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August 19, 2015

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Service drive technology – Increase Revenue and Improve Customer Satisfaction

The purpose of this workshop is to help build your fixed operations brand and hence improve its profits. Service departments have for years been called “Fixed-Ops” or “Fixed Operations”. Have you ever taken a moment to find out why? In a great article written by Don Reed in Auto Dealer Today on line magazine titled “The Meaning Behind the Term “Fixed Operations”, he said it was ” because you don’t have as many variable conditions in service and parts as you do in sales.” And that essentially your customer count tends to be the same month after month. Have you wondered why the customer count does not increase with the number of sales? After all the customer has to bring the car back to your dealership for most the services needed. So as your customer count in sales goes up why does it not go up in service department also? After all you have just increased the pool of people who need you to service their car. This very specific and important question is the essence of this workshop. Why is it that a dealership that sells 100 cars a month does not show an ever increasing monthly number of customer pay repairs at their service department. I actually do not like the term “Fixed-Ops” as it is limiting and implies lack of growth. So, from now on and in this workshop we are going to refer to service department just that! Service department or perhaps Parts and service department!

A few days ago, I was listening to the BBC World News station. In one very interesting documentary, they were discussing the eminent emergence of the cars that are self driving. Wow, how cool is that I thought, you could sit in the back seat and work or snooze or whatever else you wanted to do. All those text junkies will feel that they have died and gone to heaven, no more having to go without texting for a few minutes of their lives! Well, this although eminent is still a bit in the future. The physical relation with other vehicles and the mental calculation a driver does in busy major cities makes this a bit more complex. So, maybe not immediately, but we are going to own use and yes have to repair the said vehicles. Wow, can you imagine the complexity of repairs and the extent of knowledge of a technician of the millennium? And the opportunity all of this offers for the service department. Although we don’t have the “self driving” car, we still have cars that stop when facing an obstacle, veer around an obstacle, warn us when we are about to move right or left when there is a car next to us and essentially help us drive far more safely. With blind spot protection, manufacturers are already talking about reduction in sheet metal sales. But all of this safety has a price, higher repairs cost and potentially more repairs. This is a great opportunity for the automotive service world. Now, all we need to do is address the first point in the paragraph, why are our repair numbers not steadily increasing and what can we do about it? And then what next steps we need to take to improve service department absorbency far beyond 100%. That will be discussed in my workshop titled “Service drive technology – Increase Revenue and Improve Customer Satisfaction” presented at Digital Dealer 19 in Vegas this October, I will be honored to see you there so that we may further explore this topic together.

June 22, 2015

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We Will Be Closed In Observance of Independence Day


 We will be closed in observation of Independence Day from July 3rd – July 5th, 2015.

Normal business hours will resume on Monday, July 6th, 2015.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day!

May 6, 2015

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CDK Global approved interface

We are honored to announce that Gratis Solutions is now an approved interface with CDK Global.  Service-Pay-Online for CDK dealers, as well as many others, is totally seamless and requires no human interaction.  Once the RO is completed in that DMS, the communication with the consumer via text, post or email can initiate where the customer can pay the repair through a secure system directly online.  This makes lines at the end of the day shorter, life easier for service advisors, less need of yet another cashier who does not know what the repair was, and most importantly, less red tape when someone is using a spouse’s or parent’s card to pay.


March 10, 2015

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Saphura Long, presenter at the 2015 Digital Dealer Conference

It is with great honor I announce that I have been chosen as a workshop presenter at the upcoming Digital Dealer Conference in Tampa Florida April 21-23, 2015.  My workshop is entitled “Wondering Why Your ecommerce Marketing Campaign is lacking in ROI?” This workshop is held Thursday the 23rd at 10:00 am. If you wish to join us at Digital Dealer, you may receive a discount of $100 if you use my “sharable discount code” of DD18SL.  Also, visit us at Booth #115.

I hope to see you there,

Saphura Long


Gratis Technologies

November 4, 2014

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Join the ranks of the winners


Join the ranks of the winners

Dealertrack and autoWALL Service-Pay-Online

It is an honor to have received the prestigious DealerTrack certification with Opentrack and the integration with the Dealertrack DMS.  Service-Pay-Online for Dealertrack dealers, as well as many others, is totally seamless and requires no human interaction.  Once the RO is completed in that DMS, the communication with the consumer via text, post or email can initiate where the customer can pay the repair through a secure system directly online.  This makes lines at the end of the day shorter, life easier for service advisors, less need of yet another cashier who does not know what the repair was, and most importantly, less red tape when someone is using a spouse’s or parent’s card to pay.  A win-win situation!

If you are a Dealertrack user,  click here for your very special offer.

October 29, 2014

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SPOL now texting notifications

SPOL is now texting notifications

Great News!  For very nominal charges, SPOL now can send notification via text!  Click here to sign up!

September 10, 2014

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Service Pay On Line

News Release


Gratis Solutions, the producers of autoWALL, are proud to announce another revolutionary tool added to its arsenal of client care; SPOL or Service-Pay- On-Line is now released and successfully operational. Service-Pay-on-line makes the lives of customers and service personnel much easier and payment of a repair much quicker. autoWALL’s core functionality is focused on addressing the needs of the everyday common user of dealership services and the onset of SPOL, makes that customer experience just that much easier and more seamless. Rather than waiting to pay at a dealership cashier or service advisor at the end of a tired business day, SPOL users will be able to pick up their vehicle and go. Service advisors will already have been notified of the on line payment having been made. Or the customer can show their receipt on their mobile device, retrieve vehicle and drive off.

Saphura Safavi Long, president of Gratis Solutions, indicated that this one tool has brought more attention to the company in a short period of time than any other of the tools available within the autoWALL Interactive Customer Community. She attributes this success to a need in this vertical that is being addressed easily and with as few human interactions as possible. We all know that service advisors and accounting professionals at the dealership are busy and a process that makes their life easier, only adds to employee productivity and dealership bottom line.

A client service director indicated that this single tool makes not only the life of the consumer easier, but it also improves CSI as the customer does not have to wait at pick up. Also the advisors are not overly busy at pick up time so that they can address customer needs other than cashiering hurriedly at the end of the day. In this process there are also increased opportunities to discuss upcoming services as well as any declined services and a further buy-in is acquired from the consumer.

Of Course, the autoWALL declined service functionality, along with its reputation management capability singlehandedly delivers Google scores of 4.5-5.0 for a dealership, which is a requirement for today’s millennial consumers. it also delivers over 31% increase in organic leads and around 50-70% improvements in unique visitors. All this along with appointment setting capabilities and developing the branding of a service department are outstanding characteristics of this unique and revolutionary system.

Gratis Technologies has as its investors’ automotive dealers and professionals and is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee the home of one of the fastest fiber optics cities in the northern hemisphere. The tools are all developed in responsive web design and are developed in the latest available software environments. Please visit their website or call them on 423-521-7806 or email

September 3, 2014

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Loyalty begins with the seller

The art of selling is synonymous with the art of showing that you care!

We all want our customers to be loyal to us because it is so expensive to gain a customer, especially in today’s world where competition is so fierce.  We kill ourselves, or feel like we did, to gain a customer and after he or she buys from us, that customer never comes back for service or for a second purchase.  This is especially difficult as today’s auto business is far more about retention than acquisition.  The question is what makes a customer buy from us just once? Or perhaps the better question is what makes a customer a loyal, repeat customer.

After some 20 years of experience in customer management and serving over 500 dealerships in CRM and now with autoWALL, and much research, I have some conclusions that need discussing and they are as follows.

  1. When selling focus on the relationship rather than the sale.  Think of it as a family member asking your opinion on something so; be forth right in answering questions, remember you might sell them once but never again otherwise.  This is extremely applicable to the millennial as they have no loyalty to the car but they will build a relationship with the seller .Truth to be known disingenuous, people have a very low chance of selling anyhow.  This is a major problem in the automotive world as the focus is so much on the present sale that the relationship is forgotten.  Remember the true “BEST” salesmen have a great following who buy from them time and again and that is because they have mastered this art to perfection. Such focus increases your odds of winning the first sale and of retaining the customer for future purchases. Obviously, if you don’t win the first sale, you have nothing to retain.
  2. Pay attention to your COI on this matter.  What is COI?  Cost of ignoring!  Do not ignore the customer relationship.  So you say, I have a CRM, I have many salesmen and I have Internet department and a slew of wonderful service advisors.  That is all true, but what is your relationship barometer?  How do you gauge the “true” treatment of your customer?  Having CRM and enabling the consumers “voice” are two very different things.  CRM is a great tool, don’t get me wrong, and is very much needed but is designed for selling and its focus is inward not outward toward the customer. You need more because the customer wants more.
  3. The world is changing are you going to change with it? Dinosaurs were huge and successful and are extinct. So, remember your new consumer the millennial, they respond to transparency, and open lines of two way communication.  The systems you bought ten years ago do not address their needs.  The open lines of communication are the killer here!  This requires direct ability to contact to an “enabler” and that person in many cases can be many different people.
  4. Lastly remember that the most successful companies are those that focus on the needs of everyday common people; those are your customers.  Ask yourself this question “is my company at present equipped to do so”?

August 26, 2014

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Ten Rules for Creating Customer Loyalty


True customer loyalty means making the relationship more important than making the sale.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  Click here for the full article.

August 11, 2014

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This is a Time for Change

From the years as a CRM developer and marketer, I understood the importance of generating a lead and selling that lead. Of course our well being is tied to the word “sell”! But the focus has to change from selling one vehicle to the subsequent “sales” and revenue generated from those deals. In short, one should not kill the “golden Goose” but nurture it and generate a great relationship to assure she will lay more eggs and does so regularly.

And, how do we do this? Of course the first answer is that we bought the best CRM in the market, we have trained our sales staff and BDC and they are “handling” our customers.

Of course “handling” something or someone does not necessarily indicate “handling with care”, which is not the case most of the time, when talking about customer handling through CRM, by sales staff.

And, if a customer is unhappy and would like to have a dialogue with someone other than salesman or service advisor! We all know how available the management staff of a dealership is and how readily the customer can get through the latest phone trees of the new dealerships to actually have a dialogue.

On top of that we all boast our beautiful “plastic websites”. How much business is that really giving you? Who is telling you that it is producing result? Your vendor? And most importantly if your site is so result producing, how come you have to pay for your leads? And, if your CRM is so good in delivering marketing results, how come you have so many other vendors who market for you? Have you considered asking yourself why is it needed for an auto dealership to have so many vendors just to operate? Have you considered looking into the duplications of efforts for which you are paying?

Why is it that auto dealerships have to reach out for so many services to so many vendors?

First reason is that the mentality of “I can do what I want and you can do nothing about it” perpetuated and initiated by the DMS providers. Of course they have enablers also and who they may be but the OEM. You see it is impossible for a new DMS provider to sell to a dealer unless they were first certified by their OEM no matter how good that product may be. So, there might be an state of the art DMS that can outdo and deliver most services a dealer needs, but he will never be able to get in front of a dealer until he is certified by OEM, and the OEM employees who perform those certifications will ask why I should certify you as you have no dealer of my type? Do you remember the “chicken and the egg”?…….

So, now the same process of must be certified before I buy is also applied to CRM and website; effectively eliminating the right and power of competition within this industry. For those who are certified vendors, this is a haven of opportunity, for the end user and new producer of tools and services a nightmare!

Who is to blame?

The OEM people are under bombardment from many vendors who would like to sell. The dealer the same and he also has to comply with the requirements of his OEM and others. The vendor, well he is raking in and really has no incentive to produce better product as the door is closed to innovation. The only possibility of hope belies with the dealer, he usually has the resources to acquire or “test” new products and he also does have the ear of OEM if he saw a tool worthy of consideration and his well being is really tied to seeking and finding new technologies or services that improve upon the old. There are many dealers who are outstanding in this realm and my hat is off to them but they their ranks are few! So, if as dealers we want change, we must also agree to change our mindset. If your company is important to you then, realize that it has to change with times and that means so do its service providers. The following are some recommended steps!

  1. All processes should be regularly up for review
  2. All tools should have a method of measurement specific to your company
  3. Those measurements are to be reformed periodically
  4. I know there are many vendors calling your dealership and you don’t have time to talk to them! But at least put a process of vendor data collection in place so that you don’t miss the diamond in the rough! And realize that most innovations start small and don’t have the resources to climb out of the “noise and clutter” and many times it is the job of the listener to make that distinction.
  5. Don’t ever forget that someone helped you get where you are and you must pass the baton. Your survival depends on it.
  6. He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” – Abraham Lincoln