1) What is trending when it comes to business management software systems for the OPE industry, and what factors are driving these trends?
I’d say mobile technology continues to become more and more a part of our everyday world and we’ve spent a lot of time incorporating this technology into our product. Service and parts personnel can now perform key tasks from anywhere in the dealership. Dealers are saving considerable time and improving overall business efficiencies by conducting year-end and cycle inventory counts with their mobile devices, and expediting parts receiving right on the spot. Service personnel can take and attach photos to work orders and compose a work order while standing outside with the customer. This dramatically improves the speed and quality of the engagement. Technicians are now able to clock in and out of jobs, add labor and comments, take pictures and complete work orders on-the-go, without being tethered to a workstation. We expect the demand for mobile capabilities to continue to grow as dealers are becoming more accustomed to using their mobile devices for business.
The OPE industry’s continued development of streamlined communication between dealer and supplier also continues to be a trend. We currently have over 80 dealer to manufacturer/supplier integrations with our system and those numbers continue to grow.
Another trend we’ve seen is that dealers are looking for a reduction in paperwork and better ways to store pictures, signatures, customer files. With the development of a paperless office, dealers can store these items without adding to the size of their database, or taking up valuable space on their server’s hard drive. Paperless offices have made it easy for dealers to store data on a secure cloud server with unlimited space, and we’re happy to provide this service to our dealers.
2) Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system?
Everyone will tell you that business management software will save time, improve efficiency and streamline business processes. While this is all true, the fact of the matter is dealers are mostly in business to make money and a business management software will help them do just that. While there is an upfront investment, your future returns are much greater and well worth the investment.
3) What should OPE dealers be looking for when shopping for a business management software system?
I believe one key factor that is overlooked when shopping for business management software is the dealer’s internal process of how they will arrive at a software purchase decision.
You should address several questions during your buying process:
- Who is involved in the evaluation and buying process?
- Where do they get their information?
- What are the best methods to obtain the information?
- What specific features does the dealership need to close the gaps in their business processes?
- How much weight do you put on peer recommendations and/or company provided referrals?
Some factors you should consider in your due diligence include finding a product that’s an industry specific solution, has a user-friendly interface, includes features and functionality, a good reputation for customer support and training, good peer recommendations, industry leaders and consultant’s recommendations, the company’s age, size, and reputation in the industry. You also need to look at how many software contenders you want to invite into the process, the vendor provided demos and/or independent access to the software they provide, and employee feedback.
While dealers want to get a new solution in place quickly and move on with life, a little due diligence will go a long ways to ensure that the business management system truly meets your needs now and in the future. Having key employees involved in the process will ensure a better adoption and “buy-in” with all the employees.
Try not to take a shortcut during this process. No one wants to burn their time and their employees’ time. However, sacrificing 30-60 days now will lead to a much higher probability of success that can last for years.
Dealer principals and key employees in the OPE industry are highly intelligent business people. I hope that this response helps “prime the pump” for the development of their own internal decision making process.
4) What is the latest OPE industry-specific news about your company?
Since Ideal has become part of the Constellation Dealership Software (CDS) family, our reputation for industry-leading software and customer support has reached new levels of success. The concerted effort within the organization has provided Ideal with amazing resources that have allowed us to nearly triple our program development efforts. The collaboration and knowledge share throughout the CDS software family has allowed Ideal to really build on our award-winning customer support as well as our customer delivery and training. We’ve seen dramatic improvements with our customers’ ability to “go live” which results in a much quicker and sustained return on investment with Ideal. We also place an emphasis in collecting feedback from our customers and use their feedback to help aide in our development. It is through this feedback that we learned in 2014, Ideal customers rate our support team at 97% in overall courtesy and professionalism and 93% in overall product knowledge.
Ideal now produces three major software releases a year that cover a variety of timely and industry-relevant enhancements and features. Our sources of inspiration and knowledge continues to come from our number one resource, our customers. In addition, we seek guidance through our long-established relationships with leading industry consultants and dealership experts. When it comes down to it, our main goal is to provide dealers with a product that allows them to become more profitable. In order to do so, they need to be able to easily access key metrics that help them monitor their business performance. To help achieve this goal, we invested some time working with industry expert Bob Clements to modify and add new charts on the Ideal Dashboard. These charts contain pertinent information that all dealers should be looking at on a regular basis. Some of our recent updates include Average Service Completion Time, Estimated Wait Time, Fill Rate, and Average Transaction Value.
We also worked with Bob to develop a profitability feature which has become extremely popular with our dealers and that’s a parts percentage markup on items from your parts department that you add to your work orders. By adding just a 5% increase on parts, we’re seeing dealers easily add thousands of dollars to their bottom line.