Yesterday, I brought my car to my shiny, huge car dealership. Brand new cars everywhere. The dealership is so busy they have over 100 loaners for their customers. However, what they don’t have is a viewing system for the millions of paper pages of car service record documents they store. With the hundreds of pages of paper they generate every business day, I was shocked to hear that they only recently started scanning their documents.
When I bought my car, I bought paint protection, as well as tire and rim protection. These purchases were accompanied by lots of paper forms that included typed (yes, really) information, hand-printed information, and a lot of colored, multi-page NCR forms with small print. Those documents are stored in my paper record they have on file and therefore not immediately available to the service manager when talking to a customer. Instead, that information has to be manually extracted later from the paper file.
And even though the dealership has computer terminals everywhere that allow them to look up customer information, it only contains basic information such as car description, VIN, and a simple entry on prior service calls. When they punch in the new information, they then print out the documents for the customer to review, initial, and return–at which point it then gets routed to the proper service personnel and eventually filed.
Seems crazy for a dealership that is part of a large corporation that has over 60 dealerships and more than a billion dollars in annual sales, yeah? Given most modern automobiles have over 20 computer processors in the car and some, like mine, are connected to the web via cellular data links, how does their record system lag so far behind?
I didn’t get a chance to ask, but it is obvious that their priorities are elaborate and glitzy showrooms that generate business by showcasing their latest and fanciest new cars. Like many businesses still pushing a lot of paper, record handling isn’t their expertise and the amount of work they need to do to convert to digital records is probably intimidating.
Well, I’ve got the solution for them. You probably guessed it from the title. With the latest HTML5 technology, the requirements on the client side for establishing or upgrading a digital records handling system is quite minimal. Any computer desktop, laptop, or mobile device that has a browser can be turned into a powerful records viewing and workflow system. Installation and training can be quick and easy because there are no software installation requirements on the client terminal. Instead, all the set-up is handled on the company’s servers. Those servers run the programs that extract scanned or digital documents from a data repository (which can be as simple as a file system sorted by customer name or as sophisticated as a Content Management System) and then processed and sent to the browser on the client terminal.
In the event that my car dealership stumbles across this post, I’ll outline the few simple steps they would need to take to get started with the document viewing set-up described above:
1) The first steps are to not only continue to scan old paper records, but also start scanning the new ones right at the service manager’s desk so they can be put directly into a document repository.
2) Minimize the documents being printed by going digital wherever possible. Let the customer view them on a terminal and if initials or a signature is needed, use a handprint scanner to put them immediately into a digital record.
3) Additional documents such as 3rd party service forms (like the paint repair) can also be scanned at point of sale. A photo of the car, signature sign-offs, faxes, the driver’s license, and whatever else needs to be in the record should all be scanned. Emails, Word and/or PDF documents should be inserted digitally. At this point, index the repository by customer and use an HTML5 viewer to request customer’s records on the spot and display them on the service manager’s screen.
4) As the system is perfected, additional capabilities like notes or approval stamps can be added digitally so that documents can be forwarded to the service personnel electronically as a true workflow system.
Following these steps means saying goodbye to paper folders, goodbye to lost or misplaced documents, and goodbye to delays while people run around looking for missing paperwork. All the user needs to do is to go to the terminal and bring up the complete record.
The fact that I was able to outline all the necessary steps to a more streamlined workflow in the span of one blog post should indicate it isn’t rocket science.. Yes, you can get fancy with OCR, data recognition, and specialized indexing systems, but even if you can just retrieve the customer folder through a simple file management system into an HTML5 viewer that can work on any computer or mobile device, you will be much further along in streamlining your processes, getting more efficient, billing more accurately, and enjoying happier customers because you can service their cars more quickly with less errors.
See Snowbound’s website for more details about our HTML5 viewers.