by Herb Ludwig, Jr.
Auto glass shops of all sizes are rushing to implement computer software and systems. Several factors are driving this trend, not the least of which is insurance company requirements to implement electronic data interchange (EDI). By assessing expensive fees for the privilege of sending an invoice by fax or mail, insurance companies such as State Farm have hastened the trend toward automation. Although managers at some AGR shops feel they are being strong-armed into purchasing a glass software package, there are many good reasons to computerize that should not be overlooked.
The right software can save you money with EDI billing. It can speed your payment and thus improve cash flow. It can hold employees accountable; improve the professional image of your business; improve communication with customers and insurance clients; and improve productivity.
Before you go shopping, take a moment to ask yourself these important questions:
First, what is it you want to accomplish by implementing glass software? Are you looking to gain more control of your inventory and business? What kinds of reports are important to you? List the management and reporting tasks consuming your time.
Next, list the insurance companies you bill regularly. Determine which accept EDI billing, and how many LYNX invoices you expect to process in a year. If you do 60 or more LYNX jobs per year, the savings from EDI billing may significantly decrease the apparent cost of the software. If, for example, you do most of your business with American Family, you should set as a requirement that your software provide a link to this agency.
Third, consider how you are managing your accounting function and inventory. If you are already using an accounting software package, perhaps you should look for glass software that will accommodate your current system. Some glass software providers provide interfaces into existing accounting software packages. Be certain that the software you select can provide you with the information and reports youll need.
Fourth, try before you buy. A good way to test the software and customer support a company provides is to try it! Ask for a program demonstration with customer support. Most demos are available for free or at a minimal cost that is refundable upon purchase.
The best demos are working versions of the software that will allow you to print quotes, invoices and reports, and allow you to try the account setup and other crucial functions such as pricing. Be skeptical of demos that are simply "slide shows." Its important that you have the opportunity to try the software thoroughly.
Fifth, be a savvy shopper. There are at least five major glass software vendors vying for your business, and pricing varies. If you are already using a software vendor, review the market every two years to stay abreast of competitive pricing and capabilities.
When comparing glass software packages, be sure that you are comparing apples to apples. Beware of hidden costs or charges that are not readily apparent. Here are some direct questions you can ask:
The benefits of implementing computerization can be great. Take time, shop around and try different packages. Then, select the one that is best suited to the needs of your shop.
Herb Ludwig, Jr., is president of Data Tranz LLC, authors of the GlassShop line of EDI and inventory management software solutions to the glass industry.
© Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.