consider the most important employee at a repair shop: the technician. Sometimes, knowing how to repair a device is not enough for you to ensure that your repair business treats every order perfectly. Naturally, misdiagnosis and faulty repairs can cost your business revenue every day.

Russell Newton, who trained Apple technicians for well over a decade, remembers meeting a technician who used only one torque driver. He couldn’t see the point of using torques with different values.

But that didn’t surprise Russell. He became used to seeing poor electrostatic discharge (ESD) safety habits, customer data errors, accidental damage, and poor customer interactions as a trainer at repair shops all over the world.

The point is this: it doesn’t matter if everyone in the shop has the required certification or experience if they don’t follow the most efficient process and the right workflow.

Here’s some insight from Russell: "When you have a loose system or workflow, the personalities of technicians or customer service representatives become a stress point for the business,"

You need to implement an organized workflow that gives you better control of your repair shops.

Everyone in your phone or computer repair shop must understand the business logic of the workflow.
Everyone in your phone or computer repair shop must understand the business logic of the workflow.

Get Everyone to Understand the Business Context

If you’re in charge of the repair workflow, it’s your responsibility to get everyone to follow the best processes — from the actual repairs to the documentation processes, financial reporting, and customer management. A business that relies on phone repairs has a business model that's different from a computer repair shop that offers services to business clients.

Here are a few tips to help you succeed: 

  • Provide practical training
  • Use repair shop software that ensures that the workflow is set up intuitively and followed
  • Adopt a simplified workflow that makes sense for everyone involved

Let’s look at a simple example of a situation where some specific training improves business efficiency quickly. The first person in the decision-making process is whoever is managing the front desk. That person needs some level of understanding of how diagnostics work.

Not every customer who comes into the shop has a problem that requires hardware repair. And not every device needs to be passed on to a technician.

Of course, the technician’s time is too valuable to be spent in the front office just so that the initial diagnostics is done right. It would be much better to have someone who’s a sales or customer service representative but is also trained in the workflow process. 

Russell divides all ‘repair’ issues into four categories. You’ve got hardware and software issues that need repair work.

Then there’s the likelihood that the customer is using the device incorrectly. This is the third and Russell calls it an "educational opportunity." Things like incorrect settings and setups are examples.

The fourth is "environmental issues." If it’s not the device or the setting, it has to be the environment in which a customer is using the device. Poor connectivity provides a clear example of this one. Users might think it’s a problem with the device even though it’s an external factor.

There’s no reason for the device to go to a technician if the front office employee can rule out  software and hardware issues right off the bat. If a customer service representative can have a significant impact on your business with only a little training, it’s worth the effort to spend time on it as the repair shop grows.

The same is true for every other employee, including the technicians. For example, if technicians can understand that turnaround time is just as (or more) important as cost is for customers, they’ll find it easier to accept the repair queue you’ve designed. Also, service managers take note: an overworked technician messes up repairs more often and you should be looking to save time in other areas of the workflow.

The Repair Workflow You've Set Up

There’s no standardized model that can guarantee a 100% successful repair workflow. However, there needs to be a way to reduce those common issues that affect all repair shops, big and small — losing track of devices, increased paperwork to copy and paste the same data on all platforms, and switching between applications or tabs to complete one repair. 

Workflow management needs to do more than just be functional — it needs to push the business to be better. A good service and repair shop software can help you accomplish this.

An employee printing out and scanning barcodes. Your repair workflow must help employees and technicians focus on the repair and the customers.
Your repair workflow must help employees and technicians focus on the repair and the customers.

Device Check-in: Get It Right the First Time

The first thing the repair shop needs to do is evaluate the issue as soon as a customer comes through the door. Ask yourself why are they at your service center?

You do not want your technicians working with a device that works fine, wasting both the technician's and the customer’s time.

"Often what would happen is the technician would get something that didn't even have a problem, what they needed to do was educate the customer," says Russell, who also owned an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP). "That's why the whole idea of having someone who’s not at least a little familiar with the technology can be inefficient."

The best solution would be to have a check-in workflow that anyone can follow. Fixably’s device specific ‘check-in macro’ is an example. For instance, any user who checks in an iPhone on Fixably using the macro is forced to check if the ‘Find My iPhone’ feature has been turned off. Apple requires device owners to switch it off before a repair can be done.

There’s also the option of service portals that allow customers to check-in devices online and ship them later. This would mean having a guided check-in form in the service portal. Your repair shop employee will only have to scan the device when it is mailed in or dropped off.

It is these sort of functions that a computer or phone repair shop software can perform. Most repair business software focus on only POS (point of sale). Repair management, though, requires much more.

If you have B2B customers, the intake will need to work differently. You’d have to find ways to accept repair orders in bulk and have multiple customer profiles connected to the same company.

We also can’t forget everything that happens during this process has to be documented. Smaller businesses often use a basic checklist that guides people through the process. The data then has to be copied and pasted into all the different services that need it, from diagnostic tools to billing solutions.

The error rate increases each time this copy-and-paste is done. To fix this, use a tool that automates all your processes such that the original data is passed on without manual intervention.

Repair Management: Keep Software to a Minimum

The less time a technician spends following up on paperwork or clarifying information, the more efficiency you get. The right repair shop management tool can automate most such repair management tasks.

The service manager plays the most important role in overseeing the repair workflow. While they do not feature in every single repair job, the processes set up are often their responsibility. However, in a relatively small repair shop, that will be the owner’s job.

This also includes creating and managing the repair queue. Repair orders need to be prioritized based on when devices are brought in, device type, customer profile, and so on. This task can be automated, rather than requiring a decision every time. Luckily, modern repair management solutions likely have macros — controlled shortcuts to complete a task — that can automate the workflow right out of the box.

The repair work queue would help technicians know how to prioritize repair orders. With Fixably’s repair shop software, technicians can either pick a job themselves or the service manager can assign jobs to them. This gets rid of some of the friction in the workflow.

If you have many repair technicians who are experienced in a certain device or brand, that would be a factor to consider in managing repair tickets.

For example, Apple has separate certifications for devices that run iOS and macOS. Each technician also has a technician ID that needs to be added to repairs. Some specific models require the tech to complete training modules before they can repair the device. 

All the information collected during the check-in needs to be attached to the repair order so that technicians have access to it. This is followed by a structured inspection. For instance, the Visual/Mechanical Inspection (VMI) guide is used at Apple Care centers.

If required, the technician runs a diagnostic test to determine the best fix for the device. Apple technicians use GSX and AST2 (Apple Service Toolkit 2). Samsung technicians would use Galaxy MUST. 

However, there are general-purpose diagnostic tools available as well. Afterward, another test is run to ensure the repair was successfully completed and no new issues pop up. 

By now, you’re aware that there are multiple software applications in use during this workflow. Apart from the diagnostics tools, there’s a database application or a repair ticketing system, and an email client. This number goes up as you move along the workflow.

To improve efficiency, the best way would be to have an application that combines all of it on one platform. This will help improve turnaround time and allow your business to service more devices per technician.

Fixably’s GSX integration ensures that at no point during the repair process does the technician have to exit the central repair workflow to manage the order. (NOTE: Certain diagnostics can only be performed directly from Apple’s GSX portal.)

Customer Communication: Provide Timely Updates

Once a technician knows if a part needs to be replaced, you would need the customer to sign off on the cost before you place the order.

Efficient customer communication is one of the hardest parts of managing the repair workflow. The technician would need to create a message to confirm if the repair needs to be completed based on the cost of the exact product or service that was needed.

If left to individual technicians, these communication efforts can be erratic. It’s really important to have a communication module that allows technicians to relay clearly and easily what is needed in a structured manner without impacting the business’s brand or reputation.

A proper communication tool would also update the technician when a new message or an update from a customer arrives so that the repair order then proceeds to the next step.

It’s poor time management for the tech to be checking emails or other messaging applications periodically to track customer communication. And worse, a missed message could result in technicians overlooking a repair ticket, delaying what would otherwise have been a normal repair.

Also, you need to meet customer expectations on how they would like to be contacted. Not everyone wants to get a call. Some people might prefer a text or an email.

Organized parts and products at a repair shop. You need a system and a software tool that gives you the ability to locate parts and products instantly.
You need a system and a software tool that gives you the ability to locate parts and products instantly.

Inventory: Only the Right Repair Management Tool Works

The service manager or the shop owner would be in charge of the inventory. Both of these roles require experience, but even the most experienced manager can lose track of things.

Your repair tracking software needs to carry the responsibility of making inventory management easier. It needs to track all the parts that are in stock and alert the owner or service manager when inventory is running low. It would be best if ordering parts is built into the system as well. The fewer channels to manage, the better.

Plus, all of these records need to be digital and available as part of accounting and reporting features. If you’re a relatively large business, the service manager may need to set up or change the inventory structure to meet the repair business’s needs. 

It would depend on a multitude of factors like the number of locations, the type of repairs you handle, the manufacturers you have contracts with, and more. Tracking and moving around parts across locations needs to be done accurately.

With Fixably’s repair and service management software, for example, the inventory management features are flexible and there are no limits on how many different stock items you can track and manage. There is also the possibility to link the stock to a specific brand or customer, if necessary, and even track consignment stock.

Depending on the type of customers you have, the service manager will also have to oversee return merchandise authorization (RMA) or return authorization (RA). If a customer comes in with a faulty device during the product’s warranty period, the manufacturer will refund you for the replacement part. Although, you might have to return the defective part.

Invoicing and Financial Reporting: Uncompromised Access to Business Data

The device usually moves from technician to being ready for pickup or shipping. Though invoices are managed by the office manager or the owner, the front office will handle the actual billing when the customer comes in to pick up the device. Or the logistics team might be the ones to take care of it if the device has to be shipped back to the customer.

Once again, all the information needs to be available to them so that the technician, the service manager, and the store owner are not involved more than required. The best option would be to have a workflow that connects each repair order to a client account that has all the information anyone will need to do their job.

A Solution for Your Repair Business

It doesn't matter what kind of repair business you have, you need a service management tool that will act as the heart of organizing your operations. We’ve put our extensive experience in the repair service business to develop Fixably.

Numerous features in our repair and service management software, Fixably, will make your life easier, your clients happier, and help you scale a profitable repair business.

Our platform can offer time and cost savings through leading-edge automation and workflows built specifically for electronics repair shops. It's an enterprise-level solution that is available to businesses of all sizes — from individual business owners and family-owned repair shops to international multi-location operators (and anything in between).

We’re here to help you. Book a time with us and we’ll show you how Fixably can be the solution you need for your repair and service business.

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