Providers adapt to today’s realities

March 28, 2022

CRM and DMS providers say dealers are tired of multiple platforms. They want better integration, better data, and tools that will allow them to offer a better customer experience. 

When it comes to dealer demands, CRM and DMS providers can both agree that better integration, or one platform that combines all the tools and information into a single database, remains a key request. 

In an interview with Canadian auto dealer, Activix General Manager Daniel Racine said dealers want their providers to be able to adapt and support them, while also offering better integration into their ecosystem. 

“Dealerships use a lot of softwares to evaluate vehicles, to calculate prices, and so on,” said Racine. “And what they are looking for are partners who are able to integrate with their software, so that data can flow freely from these different softwares to ensure that it’s not too heavy, and also to maintain their efficiency.”

He said dealers also want better data. 

Activix is a Quebec-based automotive CRM provider that has been around for about eight or nine years. The company developed an open API (application programming interface) that allows dealers to link software together and then efficiently change the data. Racine said they do not charge the dealer, nor the partner, to connect with their CRM to get data or to deposit it in the CRM.

On the support side, he said dealers want to work with providers that not only offer software that is both effective and relevant to their work—some are also looking for a consultative approach, so they can better use their software and understand their business.

As for what the company is working on, Racine said customer data is becoming more and more important within the automotive industry, and so Activix is developing functionalities that will allow dealers to view the customer and their history within all of their dealerships. 

“It’s kind of a dream for all dealers to be able to better understand their customer, who is searching for a vehicle or who has already purchased vehicles from the dealer group, to be able to have (all of that information) in one view,” said Racine. “So to better know the customer and better manage them.”

Kevin Preston, Vice President of DMS Sales at PBS Systems Group, also pointed to the importance for dealers to be able to have access to everything in one database, along with the opportunity it creates for the consumer. “I think people are just tired of having multiple platforms,” he said.

PBS Systems is often branded as a DMS company, but that is where it started off; they have long since redesigned the platform—four times, from the ground up, since the company’s launch. The most recent redesign combined a number of databases into one, creating a singular database with CRM, DMS, workflow, KPIs, data management, data insights, visualizations, communications, and e-commerce built in as one. 

“What we found that’s become more of a demand from dealers is a better guest experience,” said Preston. “And how we facilitate a guest experience is through a transition through what formally would’ve been known as different roles, whether it’s an internet sales department transitioning to an official lead, transitioning to desking, transitioning to F&I. In our world, that’s one and the same.”

He said the data transition and smoothness is all about the customer journey, and the same thing applies in service—including making it easier for video and texting, and photos from the technician’s perspective to the customer, which Preston said is now critical. 

“It’s about pulling back the layers and creating a smooth guest experience from all departments. And obviously that benefits accounting, because they’re chasing a lot less stuff with fewer systems,” said Preston.

As for what the company is focusing on, Preston said they are working on bringing all of the stakeholders together to provide dealers with more functionality—which is a large part of what the company is doing behind the scenes to drive the market forward. They are also focused on what Preston calls the narrative: making sure that their customers are taking advantage of the tools that are there.

It is also eyeing more apps and more digital, while inventory mining remains a “big one.”

The conversation around improving the customer experience, which is tied to better integration and data, was also discussed with SERTI National Sales Manager Nino Malka. 

He said the way that consumers communicate with dealers shifted during the pandemic. That shift resulted in a need, or perhaps an obligation among dealers, to change their business processes to accommodate these changing consumer behaviours.

“The dealer therefore requires that their DMS supplier offer them user-friendly, and above all flexible and efficient tools, to offer the best possible customer experience,” said Malka. “They want tools adapted to today’s reality.”

That reality includes text messaging and video.

Malka said dealers want tools that will allow them to more easily communicate with their customers, that are easy and more efficient to use, and that will allow them to become more productive. And they want to offer quality services to their customers despite a lack of resources, such as labour shortages. 

For Malka, technology—including the DMS—is one of the factors that will allow them to achieve these goals.

“Today the digitization of services is inevitable. The customer prefers communicating virtually from their phone or tablet, or via the dealer’s website,” he said, adding that OEMs understand this and that many of them are “increasingly demanding the implementation of business processes that involve the digitalization of services.”

That demand also extends to DMS providers, as they must offer digitization solutions. 

As for what the company is up to, Malka said there are several projects currently underway, but the priority is to meet the digitalization needs of the sales department. 

It is also worth noting that Keyloop acquired SERTI. The company is headquartered in the United Kingdom, and is focused on creating technology that helps advance the car buying and ownership experience. It intends to do this in partnership with dealers and OEMs.

Malka said he was pleased to have Keyloop join their group. “Their experience and resources will help us accelerate the development of our projects, and deliver them to our customers more quickly in the coming months,” he said. 

Last year Keyloop acquired Manitoba-based RAPID RTC, which launched an omni-channel (Live Dealer) platform with integrated chat, voice, and one- or two-way video in 2020 to help bring dealers and online car shoppers together. 

Keyloop sees the acquisitions as an opportunity to combine RAPID RTC products with SERTI’s DMS, along with its own portfolio of applications, which would result in what it describes as a true end-to-end automotive retail solution for dealerships across Canada.

So for dealers that are demanding more integration, more data, more of the ability to provide a better customer experience with the help of their tools, it seems some providers are listening and dealer voices are being heard. Some of them are actively moving in that direction, with significant changes to their platform and offerings. 

The story is similar to that of automotive retailers: at some point, the remaining providers will have no choice but to fully embark on this journey, or risk being left behind.

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