Making a technology change within your automotive dealership can be daunting. You’re introducing fear, change, and relative inconsistency to your entire staff. Yet, staying stuck with old, outdated tools and systems can slow your productivity and leave your dealership in the dark. Often, upgrading your Dealer Management System (DMS) is a must-do. But, many Dealer Principal Owners and General Managers hesitate to make the move until it’s absolutely necessary. According to Susan Moll, Senior Director of Implementation at Cox Auto, “many dealers have been using the same system for decades, with years of accumulated customer lists, outdated setups, old reports, records and files that need to be dusted off and sorted through.” Fortunately, in a recent interview with the team at Jim Browne Auto Group, Susan assured dealers that a DMS switch doesn’t have to be scary. Here are Susan’s four keys to making a successful switch:
Determine Your Team's Action Plan
Before you begin a successful DMS transition, you and your management team should work with your DMS partner to build a clear strategy for implementation. Be sure to set expectations on how and when your new technology will transition and visualize the move on a timeline. Most DMS transitions will take around 90 days from start to finish which should include planning and training your crew on the new technology.
Find Your Team Champions
A successful DMS switch doesn’t happen overnight, of course. But it also doesn’t happen without the help of individual department champions. Identifying the team members within your dealership who are adaptable, eager to learn, and ready to help lead change is important. Make sure to incentivize these team members and reward their hard work. And make sure champions are available to help guide others when learning and training assignments are distributed.
Open Doors Lead to Great Change
Change management is a difficult process, but fine-tuning your skills in this department can be the key success factor when making a big technology switch. Aligning your goals to your values is a great way to start, so be sure to keep an open-door policy and allow employees to reach out when they become frustrated. Communicating openly, and frequently, goes a long way. And it simply must come from leadership. According to Susan Moll, “The most successful implementations start at the top.” So make sure to hold weekly status updates, send frequent emails to the staff, and let people know that you’re proud of their progress.
It's Homework Time
Once you decide to make the move to a new, up-to-date DMS, your partner will begin the implementation process on their end. Reports will be moved, technology will be installed, and a team of experts will be on-site to help guide your team every step of the way. But—and this is perhaps the most important step—you and your dealership will have homework to do. Learning a new DMS will take some time and practice inside of a “sandbox” environment. You will be assigned lessons and training that cover how to use the new technology. Dealertrack is rated the #1 easiest-to-use DMS, but it will be different than the current tool you have used before. Expect a learning curve, and give yourself time to cover the homework assigned.
Making the decision to switch to a new DMS is step one. Step two is putting in the effort to make the move. But, dealerships are a fast-paced business that deal with change, daily. Covering your basics and preparing for a successful switch will help ensure that your entire dealership staff is ready to hit the ground running once you flip the switch.