Because we have worked with over 7,000 dealer partners in the US and Canada we know a thing or two about phones. We have been seeing first-hand what challenges dealerships are facing when selecting the wrong phone system, and more importantly, the wrong partner to install and maintain the phones. Here are three things that dealers don’t think about when buying a new phone system:

1.   How does your new phone system fit with your current infrastructure?

Setting up a new phone system is like building a house. You need a strong foundation for a long-lasting home. Similarly, reviewing your underlying architecture is crucial for the efficacy of the system and the associated costs. You don’t want any surprises after the installation. Do not rely on dated feedback or old diagrams/Visio. Have your vendors walk your campus, and physically check the cabling and network gear to confirm compatibility and future-fitness. Ask them if they could repurpose the network equipment and tell them if you share the network with other applications like your DMS vendor e.g. CDK Global. How many cable drops do you have? Do you have any offsite building you need to connect? Also, talk to your vendors about connectivity, and copper vs. fiber. Most new phones are SIP (trunk)-ready and don’t need traditional phone lines or even PRI/T1 lines anymore. They simply work with bandwidth you can source through your fiber or even cellular.

2.   Who is in charge of call-flow management and phone controls?

Continuing our house building analogy, reviewing your call-flow is similar to deciding about your floor plan. Unfortunately not many dealers do the due diligence and walk the extra mile. That is why so many dealers lose opportunities on abandoned calls. If you don’t come up with a solid call queuing process for your receptionists, Internet BDC, sales and service managers, parts department, and cross-store communication, then you will miss sales and leave real money on the table. Not only is it important to come up with a plan, and execute it, but it is also important to monitor and track the results on a daily basis to make adjustments if needed. Appoint a “Chief Phone Officer”! In the same context, decide who can make changes to the phone setup, who has access to the Call Manger software and reporting, who will receive voice-to-email, who will be notified if more calls drop than usual, etc.

3.   How does your local partner support and maintain your system?

Once your contractor builds your house, who will maintain it and keep it clean? Even with a hosted phone system, you need a local or regional partner to install the system and set up the communication software. You want to make sure this long-term partner is certified by your phone manufacturer, and has the requisite team to support the install, training, and maintenance (vs. being a one-man show). Although most support cases can be handled remotely, lock down the details about Service Level Agreements (SLA ) and average response times, time, labor and travel fees, charges for after-hours/weekend/ holiday visits, the location of the nearest warehouse for replacements, and if the reseller will cover software updates and extended hardware warranty.

As a dealer, the goal is not to become an expert on phone systems, so, make sure you have someone on your team knows to ask the right questions about pricing, functionality, configurations and contractual terms. You also don’t want the vendors drowning you in technical jargon. Don’t be too proud to get some extra help. Make sure the “consultant” is totally independent and does not ever get paid by any phone vendors. Making the wrong choice can cost you dearly in the long-run.