The well-known book Who Moved My Cheese tells a story about change; how change is inevitable and how we all need to adapt and adjust our attitudes to change…or perish. In the last ten years the most powerful agent of change in dealerships has been technology. Think about how technology, in all its forms, has changed the way your business operates.
But we’re not done yet, folks.
This time it’s the manufacturers who are moving the cheese. Honda recently announced a new “Service WiFi Network and Internet Speed Requirement” that sets minimum levels of both Internet connectivity and WiFi coverage in the shop areas. It also provides for inspections to ensure that dealers are in compliance. Honda is just the latest manufacturer following other OEMs such as Ford and Mercedes-Benz to require enterprise-class wireless and minimum bandwidth in the dealership.
Although many dealers have made great progress on getting current with wireless coverage, there is still much work to be done. Wireless is a quickly changing technology and utilization is growing exponentially. A dealer principle recently asked me if I recommended attempting to curb or restrict usage or to just buy more bandwidth?
The recommendation is a resounding “throw bandwidth at it”. While recreational use contributes to some Internet traffic growth, the overwhelming volume is business related.
More Connected Devices
The Internet of Things describes the explosion of connected devices. In dealerships it’s the customers and employees who are all connecting to your WiFi with their personal and work devices. But it’s also vehicle computer system updates, mobile tablets, battery testers, alignment machines and even your soda machines!
A recent projection by Cisco estimates that the total number of connected devices will grow over 250% in the next three years.
Until the last couple years, your service department didn’t need this massive amount of Internet and WiFi bandwidth. But it does now, and it will need nearly three times as much in the next three years. Trying to restrict usage of WiFi won’t work. WiFi is necessary for your shop’s mission-critical applications and to provide a customer experience that your customers not only expect, but demand.
So if your manufacturer sends a directive on how much WiFi your shop needs, don’t just upgrade to the minimum. Triple it, unless you’re willing to do it all over again in two years.
Enterprise Bandwidth Needed
Many dealerships are still using Small Office/Home Office (SoHo) Internet services provided as a low cost connectivity option over residential networks. While this has been a successful strategy in years past, we have observed serious issues for dealers who continue to use this service.
Every dealership should be contacting their carriers–whether phone, cable or utility companies–and asking for enterprise level Internet connectivity. Usually this is provided over fiber optics. The cost of fiber optics has dropped dramatically due to increased competition, so if you thought it was too expensive a year ago when you checked into it, try again. In many areas a carrier can bring a fiber optic cable right into your server room.
The final thing to consider is network speed. Even if you have a dozen wireless nodes in your service department, the data may not get through them fast enough if your network switches are out of date. A new wireless node may have a throughput of 300 units but your switch may only be able to deliver 100 units.
As you’re searching for your new cheese, just remember: once you find it, don’t expect it to stay there. If it’s technology related, the cheese will continue to move. Don’t resist; embrace and adapt. Your dealership’s operational efficiency, competitive advantage and customer satisfaction are all counting on it.
Author: Erik Nachbahr
Erik Nachbahr is President and Founder of Helion Automotive Technologies, the nation’s leader in automotive Information Technology (IT) management. Since 1997 Helion has grown to become the nation’s largest managed technology services provider for auto dealers. With over 28,000 computers under management across 700 dealerships and body shops, Helion ensures best practices for productivity, security and compliance.