[dropcap]D[/dropcap]ealers are no longer baffled by dealer management system (DMS) technology; why they need it, what it does, how they can use it, etc. It has become the industry norm if you want to get ahead.
However, it wasn’t too long ago that DMS software companies would have had to sit down with dealers and walk them through system functions and the countless reasons the system was better than their old ways of doing business.
Today, those dealers understand why a DMS is helpful and are turning the tables on DMS providers, offering up advice and ideas to make these systems function better and more efficiently for their day-to-day life in the dealership. The DMS has become a two-way conversation piece between dealers and DMS providers that is pushing the technology, and the powersports industry, forward.
Just because the technology isn’t brand new anymore and dealers understand it a great deal better, doesn’t mean DMS companies are resting on their laurels. There are plenty of new things these companies continue to innovate to help dealers build their business.
“One of the most dramatic changes is the ability of a dealership platform to bring heightened workplace efficiency to a staff,” says Jeff Littlejohn, DX1 president at Dominion Powersports. “By using a management platform that can handle all business tasks, dealership staff can focus on selling more and spend less time on simple daily workflow. A single platform handles all business activities and frees up time to accomplish the most important objectives: enhancing customer satisfaction and selling more.”
For many dealers, especially smaller operations, the affordability of a cloud-based management platform is a game-changer.
“Before cloud-based systems, many smaller dealerships could not afford a quality business management system,” Littlejohn says. “These systems required using servers, which cost thousands of dollars to purchase and install. Plus, servers possessed considerable IT challenges for the dealer, both at installation and afterward. Cloud-based platforms remove the immense budget hurdles and can be updated online by the service provider, eliminating IT headaches for the dealership.”
Another new innovation many DMS companies have eyes on is mobile.
“Dealers, like the rest of the world, are looking for solutions that work on their tablets and phones, solutions that go with them so they’re not behind a counter and can still work with a customer,” says Kris Denos, VP of Operations for CDK Global Recreation. “CDK has its Lightspeed Mobile App, which has customer look-up, parts look-up, and quick quote.”
CDK also has its Mobile Service Check-In, which allows a service writer to start a repair order, take pictures of a unit, utilize standard jobs and get a customer’s signature to check-in a dealer on a mobile device.
“That was one idea we mapped out with customers,” Denos says. “Another was VIN validation to help reduce the number of steps for a customer as they input a unit. If they enter a VIN it will automatically decode year, make and model. We’re constantly looking at things like this that can help with usability and the dealer workflow.”
“Many dealer requests involve integrating our DX1 platform with OEMs and other service providers, something we’re working on,” Littlejohn says. “Dealers would like to see OEM information and ordering be available through their cloud-based platform, without the need to log on to additional systems.”
The folks at NizeX and its Lizzy system are doing similar work with the likes of Western Power Sports and Tucker Rocky.
“We’re trying to provide as much integration as possible so dealers can stay within the DMS,” says Joy McClanahan, sales manager for NizeX. “We’re trying to prevent dealers from having to go to the vendor’s website to look up parts, check availability or send a purchase order. We want them to be able to stay focused on the task at hand and do it right from the DMS.”
The powersports industry is getting more sophisticated each year and dealers are driving a lot it.
“We developed an open source program last year called merX that provides capability such as real-time inventory, send purchase orders electronically, get back tracking information, send warranty claims electronically, etc.,” McClanahan says. “We created that project because dealers need to be focused on customers and running a business, and it takes a lot of time to place orders, check on registrations, check on claims, and keep up with payments and parts. It takes a lot of effort to keep up with all of that communication with the vendors, so we created that project to try to standardize the industry.
“Dealers benefit greatly from vendor integration, and now that we’re starting to see more widespread adoption in the industry, there’s more emphasis than ever on creating and enhancing integration capabilities.”
From the DMS providers’ point of view, there is only so much they can create and innovate without knowing exactly what dealers are seeing, using and struggling to do on a daily basis. So, these companies turn to dealers for their valuable input.
“Dealers expect the software to keep up with the trends and business practices they’ve found to be helpful,” McClanahan says. “It requires working closely with the dealers to find out what kind of metrics they are looking to find and what kinds of things they’re looking to track. It’s not necessarily about giving them new information, but rather presenting it in a manner that allows them to get at it faster.”
Like most software companies, DMS providers have ways for customers to submit ideas.
“We get feedback through a variety of ways – sales force, customer service, onsite trainers, and implementation groups,” Denos says. “We have product owners who are the main contacts for all of that feedback. No matter where feedback comes in from, we have a way of tracking that and trying to vet out the kinds of changes that will impact the most customers.”
Dominion utilizes a Dealer Advisory Council, which it created last year to get feedback from its dealers. The council meets every so often and dealers can bring forth ideas or concerns about the DX1 system. (For more about Dominion’s Dealer Advisory Council, see the sidebar)
NizeX lets dealers submit ideas through email, phone calls, or a ticket system that comes straight from the Lizzy software.
“When they submit a ticket they are inside of Lizzy and it comes directly to us,” McClanahan says. “We take those and sort them and any issues are addressed, and any ideas go to our R&D team. We also have meetings here fairly often. We’ve had a couple of dealer consortiums and seminars. In addition to providing in-depth training, we were also looking for suggestions – having the dealers brainstorm to help make the system better and find things that would make them more efficient. Meeting dealers in person and getting to talk through the kind of issues they face in the dealership is very helpful.”
Customer involvement is really a centerpiece of today’s DMS development processes. The dealers are more crucial to the process than they may realize.
“It’s safe to say very little comes from us,” Denos says. “When we think about architecture and platform, those ideas are internal, but in terms of how the solution is going to solve a business problem for a dealer, the dealers are the experts. We want to make sure we’re gathering those requirements from the dealers directly, so we have product owners who are in dealerships constantly to make sure we build a product that fits in the customer’s workflow and works for their business. We can’t do that from inside our office. We have to make sure we’re out talking to dealers in their environment.”
CDK Recreation and its Lightspeed EVO and NXT systems also utilize user interface reviews (UI reviews) to get optimal dealer feedback.
“For instance, if we are building service mobile check-in, we’re going to build a slice of that and then have a UI review with customers to make sure we’re hitting the mark and getting feedback as we build it,” he says. “We get quite a few customers in on our UI reviews, and we take that feedback to refine our product. We get thousands of requests for things we can do to improve, and we’re listening to all of those.”
CDK has also introduced Service Connect, which allows dealers to submit a question to client support, while they’re in the DMS, and the application knows where the dealer is in the product automatically. The customer then has the ability to get self-help, see training videos, or start a chat session with a customer support rep.
“Enhancements to our Service Connect coming out shortly will be Service Connect Communities,” Denos says. “This allows dealers to have a forum where they can bounce questions, ideas or best practices off each other.”
Future of DMS
Whether ideas are coming from DMS companies or from the dealers using these systems at the dealership, one thing will remain true, that these systems will continue to improve and make all aspects of a dealership easier.
“I think we’ll see a continuous evolution of the DMS being easier to use,” McClanahan says. “A lot of our dealers seem to be doing mobile service work. They do a lot of pick up and delivery, so having customer’s information at your fingertips is
Systems like Lizzy already have a CRM built-in to be able to track customer information, but all of these systems aim to make dealers more productive. It’s about trying to make what you have work harder and work smarter.
“Hopefully other systems are customer-request driven as well because we get some amazing ideas from folks and it could be something that benefits the whole industry,” she says.
Another theory about the future of DMS is that the overall outcome will become the primary focus.
“I think you’re going to see more focus on ensuring dealers get to an outcome versus us delivering a product or service,” Denos says. “To that aim, you’re going to see more business intelligence and more information in customer’s faces to help them make profitable business decisions. We want to stay in that business intelligence arena to help them with their decision-making in their workflow.”
Dealers Take Active Role in DX1 Enhancements
By CJ Pedler
[dropcap]K[/dropcap]evin Wethington of Honda of Chattanooga is one. Enrique Martinez of the Memphis Boat Center is another. These two recreational industry retailers are part of an ever-widening base of dealers who are influencing the continuing refinement of Dominion’s complete business management platform, DX1.
The unique platform combines operational and marketing applications, including inventory management, accounting, lead management, mobile-friendly websites, online marketing and social media. Hundreds of powersports dealers across the nation are now using the DX1 platform.
Wethington and Martinez are among the nation’s dealers who have not only provided feedback to the DX1 development team, but can also point to specific features of the platform that now exist because of their suggestions.
For Wethington, the sales and finance manager of the Tennessee Honda dealership, his suggestions prompted changes to the DX1 website, including enhanced search functionalities and ways in which manufacturers and categories are viewed by consumers.
Martinez, the marketing director for the Memphis dealership, provided suggestions for the DX1 enewsletter, including enhancements to templates and design control for better customization. His ideas focused on making the enewsletter “more appealing to the customer while making it easier and more user-friendly for us.”
Patty Dao, who leads the DX1’s social development team, found Martinez’s feedback rewarding and has worked with him on more than one occasion to craft specific areas of improvement in the enewsletter portion of the platform.
“This is how we get closer to identifying exactly what works best for dealers,” Dao said. “Dealers give us not only their opinions but concrete examples of what they hope to accomplish. That really helps. That’s why we’re able to get them the results they’re looking for more rapidly.”
Suzanna McGrath, who heads the development of DX1’s lead management, has used direct dealer feedback to streamline the management platform’s sales process. One of those changes dealt with new customer leads. The number of required fields in those online forms was reduced as a result of dealer feedback.
“Now, the leads are a quicker and less intimidating process for dealership staff,” she said.
McGrath and developer, Lou Pedler, are part of a DX1 team that meets routinely with a dealer advisory council. The DX1 council started last fall at the AIMExpo, and each meeting since has been held at a different DX1 dealership location. McGrath and Pedler arrive a full day before the council meeting to meet and speak with dealership staff. This gives them the chance to see how different employees are using the platform and get their additional, direct feedback on possible platform refinements. Later, DX1 dealers from around the nation participate in a conference call and discuss recent platform enhancements and fine-tuning.
“We want the dealers’ feedback on future projects, so we try to keep the conversation as forward-looking as possible,” McGrath said of the DX1 council meetings.
One of those advisory council meetings was held at Cummings Motorsports in Bakersfield, CA, which switched to DX1 this year after spending more than 20 years with another industry service provider.
“It was really helpful to us to have them here,” Darren McCollum, Cummings’ parts and IT manager, said of the DX1 team. “They were very responsive and listened to everything we said in comparison to our previous service provider. We spent a lot of time giving them feedback. You guys are not only listening to the feedback, but doing something about it.”