Article

Effective Uses of Technology in the Dealership

May 2011, Auto Dealer Monthly - WebXclusive

by Allen Dobbins - Also by this author


As we all know, businesses that evolve usually succeed, and those that don’t usually collapse. Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Responding to technological change is absolutely critical.

We can all agree that the way we communicate and work together continues to evolve. Over the last decade, our entire society has slowly been transformed into a “right-now” society. There are many examples of this in our everyday lives. To see it, just look around; we all have smart phones, PDAs, notebook computers and iPads. We’ve personally embraced applications like Facebook that actually encourage us to electronically check in at our favorite restaurant, the airport or a big game. We willingly do this, so all of our friends can see what we are doing “right now.”

Whether we understand it or not, this form of social media has become an important part of our daily lives. You can bury your head in the sand and ignore it, or you can find ways to embrace this evolution by making it an important part of your long-term business model. However, you must think about the big picture. A narrow focus on one type of social medium, Internet marketing or lead management system is never a good idea. You must develop a comprehensive strategy that utilizes technology, savvy marketing and a well-trained staff to fully exploit these types of technologies. A part-time strategy is simply not good enough to excel in this marketplace.

For example, driving traffic to your website is important, but once customers get there, you must be prepared to provide what they are looking for “right now.” Your goal isn’t simply to drive traffic; it’s to turn those visitors into quality leads. Sites like eBay understand this mentality, and to exploit it, they created functionality that allows their visitors to “Buy It Now.” For some, waiting for an auction to close is simply a waste of time.

To bridge the communication gap, many dealers have implemented tools on their websites for live chat. These tools are great because they provide a way for the prospective customer to ask questions and get what they want “right now.” Turning those visitors into prospective customers is the hard part. Every lead is extremely valuable, therefore tracking and making the most of each contact must be at the core of any successful follow-up strategy.

Investing in a quality lead management system is essential. Marketing is expensive, which means that every prospect has an intrinsic value. When a potential customer submits a request for information, it is essential that your staff follow up quickly. Providing good customer service doesn’t start after the sale, it starts at the moment of first contact. Responsiveness is the hallmark of any quality lead management system. Technology can drive this by keeping your staff and management informed so they can strike while the iron is hot.

It has become increasingly popular to run your business applications over the Internet. Having access to business-critical information immediately is essential in today’s fast-paced marketplace. However, when using Web-based applications, you must be confident that your software provider has taken the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of your information.

It is absolutely crucial that business applications be built to run reliably, while utilizing the right platform that maximizes the use of state-of-the-art hardware and network infrastructure. The benefits of utilizing an on-demand product are that you do not need to purchase, manage or control your own technology infrastructure. Outsourcing your computing infrastructure is an excellent disaster-recovery solution that can add tremendous value to your business and bottom line.
 
Our “right-now” mindset has even transformed the way we acquire and manage inventory. Online auctions are allowing inventory managers and buyers to shop online without ever leaving their offices. These tools have not only reduced the cost of purchasing vehicles, but have given dealers across the country access to vehicles from multiple sources in real time. Dealers are now able to adjust rapidly to the demands of their customers and their used car managers.

It would impossible for me to list all of the fantastic technologies available to dealers that can transform your company. However, those businesses that understand the effectiveness of technology in our “right-now” marketplace will be the ones that dominate the future. Act with a sense of urgency. In life, no one can go back to create a new beginning, but anyone can start today and create a tremendous future for themselves.

Vol. 8, Issue 3

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