We’ve worked with over 7,000 car and truck dealers in the US and Canada on great contracts for auto tech vendors. Discussing dealers’ options for Business Office, Front-End, Fixed Operations, and Dealership-wide application is a daily routine. Below is a shortlist of 5 auto tech vendors that have a selling proposition that stands out. Put them on your radar. They are far from being market leaders in their respective fields based on number of dealerships, but each has something FRESH that resonates with dealers. As always – we don’t have any financial relationships with any dealership service provider. Our advice is based solely on dealers’ feedback.
By any means, DealerBuilt is not one of the newer auto tech vendors. The company from Iowa has been around for over 17 years. Its LightYear DMS platform is built around the dealer’s process in mind. And they walk the talk: Galpin Ford got involved early in the product development, and the founder of the company, John Hosmer, runs his own Toyota store. Developing and improving the software by testing it in a real environment for usability and reliability is not just a promise, but a mantra they live by every day.
It’s a modern-age DMS with Windows-based architecture and single database. The toolbar and other features allow for a very flexible workflow which can make a huge difference for high volume operations. With solid drill-down capabilities and full transparency, the system creates great accountability for all users.
What to ask them:
Check for OEM certifications for your franchises before you dive in. What software partners do they have for some of their modules? Also, ask them how the company has improved data security and safeguards for dealers especially for its DBC hosted system.
2) automotiveMastermind Data Mining:
Data mining is the latest buzz. You hear it everywhere: DMS and CRM vendors, dealers, OEM’s, associations, and consultants. The key from our perspective is always whether the information these systems provide is really actionable for a dealer. How do you put the aggregated data into a dealer plan, and turn it into real revenue? That’s what automotiveMastermind does well. Founders Marco Schnabl and Johannes Gnauck engineered a simple formula: take a comprehensive data model and simplify the output for easy dealer adoption and ultimate sales success.
The company from New York was one of the first auto technology vendors focusing on predictive analytics. A Behavioral Predictive Score or BPS allows dealers to focus on the leads that look most promising. Within the system, sales staff gets easy-to-use guidelines for 1:1 conversations with prospects. Deal/variable credentials can be adjusted on the fly to better fine-tune the customer conversation.
What to ask them:
Not all OEM’s are available yet. Check for your franchise. Also, ask about DMS and CRM integration. How do they run and charge for softpulls on customers that have not sourced their vehicle from you (to evaluate the financial situation of your prospect)?
3) mykaarma Service Solution:
There is something about agile auto tech vendors that focus on fixing dealers’ issues without becoming too big to care. mykaarma is one of them. Its value proposition revolves around simplifying the service experience. As we all know Fixed Ops in general, and service especially are the revenue “screws” that dealers want to tune for higher profits. Keeping your customers updated during the service process turns out to be a differentiator for your profit per RO. mykaarma will help doing just that by optimizing your customer interaction management in service, and creating a transparent communication flow.
In 2012 this auto tech vendor with offices in both India and California introduced a comprehensive service communication package including texting, email, and voice. Since then the system has been extended by an online payment and service walk-around tool. In its core, service advisors can access a control center at their fingertips (mobility!), with communication automation, and integration with all major DMS platforms.
What to ask them:
Ask how the RO from the tablet flows into the DMS (especially for Mercedes Benz dealers). In addition, get some details about texting compliance, and what happens to the texting history in case you decide to cancel the subscription with mykaarma.
4) Digium Phones:
The market for phone or unified communication systems moves quickly. Vendors come and go (e.g. Avaya just announced bankruptcy), new features get introduced with short product life cycles, and new carrier standards like SIP trunking break down former communication barriers (like analog lines, T1/PRI). In comparison to analog PBX, Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) depends less on extensive hardware. It is mainly software-driven and, hence, feature-rich. Internet Protocol Telephony systems typically operate on native software developed by the manufacturer (e.g. Cisco phones with Cisco Communication Manager). This can make it expensive to buy new phones with lasting software assurance (regular updates), and to integrate with applications from outside vendors (like paging, or CRM).
Digium is still a small fish in a big pond with Cisco, Polycom, Mitel, Shoretel, NEC, Panasonic, Toshiba, and so many others. However, what makes Digium special is the fact they program their phones with Asterisk. That is “the world’s most widely adopted open source communications software development framework”. So, instead of using proprietary coding, Digium uses this open source Asterisk language which allows for a much bigger market of applications dealers can choose from. There are hundreds of pre-built features for voice, video, and text communication. You could buy additional applications from any developer in the world.
What to ask them:
Ask about Digium’s nationwide network of installation partners. What are the Time and Material charges for onsite support if needed? What experience does Digium have with integrating its communication platform with your DMS or CRM system?
5) Darwin Automotive F&I Menu:
CDK Global just partnered with Darwin F&I for its revamped MenuVantage Platinum tool. That fact alone confirms that Darwin must be doing something right. You can look at almost every industry and conclude that sales outperformance results primarily from personalized and meaningful customer interaction. The days of “boiler-plate” products and service presentations are long gone. Darwin aims to replace them with its “prescriptive selling solution” offering an individualized F&I Menu.
Not only can you electronically present aftermarket services, but also individualize and automate the F&I interview. Based on your prospect’s vehicle, demographics/financial situation, and feedback about F&I-related questions, your managers can present a customized F&I Menu. The solution will highlight for your staff all the aftermarket services with the highest relevance for your customer – everyone wins!
What to ask them:
Investigate on the integration with credit bureaus, e-contracting, and compliance. Have Darwin explain to you the workflow, and what happens if the customer changes its mind on some of the interview questions. Does it work with all Dealer Management Systems?