Try Googling “auto dealership tools” and you’ll get approximately 373,000,000 results. That’s a lot of listings to choose from and you have to ask yourself, “How many of those tools truly offer solutions?”
Information Versus Integration
Dealerships are built on end-to-end systems that, ideally, are flexible enough to support the addition of supplemental tools. These tools, however, are not all equal. There are those that simply offer information and those that are designed for total integration.
For instance, a tool may identify customers with leases that are expiring in the next six months – that’s information. But if the tool can’t be incorporated into an existing system, if it doesn’t provide a solution, the dealer is left to figure out what to do with the data. Then he or she has to devote the resources to make it happen. Instead of streamlining and improving operations, the tool ends up becoming one more thing on an ever-growing “to do” list.
The other day I was talking to a GM and asked how a tool his dealership recently purchased was working for him. His answer? “It should be okay, once we change our processes.”
All too often a dealership is stuck trying to adapt the way it does business to meet the needs of a tool, instead of the other way around. The truth is, if a tool can’t function within a dealership’s system – and daily operations – it will eventually fall by the wayside.
How Much Work Does It Take to Make Work Easier?
Ten years ago, the dealers I talked to worked with four or five vendors. Today they average twenty-five to thirty. What’s more, these vendors have a battery of tools to help dealerships succeed. It’s gotten to the point where managing vendors – and their tools – can be a full-time job in and of itself.
So before making yet another investment, dealers may want to ask themselves a few questions. If the answer to each one isn’t, “Yes”, they may want to reconsider their purchase.
Am I committed to this tool and all it requires to perform properly?
Do I – and my staff – have the ability and resources to dedicate to its success?
Does the tool support existing initiatives and are they top priorities?
Is it comprehensive? Inclusive? Able to be integrated into the established system?
You Can Buy It, But Will Your Staff Buy Into It?
Even the best tools meet with some resistance when they are first introduced. Salespeople have seen other tools come and go. They’re hesitant, waiting to see whether the latest one is going to stick. If the salespeople don’t buy into it, they won’t use it. And if they won’t use it, the dealer just wasted their money.
That’s why it’s critical dealers make sure they’re purchasing a tool that can be integrated into the current system and dealership culture. It needs to support processes that are already in place, enabling staff to do something they already do – better, faster or more easily. Only then will it be embraced by those “in the trenches” and only then can it become a true asset to the dealership.
What’s the Real Cost – And Can You Afford It?
For many dealers, it’s not the cost of buying a tool that’s the problem. It’s the cost of buying a tool and not using it that can be so devastating. In addition, there’s more than just the initial cost to consider, there’s the fact that dealers are often stuck in a contract long after their team has abandoned the tool.
A failed tool costs more than dollars, though. Think of the time and effort spent training staff and “selling” them on the product. There’s also the growing frustration of salespeople, who see it as just one more thing they have to learn, until it inevitably fades away. Sometimes the price includes lost sales opportunities, or at least that may be the perception of salespeople. And finally, when a tool fails, it only makes it that much harder to introduce another one in the future, one that may truly benefit the dealership.
Here’s the Deal
Often there’s nothing “wrong” with a tool. There’s simply the reality that there’s already too much going on at the dealership. Management and the sales team literally can’t add one more thing to their plates.
That’s when it’s crucial for dealers to reassess their priorities – are their dollars, efforts and resources being allocated properly? Is the tool under consideration worthwhile? Will it save time? Sell cars? Allow the dealership to operate more effectively or efficiently? Does it support current initiatives? Does the vendor include training, support and follow-up? Most importantly, is the dealer committed to making the tool work? Because if the answer isn’t, “Yes,” the tool is destined to be just that. A tool. And not a solution.