Running a Shop Tech+Tools

Pit Stop: Like Everything Else, POS is Going Fully to the Web

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The point-of-sale, inventory management and customer check-in tools of the trade have long been computerized, riding the wave of a rapidly improving technology.

The internet is one of those technologies. It’s long been a part of POS systems, but the two sides haven’t fully depended on one another. If the internet went down, there would still be local files at a shop—physically or on a computer’s hard drive.

In so many aspects of life, internet dependency has evolved over time to be deeper and more constant. Many businesses simply could not operate without it. Likewise, the internet as a tool has become much more reliable than decades past for business services.

Products are emerging in the POS system marketplace that exist entirely online, whether in a web-based or app-based platform. As one of those industry players recently told NOLN, the new products can lower the cost barrier for shop management software. But it’s certainly a change from the desktop software model.

PM Attendant is one of those products. It’s a web-based model, meaning that the entire program is accessed and operated through a web browser— the same used to access any online site.

Ash Bullard, PM Attendant’s vice president of sales, talked about the rise of this type of POS system, their benefits and risks, as well as the future of shop computing tools.

 

As told to Matt Hudson

 

If It Ain’t Broke...

I’m still amazed that there are so many people using pencil and paper still. Successful shops. You can't knock what they're doing, but at the end of the week, I've talked to multiple people who have to add up all their receipts to get their sales tax. So, they spend an hour or two on Saturday afternoon before they close up just totaling up their sales tax for the week. Well a click of a button with one of the newer systems, and you’re done.

Those people who are on paper still or on older systems, in general, are good with vehicles, not with technology. And so you don't know what type of computer to buy, much less what system to put on the computer. So, there’s a real hesitation with a lot of people on what to do on the hardware.

With a web-based system, it’s pretty much whatever computer, tablet you want to use. It leaves a lot of options out there.

 

Reliance on Web Access

One of the other things I’ve seen that’s changed over the past decade is that, when I first started doing this, everyone was really concerned with the internet. What if the internet goes down? Now I very rarely have that conversation, but I had one last Friday. The conversation was, “Well, how many employees do you have?”

Each employee has a phone in their pocket, probably a smartphone, and you would have your entire POS on that phone if it had access to the internet. So, you probably have five, six points of contact with your POS in the shop without even thinking about it.

Rural, small-town customers didn’t always have access to reliable high-speed internet. Because the downside is that if you've got a web-based system, then you don’t have a local system. So if the internet goes down, you are down, which is not as big of a problem today.

It opens you up to remote access if you’re a web-based system. If anybody steals hardware from your shop? You haven't lost anything. Fire? It’s disaster proof. You backup system is inherent with the fact that you use a web-based system.

 

How POS Evolves

Fifteen years ago, the cheapest system you could buy was $6,500 to start using. You talk about an initial investment. Now, we’ve been a big part of driving that cost down.

That is a very web, software-as-a-service model. It’s not a software hardware combo model. That really lower the barrier to entry for a shop owner to get in. 

I think the exciting thing that’s coming with the mobile technology and the 5G is that we’re going to make the capabilities of the web based systems more prolific and add additional plugins.

There are so many options and good, cool ideas, but how useful is it going to be at the shop? A lot of the stores aren’t super techy. They're really good with cars but not as good with technology. And so that balance of making sure that the technicians are keeping their heads under the hood and not on a computer screen. That’s a real challenge. You’ve got to have a tool for them to get on and off, get the information they need, get back to servicing the customer and working on the vehicle.

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