This is not a discussion of what new software to buy for your dealership; it’s about how to choose the right tool for you.
Any dealership in Canada today is using computers and software, of course. What will differ from dealership to dealership — and in my experience, differ considerably — is what software they use and for what applications.
I would be surprised (shocked?) if you are not using a DMS, a CRM system, and at least a handful of other products. A big business today is touting a single “dealer management system” that does it all, which sounds like the whole ball of wax, but, of course, one must be careful here, as it’s really hard to replace specialty applications with a single behemoth product and expect the same boutique quality.
We believe in a strong DMS at the core (check out XSellerator, our parent company Quorum’s DMS offering) in combination with tightly integrated specialty applications.
So let’s talk about how to find the right solution for your dealership. What you’ll want to consider is: the importance of involving your colleagues in deciding what software the company needs next; the pivotal importance of giving your employees “ownership” of the decision; the value of defining your expectations specifically and realistically; the need to pin down what the new software does that solves clearly defined problems; and, the indispensable value of references.
Group Decisions Lead to Group Success
You can buy and install new software, and direct employees to use it, but how fully and effectively the functionality of the software is exploited inevitably depends, to a considerable degree, on individual employee buy-in. A broad generalization? Then let’s say you can purchase tools and direct employees to use them, but a tool is only as good as the energy, skill, and imagination with which it is used.
So, instead of asking what new software the dealership needs, try asking employees what tasks, processes, and goals might benefit from new software. Asking the questions the right way counts. It is not always easy to imagine that a job or goal could be made easier. And sometimes the thought is threatening.
The most creative thinking often comes from brainstorming, so give employees opportunities for free-wheeling sessions to bounce ideas off one another. You might not accept their final decision, but listening will influence your own decision.
Pick a Champion
We know that the full value of involving employees in the choice of new software comes not only from their wealth of experience and ideas, but from the simple truth that their involvement in the decision gives them ownership of the new software — and a stake in showing that it was the right decision.
If the boss visibly directs the decision-making, then it is the boss’s software and the boss’s success or failure. If you don’t want that, then, at some point in the decision-making, you need to valorize a champion of the software. That means an employee enthusiastic about the empowerment that software brings to employees, enthusiastic about making a good decision, and supportive of the end result.
Does this sound manipulative? It is no more so than choosing the best individual for any job. In this case, the champion manages the communication between the dealership and the software vendor, helps to coordinate the implementation and training, and keeps track of any issues that may arise during the install.
Homework Before You Shop
The endpoint of this exercise in group decision-making, with a leader who emerges from the process, is identifying and carefully delineating what the new software must do.
When you shop for the software you need, the salesperson is motivated to claim it meets your needs. Maybe, but if you have a list of five things the software must do, your questions will be more focused and you will recognize an “oh, sure” pitch when you hear it. Can you show me how this software addresses these five needs?
When you ask if a solution can meet specific needs, don’t settle for a reply that simply reiterates the general usefulness of the software. Clearly, it will have many great features, but you want to know if it solves the problems your own employees identified as paramount.
Work the References Circuit
Do not view references as “one more box we have to check.” Hearing the opinion of other users gives you a different and invaluable perspective. If the vendor you are working with is unable or unwilling to provide references, there’s reason to pause.
I make a point of this because when it comes to references for other businesses, people are reluctant to put one over on their peers. A GM dealership seeking the best digital retailing tool should make it a point to talk to one GM dealer that is using the product that your dealership is considering. I think you might be surprised at how much you can learn in that conversation.
Whatever effort you expend in buying the right software for the job is almost trivial compared with your investment in the change in the way you do business. Yep, we said it, you can spend months picking the “perfect” solution and then have the whole thing fall flat on its face in week one. Be prepared to change the way you’ve “always done things”; as new software will almost always involve new and adapted processes.
What We Offer at Autovance
Autovance would like an opportunity to demonstrate for you the capabilities of software that has been developed, tested, and refined for automobile dealerships — software people love to use.
We know our product can deliver everything that we claim. We are motivated, always, by the vehicle purchase transaction that is the lifeblood of your business. The right technology mediates a virtually seamless transaction. It serves customers and it serves your dealership.
Check back here regularly for information, insights, and updates on software that empowers automobile dealerships.
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