Among the many industry challenges facing dealers today — from poor employee retention rates to the suffocating costs of excess paper — one that may fly under the radar is the cost of one-off technology solutions. Dealerships are one of the more regulated and standardized retail operations, so it’s understandable that you would opt for different technology solutions on different platforms to address specific areas or operating problems as they arise.

Unfortunately, the steady accumulation of solutions designed to address a specific issue or group of issues in one part of the dealership — but not sync up with each other — presents all sorts of problems: loss of smooth communication and cooperation between departments, increasingly segmented maintenance and training costs, a likely hit to customer satisfaction, and a general increase in waste of time and resources, and loss of efficiency.

In fact, the average dealership stores customer information in 18 different places — a practice that almost inevitably leads to error and duplication. I call this the “tech crunch.” It’s the collective weight of the bolt-on solutions on different platforms that frustrates employees and customers alike and paralyzes operational efficiency.

The Cost of the Tech Crunch

Think of the dilemma this way: Over time, one-off technology solutions become dependent on an increasingly complex series of connections to update, rekey, and resync dealership and customer information to create a mostly complete picture in one place.

With standalone and bolt-on solutions, your employees too often end up in the role of technology integrator — not of just one or two systems, but many. This is a role more focused on working the system than serving customers with speed and quality.

Of all the ways the tech crunch can hurt your bottom line, this is perhaps the most significant. It’s one thing for your operational inefficiency to cost you money through wasted time or maintenance and training expenses; it’s another when you start sending customers out the door, dissatisfied with inefficient processes and distracted employees.

Faced with this unique challenge, the most innovative and successful dealers are embracing a relentless winnowing of one-off, standalone solutions. They are also using a more focused approach to technology to deliver on process improvement. They are thinking beyond the status quo to improve operating efficiency, control employment costs, and drive profitability in every transaction.

What would it mean to your dealership if employees were more productive and could simultaneously deliver a better experience to your customers?

Stopping the Tech Crunch

Imagine dealership and customer information in a solution that doesn’t carry the risk of information duplication or rekeying information, because everything you need can be found in one place, all entered at one time. Such a solution should offer new paths to leveraging that information to create leads for the sales and service departments and to support painless communication and cooperation between departments.

The seamless platform is within reach, and it starts with investing in a technology platform where different applications are built together to work together to support the dealer’s process and guide your employees in serving customers and making better business decisions.

Such a platform would support advanced retailing tools and processes and break down technological barriers between departments. More importantly, it would break down barriers between the dealership and the customer, opening up new possibilities of customer satisfaction and improved business performance.

One-off technology solutions that function like Band-Aids might be good short-term solutions. But the problem with the short term is often the long term. Expedient choices today can lead to more complications down the road.

Stop being squashed by the tech crunch and invest in a single, seamless system that can help your dealership improve operating performance, employee satisfaction and the customer experience.

Carl Bennett is the director of Reynolds Consulting Services, a division of Reynolds and Reynolds. Email him at [email protected].