Over the past 10 years, auto dealers have seen an explosive growth of tools designed to revolutionize your business. The problem, however, is that continually adding the latest tool can have unintended consequences: They often don’t integrate well, forcing staff to log into multiple systems, and many have infected showrooms with an ailment I call “desktop detainment.” The main symptom is a sales manager who is chained to their desk, completing simple, deal-related tasks.

That was never the intended result. Fortunately, there are a number of new, mobile device-based tools on the market — from my company and others —designed to integrate into a single, efficient, digital workflow.

Technology providers have begun to focus on mobile workflows because we believe they give dealers and managers the opportunity to maximize growth, enhance customer service, improve transaction speed and increase profitability. One example is the trade-appraisal process.

Rethinking Appraisals

Most dealers still rely on their used-car managers to oversee the entire trade-in appraisal. The salesperson approaches the manager, who gets up, walks outside, conducts the appraisal, returns to their desk and inputs the appropriate data into their appraisal tool. In many cases, the salesperson never looks at the vehicle or doesn’t know enough about it to devalue the trade.

Now imagine a highly efficient process that empowers a dealer to return to a successful fundamental strategy: the “silent walkaround” on a trade appraisal. The best mobile solutions allow dealers and managers to empower their salespeople. The result? A process that delivers faster, more accurate trade-in values and accelerated time to market.

More importantly, adopting a mobile-based process saves time for the used-car manager. Consider the two workflows illustrated on this page. The traditional process requires about 12 minutes of the used-car manager’s time, including the appraisal and data input; the next-generation workflow reduces that to five minutes. All they have to do is verify the work done by the salesperson, who will remain engaged with the customer at a crucial point in the transaction and be better informed about their trade’s features, options and condition.

Empowering your managers and sales team to manage their own time more efficiently can only help to improve morale and, in time, reduce turnover and help develop future leaders.

The Competitive Edge

Faster time to market always leads to increased sales and profitability. What better way to accomplish that goal than by having a fully photographed and optioned vehicle ready for initial online merchandising? Better, more accurate inventories create a better online experience for your customers — and it doesn’t end there.

Customers typically do not enjoy haggling over the value of their trade. They just want to know what it is worth to you. The silent walkaround by an informed sales representative is a step in the right direction. It promotes transparency with the consumer and helps overcome the initial appraisal objection. Ultimately, it will help close more deals faster and set your dealership apart from the competition.

Does your current appraisal process empower your employees to do what they need to do, when they need to it? The best mobile tools should allow your employees to do all of the above. Imagine a world where managers are no longer detained by their desktop computers, a place where salespeople go back to fundamental successful principles and an environment that empowers your employees to return to engaging customers and coaching and training employees.

Any change to proven processes can be difficult. Before you add your next tool, think about what specific and measurable results you want to see. Consider the effects on your personnel and get them involved in the decision-making process. Positive, thoughtful, collaborative change will allow you and your team to do business the way you want to do it, only better.

Geoff Bedine is the founder and president of AutoDealer iQ Inc. and author of Dealertrack’s “Transforming Automotive Retail” blog. [email protected]