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SOLID SUPPORT AND TRAINING ARE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL DMS INTEGRATION AND OPERATION

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As technology advances and new software products and features enter the market, dealers can sometimes find themselves struggling to figure out exactly what they need in terms of DMS upgrades and worse still, how to integrate them with their existing system.

Then they have to ensure that their staff have the right training. Given the investment required in DMS system upgrades, product add-ons have often been seen as the most logical solution. But this can lead to more problems when various “bolted on” pieces of software don’t talk well with one another.

That was the situation facing Chris Gauthier, vice-president and general manager at Roadsport Honda in Scarborough, Ont. Gauthier found that his store was struggling to manage and integrate its DMS upgrades. A major issue was that the previous general manager had signed a contract with the DMS provider and the solution for upgrades had been to purchase add-ons when needed. There was no inside IT company to support the new purchases and the result was a situation Gauthier describes as the network being: “held together by chewing gum.”

Gauthier says that about two weeks away from going live with the upgraded system, he took a look and discovered that disaster was potentially lurking, namely that the computers weren’t able to run it and that expert help was needed. So he contacted Velocity Solutions, part of the Siroky Group — a leading provider of software and systems integration.

“I had dealt with Velocity in the past,” says Gauthier “so we brought them on board to help us.” Velocity quickly got to work, helping Roadsport to appraise the situation and get everything up and running to ensure, a smooth, reliable network that functioned across all dealership departments.

Velocity Solutions has been helping dealers like Roadsport for around a decade, having started out when Mike Jones, now one of the firm’s senior IT engineers, joined them after a local dealer approached him about helping with their DMS. It turned out that this one dealer belonged to a group with 12 stores and as these stores began to grow they needed a solid, integrated solution when it came to their IT requirements.

Jones says one of the biggest challenges with DMS systems is really getting “everything to talk to everything. There are multiple applications across one network.” He says a major issue is that the industry is shifting toward 64-bit operating systems. “Trying to figure what runs on 64-bit and what doesn’t is really the problem [dealers] face,” says Jones, “there are still legacy applications that run on a 32-bit OS.”

Jones also says that the push toward cloud-based systems, is making things easier, since it is able to remove the physical infrastructure aspect from the store, turning it into a software element that’s much easier to manage. “Where you would previously have to have somebody walk into the server room and physically change the tape each day, with a cloud-based system you don’t have to worry about that.”

Roy George, manager, business development with Velocity Solutions

Roy George, manager, business development with Velocity Solutions

Roy George, manager, business development with Velocity Solutions, says that when it comes to IT dealers need to ensure that there are sufficient resources available. “For example, dealers using ADP, have been upgrading to the ADP Drive system and we need to make sure they have all the resources (from system memory to Internet bandwidth and redundancy) to run all the new and existing applications properly.” He also says that Velocity will educate its dealer clients on the intricacies of the DMS, all the way down to small tools. “It’s important that we are successful with the little things, to provide the proper foundation for the large ones.”

INTEGRAL APPROACH
George says that Velocity’s support for dealers begins as soon as a PC is connected to the DMS. “We manage everything on the front-end of the infrastructure, from PCs to centralized servers for storing everything from emails to document files. We will often assess the DMS for our customers and manage some of the things that [the dealership staff] might not be able to get to.”

George says that for dealer groups with multiple stores, there are both benefits and challenges when it comes to DMS integration. He says advantages lie in being able to spread some of the investments required across several locations. Yet at the same time, those multiple locations also require that data be transmitted effectively across them, not something that’s necessarily easy to do, especially with a dealer group that’s acquired stores and those locations have different systems and have pursued different strategies in terms of updates. “At the end of the day it comes in knowing how to integrate and then growing the [IT operation] around those DMS support arms already in place,” he says.

For Roadsport Honda, the relationship with Velocity Solutions has resulted in quality DMS integration, resulting in a network that today, runs seamlessly. General manager Chris Gauthier says that now, he has few concerns. “Velocity has helped us on so many levels, from virus protection to filtering software. If a service station went down because it had been infected by a virus it’s something we could not afford, now it’s something we really don’t have to worry about.”

Gauthier also says that a big plus has been setting up the network so staff can seamlessly access the system even when working remotely and schedule appointments through virtual calendars. “The time it saves is incredible and it’s not an aspect we would have likely been able to figure out on our own,” says Gauthier.

He also says that one thing he likes about Velocity Solutions is the strong support Roadsport receives. “The DMS is the lifeblood of our business and with all the training that goes on with our manufacturer it needs to be reliable and stable.” He says that Velocity has top notch support and is able to get things resolved quickly and effectively should a problem arise. “If I have an issue, I call and they fix it. They are also car people,” he says, “so they can get through to the right channels whether it’s at our OEM or the DMS provider, that saves both time and money for us.”

TAILORED TRAINING

ONE-EIGHTY CORP., which has been providing software solutions and integration to dealerships for over a decade, also places a strong emphasis on support and training for its clients. “Our mission is to help dealers engage their customers in a transparent buying process which shortens their buying cycles, earns more deals and increases dealership profitability,” says Kristian Nielsen, Leader, Process Solutions, Training and Support for ONE-EIGHTY.

Kristian Nielsen, Leader, Process Solutions, Training and Support, ONE-EIGHTY

Kristian Nielsen, Leader, Process Solutions, Training and Support, ONE-EIGHTY

And a big part of that has been a push to become a certified integration partner with as many DMS providers as possible. “We are currently certified with ADP, Reynolds and Reynolds and Serti,” he says and “are now in production with Dealertrack Technologies.” Nielsen notes that a key aspect to successful DMS software integration and improved efficiency, concerns the need to reduce double data entry so dealers can achieve more sales and CRM with their same staff levels.

Karyne Lemieux, business development manager at Canbec BMW in Montreal, Que., has found working with ONE-EIGHTY to be beneficial, both from an integration and support standpoint. “The integration is fantastic,” she says, “ONE-EIGHTY is able to speak with many other IT systems, including the back end. The way it is set up, the system is pretty much dummy proof.” She refers to the fact that residual values and interest rates are updated and loaded into the system automatically, saving time and improving efficiency.

She says that on the BDC side, being able to track all customers, is a huge plus, helping bolster service and satisfaction. “Every week, every month, ONE-EIGHTY provides updates,” says Lemieux. “The system delivers pop-ups that will notify us when we need to follow up with a customer after delivery, or if it is time for an annual follow up to see if everything is okay with their vehicle.” It also enables staff to book sales appointments following enquiries and ensure a particular car is ready for a test drive at a specific time.

Lemieux says that besides being easy to use and incredibly informative, the support and training that ONE-EIGHTY provides is another huge plus. She says she loves the fast, friendly support. “I am able to call whenever I need to and they will quickly answer.” She also says that she really values the training programs, especially when the time comes to train staff or introduce them to new functions. “We’re in the process of opening a new department and we want [ONE-EIGHTY] to come here onsite and show everybody how it all works.”

In terms of training, ONE-EIGHTY has taken the step of offering a comprehensive suite of training and support services to help dealers maximize productivity, an important factor since stores often have different requirements. Kristian Nielsen says that training which can be booked for a per diem or per hour fee, can either be performed live online using GoToMeeting software, or if the dealer requests, such as in the case of Canbec, “we can go to their facility and conduct the training onsite.”

ONE-EIGHTY conducts VW training

ONE-EIGHTY conducts VW training

ONE-EIGHTY is also able to provide structured, personal training, which allows the firm to tailor programs for specific job requirements, via webinars at a rate of $60 per hour. Reports from these structured sessions are then sent to managers once the course is completed for record keeping and to gauge progress and performance of the trainees. Additionally, ONE-EIGHTY also provides a Report Card service, a Guru Program and Brush Up Training.

“We offer two complimentary report cards a year,” says Nielsen “and this allows us to look at key metrics within a dealership’s system, focusing on major utilization points and areas where they are doing well and where improvement is recommended. The lone goal of the report card is to increase dealership profitability through system utilization, or at least increase awareness of the tools that are available.”

He says that dealers see value in the report card system, to the point that some will actually budget for and schedule monthly report cards. “They will pay for it on a monthly basis because management sees the benefit in relying on this quantified gauge of where they are improving or falling down from us.”

Recognizing that each dealership has specific needs and requirements when it comes to software and training, ONE-EIGHTY offers its Guru
Program by engaging each store to nominate a “ONE-EIGHTY Guru.” Each month, the Guru receives an email and phone call to help them learn about ONE-EIGHTY system updates, high performance tips and new or updated tools and training to help that store operate as effectively as possible.

“We know it can be hard to keep up with all information coming at a dealership so that is why we try to have a ONE-EIGHTY Guru at each store that focuses on keeping everyone at their store up-to-date,” says Nielsen. “That Guru then becomes the champion for the store in terms of embracing and introducing new functionalities and giving us feedback.” He says that having a two-way dialogue helps both parties and allows ONE-EIGHTY to listen to where it can improve the service it provides to dealer clients.

The complimentary Brush Up Training program, in a way, acts as a supplement to the Guru program, since not everything can be covered on the first go around.

He says that ONE-EIGHTY likes to engage the entire management team within the dealership during this free Brush Up training, to ensure everybody is aware of system upgrades and changes, helping foster integration and communication not only from a system standpoint but a human one as well.

So while integrating your DMS with all your various software systems can be a hassle, some dealerships are able to lean on IT experts and their software providers to reduce some of the headaches they might otherwise get.

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