By Clare Burnett – Deputy Editor, Yorkshire
7th September 2016

“WE’RE a small company looking to challenge the big boys,” said Ben Smith, founder of Smart Garage Solutions, which aims to bring transparency to the automotive industries through innovative technology.

Mr Smith (pictured below) had worked at a media company for several years by the time he wanted a change of scenery. He had friends and family working in the garage and motor industry and heard firsthand the difficulties businesses face when trying to develop a relationship with customers.

Ben Smith is the founder of Smart Garage Solutions

The company offers two products, My Service Trust, aimed at car servicing businesses and My Sales Trust for dealerships. Both use innovative but simple technology to give independent businesses the upper hand against larger franchises, with more resources at their disposal.

With My Service Trust, when repairing a car, mechanics and technicians are given an iPod touch, with which they can record a walk-through video of any issues with the car.

A three minute video will allow customers to educate themselves about the problem with their vehicle, said Mr Smith, and specialist garages including Porsche have been eager to sign up.

The footage is then sent to a unique responsive webpage which is personal to the customer. It sounds advanced for an SME, but it has become the norm for all businesses, said Mr Smith.

“People have a totally different mentality when it comes to technology,” he said. “They expect, and even demand it, in every area of their life.

“We want people to be able to make an informed decision about their vehicle quickly.

“Bigger franchises are doing everything they can to pull customers away from the independents. What we’re doing is giving independents an opportunity to compete.

“It’s an expandable solution, and can work in other sectors. It’s all about evidence capture, creating that customer experience and allowing transparency and giving legitimacy to a garage’s work.”

He said that the way people buy cars has also changed “dramatically” over the last 30 years. People now visit an average of 1.2 dealers, instead of several – this means you have around an 85% chance of selling a car as soon as a person steps on your lot said Mr Smith.

My Sales Trust ensures that a broker can go into detail about the car’s condition online before you even arrive on the lot.

“Before, a picture could hide a multitude of sins,” said Mr Smith. “80% of people make a purchase decision after seeing a video, so the decision is effectively made off site.”

“The automotive industry is slow in taking up new technology. But by 2020 15% of the more than 22,000 independent car dealerships will be out of business. The ones that are proactive now at meeting their customer’s demands will flourish.”

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