If you were standing in front of a house on fire and there was a hose and hydrant, everyone would say that the solution to the problem is to connect the hose and put out the fire. What if the house wasn’t on fire? Others would say since you have the hose and hydrant, the best utilization of your resources is to set the house on fire. Are you setting fires to get the best use out of your technology resources?
As an example, your DMS has a report of all customers who have exceeded their credit limit. Running this report can set your house on fire as everyone meets to discuss the “problem.” When I was a controller, we would call these meetings “fire drills” because all work stopped as we researched customer balances and looked for recent payments. Is this really a problem? It means that your parts department is selling lots of parts and maybe there was a judgment error in setting the customer’s credit limit too low? This fire drill is considered to be reactive; reacting to the past rather than anticipating the future.
“There are many ways your DMS can be proactive instead of reactive.”
A better utilization of your DMS would be proactive; acting before a situation becomes a source of confrontation or crisis. When we designed DealerStar, we created a simple display that shows the customer’s credit limit and remaining credit balance to the parts counterperson when they are adding a parts ticket. That way a parts counterperson can say, “I see you have a $20,000 credit limit but only $2,000 is remaining.” Would you like to make a payment on that today before I order these two engines for you? See if your DMS has that display when adding a new invoice and ask your parts department to be proactive with customers.
All interactions with customers should also display when invoicing a customer in parts, service and sales. We call these “actions” and alert employees to sensitive situations like past due balances, NSF checks, or missing paperwork. It is much more proactive for a service advisor to say during write-up that there was a problem with their last check than to wait until the customer desperately needs the car at the end of the day to pick up their kids. In addition, if the customer needs to sign a form to get their plates, it is easier to do that while they are there rather than waiting for their temporary plate to expire and cause another fire drill.
Dealerships have more technology than ever, but often this technology doesn’t speak to each other. That is why the DMS system is the best “hub” technology for data. Although some DMS providers are restricting access to this data by third party software, it always resides on the DMS system. Giving employees limited “view” access to certain data can help them be proactive with customers or even better – if a DMS can be proactive by emailing employees to alert them to problems is even better.
There are many ways your DMS can be proactive instead of reactive. A single, company-wide calendar with all appointments is a good start. It is great for salespeople to know when their past customers are coming in for service. A display of “Customers in the Shop” that shows the current miles, vehicle, and complaint is a great data mining tool for the eager salesperson.
They can see if anyone has contacted this customer lately (maybe their salesperson is now gone) and if this is a good prospect for a new car. A quick scan of this list by the accounting or finance department might discover a customer that still owes money or paperwork on a car deal. Again, being proactive rather than spending time making reactive “heat sheet” phone calls. You’ll find that employees are more productive and customers are happier if you use integrated technology to store all interactions in one place; your proactive DMS system.
Author: Sandi Jerome
Sandi Jerome is the owner of Sandi Jerome Computer Consulting. Sandi founded DealerStar, a web-based DMS. She is a former CFO, System Administrator, Fixed Operations Manager, and Controller with over 30 years experience in the auto industry.