by Erik Nachbahr, President of Helion Technologies
Does your dealership have a goal to sell a vehicle in one hour or less? Most auto dealers would agree that the sales team’s productivity is an important factor in meeting such an ambitious goal. Many would also agree that it’s important to support the sales team with appropriate tools and technologies. Whether it’s spending thousands on a new CRM to outsourcing inventory marketing–nothing should hinder the sales process, right?
There is one area, however, that the vast majority of dealers routinely overlook. Specifically, that’s how their information technology (IT) infrastructure impacts sales performance and productivity.
In today’s dealership, every step of the sales process relies on technology; from how you obtain and respond to leads all the way through final delivery of the vehicle.
Network failures, server and computer crashes, or Internet service disruptions can all have a negative impact on your sales performance. If you want to reduce the time it takes to purchase a car and give your sales team a competitive advantage, follow these recommendations:
Replace Old PCs
In most dealerships when you ask the employees how their computers are, the response is “slow.” This is because many dealers keep their PCs for longer than the intended life cycle, which is a maximum of five years. Just because a PC hasn’t exploded yet doesn’t mean you should still be using it.
Slow PC performance has a significant impact on the overall time it takes to buy a car. Today’s sales and F&I managers work with multiple windows and websites open at a time. Activities like streaming auctions, looking up trade-in prices and working multiple deals all require fast processing speeds.
Your PC screen is not just a terminal looking out on the Internet. Every time you visit a website, it requires a certain amount of processing capacity on the machine used to access that website. In the last few years, richer graphics means that more processing capacity is required. Working on a cloud-based CRM also requires extra processing capacity.
When vendors update their software, older communications protocols can become obsolete. Over time this leads to incompatibility, which most often displays in error messages. When communications errors happen, the problem isn’t in the software; it’s either due to the fact that you’re not keeping all the software updated or it’s a problem with your hardware’s communications protocol.
The solution? Purchase new PCs every four to five years. The same goes with replacing network switches. Switches transfer data to all devices, including PCs. If you plug in a new PC with an outdated switch, the PC will never work to its full capacity. A network switch lifecycle is five to ten years, depending on the brand and your data network usage.
New equipment speeds up performance and makes the employees more productive. If your dealership has a goal of being able to purchase a car in one hour or less, PCs with super fast processing times are a necessary precursor.
Invest in Fiber Optics for Internet
Another common reason for reduced sales productivity is a slow Internet. Today most DMS and CRM programs are hosted in the cloud, so Internet speed directly affects software performance. Internet speed determines how fast salespeople can look up inventory while the customer is waiting. It determines how fast the deal can be passed from sales to F&I and how fast the F&I manager can pull up information for a presentation–all while the customer is waiting.
Many dealerships are still using Small Office/Home Office (SoHo) Internet services provided as a low cost connectivity option over residential networks. This type of service is designed for an office with five or six computers, and was fine for most auto dealers until a few years ago. But today’s dealership requires enterprise level Internet connectivity provided over fiber optics.
I had one dealer ask if he should add more bandwidth or place restrictions on employees accessing the Internet. The answer is a resounding “More bandwidth!” Besides sales, in the service department you have technicians downloading huge amounts of data for vehicle system computer updates. These updates are just one example of today’s mission-critical applications that rely on fast Internet speeds. Restricting employee access to the Internet is like taking away your technicians’ tools. It makes it nearly impossible for them to do their job.
In the last year the cost of fiber optics has dropped dramatically due to increased competition. In many areas a carrier can bring fiber optics right into your server room, delivering data at speeds ten to 100 times faster than “regular” Internet service.
Modernize Your Phone System
Last but not least, to improve the sales process dealerships may want to consider phasing out their old phone systems and implementing a unified communications platform (UCP).
Recently I called a dealership and asked for a service advisor. The extension rang and rang. Eventually I was kicked back to the receptionist who transferred me to someone else. Nobody answered that extension either so I just hung up. So much for getting my car serviced there.
If this is happening in your dealership, every person who hangs up is a potential sale or service customer gone.
UCPs feature single-reach numbers, which routes all calls to employees whether they are at their desk or carrying their cell phones with them. This makes employees more reachable and increases customer satisfaction.
UCPs also include collaboration tools that allow personnel to see other employees’ availability at all times–whether that person is on the phone, with a customer or at lunch. They can send notifications or ask questions for an immediate response so there is no need to put a customer on hold.
Last but not least, a logical and organized call flow is critically important to the sales process. A call flow determines how calls get routed and includes rules such as how many times a person’s phone rings, whether a call gets routed back to the receptionist or into voice mail, and what happens to calls after hours.
If you want your sales team to accomplish incredible things, provide them with the tools they need. Don’t think of IT expenditure as a cost to be controlled; instead, view it as an investment in your team.