Article Contributor: Ryan Lane
I have personally been involved in purchasing, selling and implementing hundreds of different software programs at dealerships across the country. The one constant struggle with any new software has always been the implementation, and utilization of the tools. I have seen some of the best technology go unused because there was no urgency or enforcement from senior management to adopt to the new program. All too often, we see turnover in managers at our stores and the new manager used different software than what is currently installed so they convince the owners to buy a different tool. The majority of the time the software they were replacing wasn’t being used effectively, and neither will the new software.
Dealerships spend a lot of money on the newest technology because their staff says they need it, but when it comes down to it, they just don’t utilize these tools like they should. In most cases the managers or staff use the excuse that they were busy selling cars as the reason for not using the tools that are provided to them, knowing that management will be happy they are busy. I am not going to put all of the blame here on dealership staff though. Technology companies also need to take some responsibility for putting out technology that is not ready for mass use, making the dealerships guinea pigs to work out all of the bugs. I strongly believe in beta testing new tools in smaller groups rather than putting what seems like a good idea in a sales team’s hands to run wild selling across the country, creating more problems for dealerships.
However, it is possible to have it both ways. As an industry, we need to ask more from our technology providers. The companies that come up with the newest technology know their systems well enough to sell dealers on why they need it. However, too frequently a software provider will offer a few training classes and expect the dealership to know the tools like the provider does. You will have the select few employees that will just get it and use it well, but with all the turnover at dealerships today it is very difficult to keep their staff trained on how to use the tools that are paid for every month.
The problem is made more difficult due to the short life of dealership staff. Consider last year’s statistics of General Manager turnover annually of 16%, Sales Manager turnover of 27%, and Finance Manager turnover of 41%. It’s pretty difficult to implement processes, and procedures when on average you’re changing GM’s every 10 months, Sales Managers every 9 months, and finance every 7 months. That is just the management issue. When we get to the driving force of your dealership’s success, the sales staff, we see turnover of 70-100% year-over-year.
The first solution to our problem is that there needs to be enforcement from senior management to make sure the tools that they provide are being utilized. Someone in middle management needs to be tasked as the enforcer, since they are usually more hands on with working deals, and managing the staff.
Next, we need to work with our industry providers, who know these statistics, and still don’t have processes in place to help keep dealerships using their software. As an industry, we need to ask for more help from our providers, since most likely they will not ask you if you need it. There also needs to be ongoing follow up, and training provided by the automotive technology companies. With some of the largest turnover in any industry, we as technology providers all need to accept the fact that dealerships need a more hands on approach, and more follow up than we have seen for many years. We need to help ensure the tools in place are being utilized, and the staff is followed up with more frequently. This is a costlier approach for the technology providers. But my guess is that most dealerships would spend just a few more dollars to know that the tools they put in place are consistently being utilized, and their managers aren’t going to keep asking them to use a new tool because the one in place isn’t being used.
In the end, these few simple steps can change how dealerships truly benefit from all of the great technology out there, and allow them to work with companies that really understand what goes on inside a dealership, and how difficult a task it is to create and maintain a process that allows them to do their job well and sell cars.