Am I winning? Dealers must ask tough questions of technology providers to determine whether their goals and strategies align.  Photo by Alan Levine

Am I winning? Dealers must ask tough questions of technology providers to determine whether their goals and strategies align. Photo by Alan Levine

I like to think of business as a game — one filled with strategy, intrigue, intense competition, and a little fun along the way. As with any game, business has its winners, and in the auto industry, the stakes have never been higher.

After many years working in the corporate world, both inside and outside the automotive industry, I have learned that in order to succeed, a company must invest in a unique business strategy. In today’s tech-focused world, that means using technology to find ways to stand out. Here are a few questions you should ask your tech provider to determine whether you are winning at business.

1. Is the Technology Easy to Use?

In your quest to drive profit and win over customers as well as talented employees, your technology can either move you closer to victory or bog down your business with worry and burden. If your technology seems to act more like a hurdle than a helping hand, it’s time to ask your tech provider three tough questions:

  • How long does it take for a new employee to get up to speed?
  • What training tools are available that will make it easy for the staff to learn?
  • Is the technology so outdated it’s difficult to use?
  • Is the technology chasing away tech-savvy customers and employees?

Again, technology should be a help, not a hindrance. Your tech provider should be able to offer comprehensive training and on-the-spot support each and every time you have an issue. And your employees shouldn’t have to struggle with simple tasks as a result of outdated technology. If your technology is making life difficult for you and your employees, chances are it’s keeping you behind your competition as well.

2. Does the Technology Give Me Real-Time Data?

The day-to-day battles in the game of business are taking place online. Whether through digital sales or online customer interaction and outreach, a dealership must have an online presence in order to compete. But did you know the real online victories are happening behind the scenes? If your tech provider isn’t taking advantage of modern advancements in online technology to eliminate inefficiencies at your dealership, it’s time to ask the following questions:

  • Does the technology offer me real-time access to data?
  • When I refresh my browser, is my data updated in real time, or do I have to wait overnight for my info?
  • Can I access my information from anywhere?

Cloud computing has changed the way dealerships are doing business. It has made technology more useful, affordable and efficient while keeping information more secure. Information stored in the cloud can be accessed anytime and anywhere you have a connection to the internet, allowing you to more effectively manage multiple locations and monitor performance. If you haven’t already invested in cloud computing, you should work to implement this type of modern technology in your dealership.

3. Is the Provider a True Business Partner?

Almost every game involves teammates — trusted allies who are with you in the trenches or behind the scenes working for your success. Good teammates always have your back because they share the same single-minded goals as you: to win the game and stay ahead of the competition. If your tech provider acts more like a passive observer than a true teammate, make sure you get on the same page by asking the following questions:

  • How long is the contract commitment? Shouldn’t you be seeking to earn my business every day?
  • Is it difficult to get answers to questions when I contact your client services department?
  • What other services do you offer that will support my specific business needs?

Your tech provider should be your trusted partner in the game of business, not just an occasional contact for so-so support when things go wrong. If your tech provider offers services such as performance management, take advantage of the opportunity to meet with these experienced industry experts to find ways to separate yourself from your competitors. You’re working hard to win the game and your tech teammates should be right there with you, earning your business with every move you make.

To win at the game of business, you need to find ways to stand out. And, technology that takes you two steps back while your competition moves forward is never a winning strategy. If your tech provider isn’t focused on building a winning program—one that uses cutting-edge, easy-to-use technology, and offers real-time access to data—it’s probably time for a switch. Remember, in the game of business you’re in charge of your winning ways, so don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and demand excellence from your tech teammates.

Paul Whitworth is senior vice president of DMS and fixed operations at Cox Automotive. Email him at [email protected].