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Michael Esposito

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Are Your Technology Vendors Providing Good Value?

 

In a recent survey that Auto/Mate conducted, we asked 160 auto dealer general managers and senior managers about the perceived value they were getting from their dealership management system (DMS) vendors.

The exact question was, “On a scale of 1-5, rate the overall value of your DMS (does the amount you pay seem the right amount for overall functionality, customer service and training?)”

The disparity in the answers was surprising. A couple of vendors had fewer than 10% of their customers rate them as “good or excellent” value, while others had upwards of 80% of their customers rate them as “good or excellent” value.

I won’t name names because the goal here is not to promote one vendor over another, but to explore how managers determine whether or not a vendor is giving them appropriate value; and more importantly, what it takes on a vendor’s part to provide good value to its customers.

Cost: the cost of any product or service is an important consideration when it comes to determining value. Survey results revealed that the most expensive vendors were least likely to be rated as “good or excellent” value. However, as everyone knows going for the cheapest option isn’t always going to be what’s best for your store, either. Just as consumers consider what they’re getting for the price of a car, dealership managers consider the benefits from their technology in relation to the price they’re paying.

Functionality: When it comes to features and functions, one of the best exercises to determine value is to create a “must have” features list, and a “wish list.” To create your “must have” list, write down all the tasks in every department that you do on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis, then list all the associated functions in the software that allow you to do those tasks. The software features that don’t make it to the “must have” list, but that you enjoy using, will go on the “wish list.” Then compare the two lists and examine the extra costs associated with the “wish list” features. Is it worth it to pay double, or triple, for those features that aren’t absolutely necessary to run your business? Or would you rather add that money to your bottom line?

Customer Service: In our survey there was a close co-relation between the quality of customer service and perceived value. The good news is that only 7% of respondents rated their vendor’s customer service as “poor” or “very poor.” The majority at 37% rated their vendor as “average/OK,” while 31% rated “good” and 26% rated “excellent.”

How do you define good customer service? Being able to get a live person on the phone within five minutes, or getting a call back within hours? Do your vendors listen to you and do what it takes to solve your problem? Do they follow up afterwards to make sure everything is still OK?

Training: The more employees are trained to use a technology, the more value they can get out of that particular system. The quality and amount of training that a vendor provides is a critical piece to the value puzzle. Providing training manuals, online video tutorials, phone training, live chat and/or interactive help options allows users to choose the method that is best suited for them, and allows them to proceed at their own pace.

If auto dealerships don’t provide good value to their customers, chances are those customers won’t return to purchase another vehicle. So why should auto dealers expect any less from their vendors? How do you define value and is value the overriding factor in choosing a vendor or is there something else?

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