Executive Interview: Ben Johnson, Director Of Product Management, Mitchell 1 -

Executive Interview: Ben Johnson, Director Of Product Management, Mitchell 1

Ben Johnson's expertise in the automotive aftermarket industry began on the shop floor and grew through his career as he moved from owning his own auto repair center to his current position as Director of Product Management for Mitchell 1, a leading provider of Repair Information, Shop Management Software and CRM solutions to the Automotive Aftermarket. In between, he developed expertise in vehicle technology at Delphi as Director of Global Product Development for Service Tools and Educational Products, at the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) as a Project Manager, and in other leadership positions in product management and diagnostic platforms in the automotive industry.

Ben Johnson’s expertise in the automotive aftermarket industry began on the shop floor and grew through his career as he moved from owning his own auto repair center to his current position as Director of Product Management for Mitchell 1, a leading provider of Repair Information, Shop Management Software and CRM solutions to the Automotive Aftermarket. In between, he developed expertise in vehicle technology at Delphi as Director of Global Product Development for Service Tools and Educational Products, at the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) as a Project Manager, and in other leadership positions in product management and diagnostic platforms in the automotive industry.

New technologies and ­resources to help shop owners are being ­introduced at a fast and ­furious pace. Why is it so ­important for shop owners and technicians to keep up?

Today’s repair professionals are getting more and more technology savvy — they simply don’t have a choice given the complex diagnostic challenges they face every day. Since the introduction of computer-controlled cars and trucks in the late 1990s, vehicles have become increasingly advanced. You can see it in the number of pages of information created to service vehicles.

In 1995, Mitchell 1 processed and published about 200,000 pages of information annually. Now that number is over 1.2 million – almost six times more information. No technician can possibly know 1.2 million pages worth of information in his or her head, but technology like Mitchell 1’s ProDemand literally puts it at their fingertips in a matter of seconds.

Working more efficiently is a universal goal for shop owners. Please tell us how Mitchell 1’s information solutions help shops accomplish a higher level of efficiency.

For more than 90 years, Mitchell 1 has been dedicated to making automotive professionals’ jobs easier. Our solutions give shops a suite of powerful tools to streamline their workflow from the moment the customer walks in the door through to the final invoice.

The amount of data required to diagnose and repair cars is increasing every year. Mitchell 1 addresses this issue by optimizing search capabilities, delivering repair data in a more granular format and providing relevant information from our vast information database such as procedures, related  diagrams, specifications and TSBs — all from a single lookup.

We developed ProDemand with input from many shop owners and technicians to deliver a solution that truly saves time and makes their job easier. We found that whether they were using an aftermarket repair information system or one from a vehicle manufacturer, the most common complaint was that they could not find ­repair information fast enough. ­ProDemand changes the game for ­efficiency by not only housing the ­information in one location, but helping technicians to find content faster, easier and smarter.

Really efficient shops also leverage shop management software to take better control of not only their repairs, but every aspect of managing their business, from front to back. ManagerSE empowers shops to write accurate and profitable estimates and access integrated maintenance schedules, recommendations, customer history, and a wide selection of parts catalogs. TeamWorks combines the features of ManagerSE and ProDemand to seamlessly integrate all shop operations for a truly comprehensive approach to shop productivity.

The trucking industry has similar challenges and needs. Our solutions for commercial vehicles provide technicians who work on medium and heavy trucks with a wealth of Web-based service and repair information that increases efficiency by eliminating the need for cumbersome manual searches.

Shops can sometimes miss opportunities to communicate with their ­customers. How does Mitchell 1 help shops improve in this area?

We understand the challenges shops face here, and we’ve spent a great deal of time and effort developing solutions to help them improve customer communication. We recently introduced ProPack, a customer communication toolbox specifically designed to help repair shops better connect with their customers. ProPack includes three modules: Message Pro uses text messaging to let shops communicate in real time with vehicle owners; Lube Sticker Pro automates easily-overlooked best practices like setting the customer’s next appointment and printing a windshield reminder; and Report Pro consolidates the information customers need to understand the work performed on their vehicle into a ­single, easy-to-read report.

Another big challenge in the ­current economic climate is retaining customers and attracting new ­customers.

So true. Shop owners are looking for ways beyond the typical postcards and emails to help retain their existing customers and attract new ones. They see their customers using social media and understand the potential there, but often don’t know how to get started with a social media marketing strategy.

Our SocialCRM product helps them on both fronts. So far, the response to our newest communication tool, including verified consumer reviews and social media management, has been very positive. We do everything from setting up their Facebook page, to collecting authentic customer reviews, automating thank-you emails and designing targeted marketing ­promotions. Our shop customers tell us they appreciate having a partner to help them find their way.

How are your products evolving to meet industry needs?

At Mitchell 1, we have two major areas of focus. First, we’re committed to helping our customers improve productivity and efficiency. Therefore, we’re constantly listening to our customers and adding functionality that meets their need for a more streamlined operation. Second, we’re focused on helping shops grow their bottom lines. Every shop is in business to make a profit, and we’re committed to adding new features and services that will help our customers maximize their profits.

As a specific example, we designed ProDemand with scalability and flexibility so that we can react to customer needs and industry demands more quickly than ever before. In fact, the product has evolved quite a bit since its original launch in April.

The most recent enhancement is the integration of Estimator in ProDemand. With Estimator embedded directly in the application, shops can streamline their workflow even more. And features like enhanced editing capabilities give shops more control over their estimates and help them write the estimate accurately the first time.

We have many other exciting ­developments on the horizon, so stay tuned.

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