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Software and Technology: What Dealers Should Know Before Installation

Software is a tool that needs a consistent process behind it before you can enjoy the results.

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For software to be able to live up to user expectations and value, the dealership needs to find a recipe for success. Dealers must be sure that the right people are trained and committed to using the software for it to work. You should also know what you want from the software upfront. After you get those things in place, you need to follow through with a process that is consistent enough to track and maintain the desired results. This sounds easy on paper, but there can be many hurdles for a dealer if you don’t know what to expect. 

Think of your software as another wrench in the toolbox. It may be a very big, expensive wrench, but it is still just a tool for a specific purpose and the more you can use it, the more you’ll get out of it. The purpose of the CRM/DMS is to gather data that you can mine for profits. 

According to John Fuhrman, a software trainer with Performance Road Agency, both (CRM/DMS) can be set up to deliver this valuable data. “CRMs can be used for both sales and service email campaigns, advertising resources and inventory trends. There are equity programs available that can show when customers have paid enough toward their loans that you can trade them for similar payments.”

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Steven Wayne Pitts, owner of SoftCom Technologies, Inc., and the developer of PowerPro DMS, said that good software helps dealers increase revenue by offering tools that allow you to stay in touch with your customers. Processes can be improved with the implementation of things such as automated emails and text messages, integrated marketing, follow-up notes and various other features. 

Pitts said that they use pre-defined queries for categories such as upcoming birthdays, major unit purchases by date or dollar amount, major unit purchases based on manufacturer or model, etc., so that targeted communications can be sent. You have practically unlimited flexibility with the integrated CRM functions.

Fuhrman noted that adding a dedicated person to “data mine” your CRM/DMS for sales leads can help keep the data more secure and consistent. “Having a designated person handling your dealership data not only makes it more secure, but it also creates an area of responsibility to measure results. You eliminate salespeople becoming ‘too busy’ to do follow-ups or other inconsistencies in marketing.”

However, according to Pitts, you don’t need to limit your “data mining” to one person. “With our software features, a user can easily review sales history as well as service history and contact these customers via email, text and phone. You can make customers aware of current specials and manufacturer incentives that may be of interest to them based on past sales trends. However, this doesn’t have to be a dedicated person. These features are available to every salesperson, and they should all utilize them at every opportunity.”

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 Dealers have been known to purchase all the bells and whistles when only a bell was needed, Fuhrman added. “Too many dealers have way more software than they’ll ever use. Some companies are now offering modular CRMs, which means you build it and pay for only what you need. Dealers have also overpaid for top-of-line DMS systems when they haven’t grown out of using QuickBooks.

Pitts said the biggest challenge for dealers new to DMS software is the learning curve. The basics of adding customers, entering sales and entering service tickets are reasonably straight forward. However, he said many of the benefits require a greater focus. “It takes time to learn how to utilize the advanced features of any system. This learning curve takes time away from other areas, so there is a cost, at least in labor hours. However, dedicating the time required to become efficient with a tool will pay benefits for many years. The short-term cost in time invested is well worth the effort.”

For smaller, single location dealers, you may not need a full-blown DMS, but you will need something such as QuickBooks in the beginning. Our experts said that the sooner your business can adopt a system, the better off you’ll be. 

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“In my opinion and experiences, QuickBooks doesn’t provide all the functions needed for a typical powersports or OPE dealer,” Pitts said. “On the other hand, is QuickBooks a solution that can work, or be made to work for smaller operations? Yes, people do it every day. And, when just starting, QuickBooks or another similar product may be the only viable option due to financial restraints. This is reality. Every small business must, or at least should, watch their pennies very closely. QuickBooks sometimes is needed to get things moving forward. When the time comes, a more customized and optimized DMS solution can be adopted.” 

Fuhrman noted that he’s written several articles for MPN about just this topic in his monthly Shop Talk column. He said dealers need to think about the desired outcome they’re looking for and then look at software that accomplishes that. “This isn’t a pair of shoes that you got as a kid to grow into. Get what you need, don’t sign long-term contracts and then grow out of it before you change.”

For those who choose to use QuickBooks, Pitts said they offer a product called QBPrices that automates importing pricelist file updates from various formats into QuickBooks. “This is a huge time-saver. For example, a price list update that normally takes 40 hours to apply is reduced to less than an hour with QBPrices.”

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As technology and industry trends evolve, so too must software products evolve to remain a viable solution. Several years ago, Pitts saw that cloud-based solutions were becoming more prevalent on other platforms, so he modified their DMS to run in the cloud as well. Being cloud-based makes it easier to access data from anywhere. 

 “As our society becomes more mobile, so our tools become more mobile also,” Pitts added. “We continually develop our DMS to meet the demands of today’s powersports dealer. For example, one of our key focus areas over the last few years has been automation. We have dedicated many hours to automating as many tasks as possible. Automated tasks give the sales reps and service techs more time to focus on their primary tasks and less on paperwork.”     

According to Fuhrman, some software companies haven’t changed much since they launched their first products. “Mostly, they raise prices and lower customer service. With technology changing so fast, it’s almost always better to get something for today rather than take a chance on a five-year commitment. Just think about what is available now that wasn’t available a few years ago and then imagine being in a contract that prohibits you from improving.”

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It doesn’t matter if you’re a multi-line, multi-location dealer or a single location, there is a software package that can increase productivity, profitability and accountability for any size business. The key is finding the one that fits your needs. Once you find the right software and see it working in your dealership, the training and process will become more natural, and the results follow. Remember, the software is just a tool to get to your desired results.

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