Making the Digital Shift to the New Business Environment

Optimizing Technology, Tools, and Processes – An Interview with Matthew Hurst, Sr. Director of Client Services at Dealertrack DMS.

As dealerships navigate the “new normal” under social distancing restrictions and safety regulations, the stark reality of reductions in staffing, fears of economic downturn, and even closures is starting to sink in. With so much disruption forcing dealers to make large-scale changes to their business environments, could there possibly be a silver lining to all of this?

We asked the Senior Director of Client Services for Dealertrack DMS, Matthew Hurst, to help us find one. “Even though this is probably the most challenging time, economically, that dealers have faced,” Hurst shares, “It’s also an opportunity to learn what processes your dealership wants to change, and to meet the new standards of the new normal.” Here are his insights on where to look to optimize your dealership’s digital shift as you navigate these changes.

Utilize Technology and Tools to Better Optimize Your Processes

Dealerships with multiple rooftops may have been running their accounting and month-end processes independently, with multiple teams, various processes, and unique reports. Yet, your Dealer Management System makes it possible to consolidate this process. “Some of the technology that enables social distancing for dealers has existed, mostly for Fixed Ops, for years,” Hurst explains, “And now we’re seeing more dealers implementing tactics and tech that some of the more creative dealers have already been using.” The ability to deliver remote service options, run intercompany accounting in one location, and lifting IP restrictions to allow more employees to log in and work from home aren’t necessarily groundbreaking technology tools—they’re simply optimized processes.

Build Proficiency Into Your Roles

As business owners make the difficult decision to reduce hours, more dealers are cutting back staff and personnel at their stores. The other side of this, according to Hurst, is that many team members are taking on more responsibility outside of their traditional experience. “You may be doing a completely different role today than you were doing yesterday just due to the economic challenges taking place. Being able to pick up and learn multiple functions with the training staff and support team that we have to help you—and to do that remotely? That’s huge.” Dealerships may be doing more with less, but this could be a golden opportunity for individuals to diversify their skillset. Hurst suggests using this time to build new skills with online training, develop career collateral, and become more proficient at your job. And for managers, this may be the best time, with foot traffic reduced, to make sure your team is up-to-speed on every area of the business. “For managers, first identify the areas where you want your team to improve. We have an extensive knowledge base in DMS360, and on-demand video training in LifetimeLearning for your team to pick up skills and training for every area of the dealership.”

“The auto industry has been a slow industry to really change and shift and go into this digital environment. But, now, we’re in a position where everyone is forced to operate in this model.” – Matthew Hurst, Sr. Director Client Services, Dealertrack DMS

Drive Your New Virtual Environment for the Right Reasons

When it comes to implementing new processes, your dealership should be taking the right steps to ensure safety for your customers and staff. But, make sure that as you do so, you really strive to do it right. Putting new processes in place simply to comply with regulations isn’t enough, Hurst explains. “These new changes may never completely die off.” Businesses need to have the true safety and wellbeing of everyone in mind when implementing social distancing measures. He outlines a few examples that benefit both safety and business:

  • F&I Laser Forms – Implementing F&I Laser Forms gives shoppers the ability to sign forms from home, reducing in-person interaction. This improves safety, but it’s also tremendously convenient. People have the option to safely print and sign important forms in various business situations and the general public expects it when making a major purchase like buying a car. The auto industry has been traditionally slow in this key area.
  • Working From Home – Remote office environments are having a moment across nearly every “non-essential” business sector. The ability to access your DMS 24/7, removing IP restrictions, and having access to real-time, live data is essential. Dealers need to adopt this process now. When flu season returns, as it does every year, it should become the new normal to keep anyone who has been exposed to a sick person at home. Even if we’re not facing a pandemic, slowing the spread of infectious disease is a smart safety procedure that can be implemented. If you need help managing your network systems, most DMS providers offer Managed Network Services to keep your dealership’s network uptime running smoothly.
  • Remote Service Options – XTime provides options such as Engage and Inspect that allow customers to set up appointments, make payments, and drop off vehicles for service without in-person interactions. When social distancing is necessary, this is vital. When it is not vital, it provides a service your customers want.
  • Virtual Showrooms – AutoTrader delivers opportunities for drivers to see vehicles, inside and out, and learn everything about them from home. It’s a huge advantage. Virtual test drives provide a buying option for customers you haven’t reached yet, may be too far to visit your dealership, or an option when social distancing takes place.

Without minimizing the current challenges dealers are facing, Matthew Hurst recognizes that the automotive industry is facing a unique time in history. “I think there are advantages to having implemented these new processes. That’s the silver lining.” Hurst explains. Innovation is the brainchild of necessity and our partners in the industry are finding unique ways to solve problems that are truly unprecedented. “The auto industry has been a slow industry to really change and shift and go into this digital environment. But, now, we’re in a position where everyone is forced to operate in this model.” As we all make our way into recovery-mode, the lessons learned will shape the way the auto industry thrives. Learn more about the process opportunities your dealership can implement today by visiting our Business Continuity Tools & Resources Center.

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