New Customs

Keeping up with technology requires us to constantly re-evaluate our needs and take no tool for granted.

February 2014, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by David Gesualdo

I often marvel at the way my young son interacts with technology. He has had an iPad almost since birth, and it didn’t take him long to learn how to use it. It makes perfect sense to him. He can cue up a video and play a new game for the first time with what appears to be minimal effort. As for his parents, well, we’re still learning.

And that’s just the thing. I have long since resigned myself to the fact that my son could best the old man at all contests electronic. What amazes me is the constantly recurring realization that having the collective computing power of thousands of years of human advancement at his fingertips doesn’t even faze him. Nor does the fact that we all call each other on tiny phones we carry everywhere and sometimes use to take pictures. Of course we do, he might say. Why wouldn’t we?

The people who are new to our industry labor under a similar pretense. Dealer websites, mobile apps and online retailers are fundamental aspects of the car business that simply didn’t exist a few years ago. Less recent but no less useful is the dealership management system, or DMS, that handy apparatus that logs and, when needed, recounts all the vital contacts, numbers and statistics your stores produce.

The DMS is such an intrinsic system that we have decided to dedicate a series of articles to its very existence. But we didn’t ask our writers, who rank among the industry’s foremost experts on dealership operations, to recount the saga of the DMS. We asked for practical advice on maximizing its effectiveness, and our first entry does that in what may be an unexpected way.

On Page 14, F&I Express and Intersection Technologies’ Brian Reed asks the question that he believes few, and certainly not enough, dealers are asking themselves: “What exactly am I paying for?” As he points out, the agreements dealers make with their DMS providers are often completely out of touch with the services provided. This is not due to malice on the part of the provider. Things change, services are added and dropped, and third parties sometimes take over certain functions. Reed highlights three areas in which overcharges can often occur. It’s good, useful advice that I hope you are able to use.

Speaking of useful advice, this month’s cover story is one for the ages. Stephanie Forshee went one-on-one with Rose Cruz, a Lexus sales pro from Long Island, N.Y., whose shift in focus toward female car buyers is paying dividends for her store. Cruz realized that, although the majority of her buyers are women, they rarely show up to the dealership alone. What is compelling them to bring along their husbands, fathers and sons, she wondered, when the women have the buying and decision-making power?

Cruz decided that, like most people, women who bring backup to the dealership are intimidated by the sales and finance process. To relieve them of their apprehensions, she began hosting evening events designed especially for women. The first annual Cars & Cupcakes and the monthly Technology Night are free, informative events that make female buyers feel welcomed and appreciated. They require an investment of time and money for Cruz and her team, but they have already resulted in several additional sales.

The lesson learned from both stories is clear: Let us take nothing for granted. The latest tools, electronic and otherwise, are ours to use to the best of our ability and to the betterment of our cause.

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