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Why can't it be both? What happened to the days when vendors were forced to have strong technology and amazing customer service rather than today's trend which seems to force dealers to choose between one or the other?
Here are the descriptions of both types of vendors:
It's the nature of the beast. Search, social, lead generation, website design, mobile, CRM - it seems like the technology is advancing too fast for most vendors to stay fresh. As a result, the bigger vendors are the ones who have the resources to keep their technology at the top. Unfortunately, they fall into a catch-22; by being large enough to have the resources to stay ahead, they are also faced with the big-boat-syndrome of not being agile enough to make swift adjustments when major changes occur in things such as the Google search algorithm or website coding advancements.
Having proven technology that works today and that will continue to work tomorrow is the only real solution for dealers that want to stay ahead of the curve.
Technology is great, but it comes at a price. All too often, the vendors that are large enough to have the resources to develop the best technology have not been able to scale their customer service and keep it personal. Moreover, the trend towards the coveted big contract changes the focus of the vendor; when they land an OEM contract, their client is no longer the dealer. They now answer to the OEM. This is bad news for customers service at the dealership level.
Smaller companies tend to hold each individual client at a higher value than larger ones and must do whatever they can to keep their customer service at its highest level. Dealers might love technology, but if you can't fulfill their needs at a personal level and treat them as more than just a number, they'll still leave.
This is where the advice comes into play. Don't get wooed by technology alone. Don't settle for second-rate technology just for strong customer service. It's challenging to fill both shoes, but for a dealership to be truly satisfied with their vendor, they must take the time to find out how both sides of the coin work for that vendor.
This is where vetting comes into play. When taking a pitch from a vendor, be sure to write down all of the things that impressed you most about the technology. Test it out by finding dealers that are using the technology. Don't find 3 or 4. Find 20. Then call them. All of them.
When you call the other dealers, be certain to focus on the customer service component. The technology is important, but if their dealers have to waste too much time trying to get changes done to their website or are unable to have consultations on a regular basis with an expert at the vendor, they're probably not the right vendor for you.
Dealers no longer have to settle for anything less than the best of both worlds. For too long, they've trusted their vendors up until the point that they get fed up with the technology not working, the customer service falling short, or both. If you truly vet each potential vendor partner for both criteria, the result will be much better in the long term. It's not an easy process, but nobody likes switching vendors all the time. Find the right one right now and enjoy a long and mutually beneficial relationship with them.