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Information on Microsoft Ending Support for Windows Server 2003 in 2015

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In a continuing effort to keep you informed of changes that may affect your business, we want to make sure that you’re aware of Microsoft plans to discontinue support for Windows Server® 2003 next year on July 14, 2015.

Often times, we see dealers wait to plan their server migration and upgrades at the last minute.  This tends to cause more of a stressful situation than necessary because a “forced” migration is usually needed.  To help avoid this situation for both your dealership and our production department, it’s highly recommended that you plan any necessary upgrades well in advance to ensure you have the right computer hardware and network infrastructure in place before making the transition.

To stay updated on out most current hardware recommendations, click on the Configuration Instructions link located in the Resource Center of the Ideal Welcome Page.  We also want to remind you that Ideal offers some of the best computers on the market that are specifically designed to handle the needs of your particular dealership.

If you decide to purchase hardware from a third party and need Ideal to configure it to your network, there is a $450 charge for a server setup.  If you decide to configure the server yourself with Ideal’s configuration documents, Ideal charges $195 to migrate the Ideal data base and the Ideal data files to the new server and setup Firebird for the database. This charge must be prepaid and scheduled with our staff in advance.

If you would like more information on the dealership-specific products offered by Ideal, or setup fees for third party hardware, call Brian Mohr at 800-737-1620, ext. 209 or email bmohr@constellationdealer.com.

The countdown to July 14, 2015 is on!  Don’t let yourself be caught unprepared.

Note: Ideal Will Be Closed on Friday, July 4th for Independence Day

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Ideal dealer management software

This is just a friendly reminder to all our users that Ideal will be closed on Friday, July 4, for Independence Day. Support will operate on its regular hours Saturday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (CT) and will be back at the regular time of 7 a.m. (CT) on Monday, July 7.

All of us at Ideal hope you have a great 4th of July weekend!

Important News for Canadian Dealers: Information Regarding Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law (CASL)

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With Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) going into effect on July 1, 2014, it’s important that you start planning now to be compliant.

If your dealership uses email marketing, the biggest change is that implied consent is no longer acceptable as long-term permission.  CASL allows implied consent for a two-year period and during that time, marketers will need to collect express consent.  If no consent is given during that time, you cannot continue to market to that address.  If you receive consent within the two-year period, you have another two years to market to them via email.

Chris Kolbenschlag, Director of Deliverability at Bronto, has a good article that highlights, in detail, what the new law means to those who rely on email marketing.

Click here to read Chris’s article and learn more about CASL

 

Attention Marine Dealers – StockPro Parts Interface Now Available

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DealerPortIdeal is pleased to announce new Stock Pro integration with the Ideal system for Marine dealers.  The parts locater interface is available to Evinrude/Johnson (formerly OMC) dealers.

StockPro is designed to make a dealer’s inventory visible to other Evinrude/Johnson dealers online via the DealerPort website.  The Evinrude/Johnson line will always be included in the upload to DealerPort, but the dealer also has the option to send additional manufacturers.

It’s important to note that you must upgrade to Ideal v8.5 build 209 in order to implement this interface.  Once upgraded, you can contact the DealerPort Helpdesk for installation at 800-888-4662 or email Stock.pro@brp.com.

Message from Support Manager Renee Hiemstra – What’s Covered in My Ideal for Windows Support Fees?

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Renee HiemstraAs a support department, we receive inquiries as to what’s covered in your support fees.  It seems often times there’s a misconception that your support fees are solely for your phone support.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  As a paying member of support, you receive access to several important tools and resources that will further your usage of the software.  These benefits include:

Access to online help.  This can serve as a very powerful tool as it lists detailed step-by-step instructions on how to utilize the Ideal software.  I highly recommend becoming acquainted with the online help, especially during the months where the support team experiences a high call volume because you will find a lot of information you are looking for there.

Access to the Welcome Page.  Again, I highly recommend you become familiar with this page as it lists timely help topics, frequently asked questions and how-to videos.  We conduct weekly meetings with our support department so we can put relevant material out there based on the most common issues we’re currently assisting our customers with.

FREE software updates that include new features designed to improve your everyday operations.  We recommend that you update your software each time a new release comes out.  Often times issues are resolved by updating your version of Ideal and it’s something that our staff will have you do before they can assist you with your issue.  We always support the most current version of Ideal.

Purchase Order Interfaces (except PSP).  Ideal frequently adds new purchase order interfaces to our software.  If you’d like to implement one of those into your system, our support department will help you install these interfaces at no additional charge.

Hands-on training at regional training seminars.  Our expert staff provides hands-on training at our regional seminars, which typically happen once per year.  Although some costs are involved in your travel, food and accommodations, the opportunity to receive this type of training from Dave Baumgarten for only a $99.00 registration fee is one of the biggest incentives of your support plan.

Price list cross referencing with selected suppliers.

FREE hardware support on items purchased from Ideal that are under warranty.  A major advantage to purchasing your hardware from Ideal is that we do stand behind our products and will fully support them under warranty.  The only cost to you is shipping.

Telephone support from our friendly and knowledgeable support team.  Our phone staff is available for Windows customers by calling 800-737-1620 on Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. (CST) and Saturday from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. (CST).  For West Coast customers or emergency support Monday – Friday from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. (CST), please call 877-736-1926 if you need assistance during that time.

What isn’t covered by support fees?

The main item that is not covered by your support fees is any assistance you may need with third-party hardware.  All third-party hardware has different specifications and it takes our staff extra time to install and configure hardware purchased from vendors other than Ideal.

We have come up with a detailed document that outlines what we charge for these services, as well as pricing on additional modules or services you may need down the road.

You can view this document here

I hope this helps clarify the full benefits you receive as a paying member of support.  We appreciate your business and look forward to coming up with additional tools, resources and development that will help you receive the most benefits from the Ideal system.

 

Interview with B & B Lawn Equipment and Cycle on Business Growth and Adapting to New Technology in Your Dealership

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B and BTim Boone and his brother Marty started B & B Lawn Equipment and Cycle from the ground up in 1993 and it has now grown into one of the largest multi-line dealers in the Geneseo, IL area.

Tim and Marty began the business in a small location and focused on stability and growth for the first five years.  On their fifth year of operation, they built their current store an added a warehouse addition in 2000.  Their business began to flourish so much that they purchased an additional warehouse in 2007.

We recently caught up with Tim to learn some of the keys to their success and how they transitioned from the Ideal DOS system to Ideal for Windows.

Ideal: What do you consider to be the strengths of your business compared to most other retailers?

Tim:  “By growing the square footage and having proper displays and inventory, we have seen our sales increase steadily each year. However, talk is cheap and good service always out performs price and product.  I truly believe we have an advantage over the competition by providing a truly unique relationship with each customer and get it right the first time. We also have great employees.  They are the reason for B&B’s success. We allow our guys a lot of freedom in decision making and it really resonates with the customers.”

Ideal: You initially implemented Ideal’s DOS based system and later made the decision to upgrade to Windows. How did that transition go and how has it improved your business? 

Tim:We entered the computer age in 1999 with Ideal’s DOS based system, which I loved!  We made the move to Window in 2012 and yikes, was I nervous.  We paid for all new computers and the full four day conversion by the Jedi Master, Dave ‘obi wan’ Baumgarten.  It was worth every penny.

We made the move for several reasons.  One, when you call Ideal tech support and anyone under 30 starts questioning why you are still running DOS and has to dust off stone tablets to find code, I am pretty sure it is time to retire the horse and buggy and breakout the Ford Mustang.  Two, we needed something faster and capable of sending email through the POS system.  Three, text alerting.  That alone should sell the system. And four, we talked with more than 10 dealers that made the conversion and ALL said they loved the new Windows.

A funny story about DOS.  We hired a 17yr old to work at our store in 2011.  He went to look up a customer name on DOS, so I told him to push F9.  First of all he was using the mouse and the correct field wasn’t even highlighted.  Secondly he was pushing F and then 9.  I said you have to tab over and push the function keys.  His response, “what are those keys?  I mean what do they do?”  I thought holy moly I’m getting old!  It’s time to update!”

Ideal: What features do you like best about Ideal?

Tim:I would say the email capabilities, the drill-down reporting options and text alerts.”

Ideal: In what ways has your business improved since implementing Ideal?

Tim:We have started an advertising campaign featuring Ideal as a “data track.”  This offers customers a more convenient way to keep track of product numbers, warranty and product history all at no additional cost.  It’s really something we do anyway for both us and the customer, so why not advertise it.”

Ideal: In what ways has your dealership saved time or money since implementing Ideal?

Tim: “We save time by merely having the customer info and numbers. We also just added ChargeItPro for our merchant services, which is fast and easy.  Also, it is nice capturing the signature of each customer on charge invoices and work orders electronically.”

What future goals do you have for your business and how will Ideal help?

Tim:  “We want to do group texting off my current customer list from the POS system to advertise weekly specials or events quickly. The same can be said with emails.  We also are looking forward to more integration for mobile devices through Ideal.”

Note: Ideal Will Be Closed on Monday, May 26th for Memorial Day

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Ideal dealer management software

This is just a friendly reminder to all our users that Ideal will be closed on Monday, May 26, for Memorial Day. Support will operate on its regular hours Saturday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (CT) and will be back at the regular time of 7 a.m. (CT) on Tuesday, May 27.

All of us at Ideal hope you have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

On the Road with Dave – The Importance of Purchase Order Finalization

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Dave-newIt has come to my attention through my visits to several dealerships recently that those dealers who are not taking advantage of the Accounts Payable module are not completing the final step of the purchasing process we refer to as Finalization.

This step is critical because it provides a process to keep the dealer’s cost and manufacturer’s suggested selling price up-to-date based on the invoice the products were billed to the dealership on. Ideal has always had this separate process due to the fact that, in many cases, the shipment of products received at a dealership is accompanied by a packing list. The invoice comes separately several days later, or perhaps it’s available for view and download from a website.

This Finalization process can be done by selecting Applications -> Inventory -> Supplier Invoice Entry. This is the same task that is used to get serialized units into the Floor Plan module. If the correct Pay To was not used at the point of receiving select Applications -> Purchasing -> Purchase Receipt Inquiry then select the correct Receipt ID and change the Pay To so the supplier that is going to be paid. This is especially critical when finalizing serialized items to get them associated with the correct Floor Plan. 

In the Supplier Invoice Entry task, begin by selecting the Supplier.  A window will appear labeled “Select Receipts to Load”. Choose the original receiving document by matching the Receipt ID, the Reference, or the PO # then click OK. Enter the Amount of the Invoice if different than the original received amount. The Reference and Invoice Date may also be updated (if necessary). In the bottom portion of the screen labeled Account Distribution, add a line to reflect the shipping charges (if necessary). Update each line with the correct Amount and MFR LIST. Additional detailed help information is available in your Ideal for Windows Help System.  Select Help Topics from the Help menu.  Then from the Program Help, select Purchasing and Receiving -> Instructions ->Finalizing a Purchase Order Transaction.

Remember, once the Purchase Order Finalization occurs, no changes can be made to the cost of these products. Sales reports, Inventory Valuation reports, and other accounting reports are affected by what does or does not happen with this process. Take the time to complete the Finalization process for all inbound inventory so your system can provide the most accurate information possible. Be on the lookout, I may stop by your dealership to learn something important from you someday soon!

 

Attention Internet Explorer Users: Details on Vulnerability and How You Can Update Your Browser

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You may have heard lately about a vulnerability in all versions of Internet Explorer that Could Allow Remote Code Execution.  According to TrendLabs Security Intelligence Blog, “this remote code execution vulnerability allows an attacker to run code on a victim system if the user visits a website under the control of the attacker.”

For more information on this vulnerability, see the TrendLabs Security Intelligence Blog at:  http://blog.trendmicro.com/trendlabs-security-intelligence/internet-explorer-zero-day-hits-all-versions-in-use

Microsoft released a Security update that will address this vulnerability.  If you are not set up to run Microsoft updates automatically, you can run an update Internet Explorer manually from the Microsoft Web Site.
https://technet.microsoft.com/library/security/ms14-021

 

7 Ways to Create the Best Customer Experience and “Wow” Them into Doing Business with You

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Ideal Computer SystemsAs a dealer who has to compete with big box stores and the Internet, creating the best possible experience has never been more important.  Here are 7 proven ways to create the best customer experience and breed customer loyalty into your dealership.

 

1. Maintain a clean and organized dealership

We all know that first impressions can mean everything.  That’s why it’s critical that the overall look and feel of your dealership is presented in the best way possible.  This means having a very clean and organized business.  As challenging as it can be with all of the dirt and equipment that comes through your doors, you need to make a conscious effort to keep your floors, product shelves, and counters clean.  Organize products so they are all facing the consumer and are appealing to the eye.  If you have stools at your counter with tears or duct tape on them, get rid of them and replace them with new ones that are inviting to sit on.  It’s essential that you create an environment where anyone would be comfortable sending any member of their family into your dealership to do business with you.

 

 2. Make sure all of your products have professional-quality price labels

This is an area that Bob Clements, dealership consultant and president of Bob Clements International, highly stresses to his clients.  You must have labels on every item of merchandise.  If there’s no label, it indicates it’s not for sale.  Make sure you avoid hand-written labels.  If it’s hand-written, it implies that the price is negotiable.  Check with your manufacturer reps to see if you can get professional-quality pricing labels for your merchandise.  If you use industry-specific business management software, check with your provider to see what kind of options they offer for printing professional-quality labels directly from your system.

 

3. Offer competitive prices on common items and make a big deal out of it
Another area that Clements suggests as a great way to draw customers in is to have competitive prices on 6-12 of your most common, highest selling items that people generally know the price.  He refers to this as the “Wal-Mart” method of pricing.  If you sell those items at slightly lower than MSRP, and make up the margin differential on the lesser-known priced items, you’ll be able to absorb the costs and reap major benefits.  For example, if you sell a common air filter cheaper than MSRP, create signage that says “check out our prices” and show what the MSRP is and what you charge.  You’ll start to become known as the dealership that has great prices.

 

4. Make your showroom floor engaging and interactive
Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to displaying items on your showroom floor.  Since this area is the main attraction in your dealership, make your showroom as appealing and inviting as possible.  Take your best items, add all the best features and invite people to try things out.  Create signs asking them to sit on your equipment so they can get a real feel for them.  One other tip, treat your showroom like a car dealer does.  Include all the loaded extras on units and list the price.  It’s much easier to start a unit priced at its pinnacle and take items off than it is to start from scratch and add items on.

 

5. Create an environment that welcomes daily traffic
This is an area you can have fun with and even be a little creative.  The object is to make your dealership an area where the local community enjoys visiting.  Offer free coffee, free soda or free popcorn to everyone who comes through your doors.  If you have a well-mannered, people-friendly pet, let them hang out at the shop and serve as your business mascot.  The idea is to make your dealership a familiar and friendly hangout that’s well known throughout the community.  This can prove to be a relatively cheap and effective way to promote the business and generate great word of mouth.

 

6. Keep your dealer management software up-to-date so anyone in your business can look up information for a customer and provide the information they are looking for
With all of the steps you take to make your dealership inviting, the most important thing you need to do once the person enters your business is to be knowledgeable about every customer, the units they are having serviced, and the merchandise you carry.  The easiest way to do this is through an industry-specific dealer management system.  By tracking all of your customer, product, inventory and work order history, anyone in your dealership should be able to greet a customer, look them up and let them know the status of their service orders.  If they are looking for a particular product, you should be able to easily look it up in your system to see what your quantities are.  This will reduce the amount of time it takes serving your customer and leave them with a great feeling in knowing that your entire dealership is knowledgeable about them as a customer and the business they’ve done with you.

 

7. Properly clean all equipment that leaves your service department
As important as it is to create a great first impression, you also want to put as much, if not more, effort into leaving a great lasting impression.  This means any equipment serviced in your dealership, no matter how dirty it is, should leave looking as close to new as possible.  If your state’s guidelines allow you to wash the equipment, do so.  If not, you can still take measures to ensure the equipment leaves in cleaner condition than how it came in.  Paying attention to this detail will impress your customers when they pick up their equipment and will motivate them to tell others about the great service you offer.

By incorporating just a few of these practices into the appearance of your dealership and the experience you provide for your customers, you’ll quickly begin creating the “wow” factor that you are looking for when it comes to creating a solid base of loyal customers.

 




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