The rapid onset of COVID-19 triggered many dealerships to rethink how they conduct business. The traditional face-to-face handshake model that has filled the coffers for decades was rendered obsolete overnight. With many people at home under shelter-in-place orders, foot traffic dropped to virtually zero causing sales to plummet. For many dealerships, this was an uncomfortable wakeup call that left sales managers wondering, “How do I protect my bottom line in the new post-COVID normal, and from the next bump in the road?”
The good news for dealerships is that COVID-19 has shined a (somewhat harsh) light on problems and inefficiencies that have been bubbling just below the surface for years, and has made it abundantly clear that now is the time to fix them. In this post, we examine a few of the post-COVID issues that dealers are facing and provide guidance on how to fix them.
DEALERSHIPS ARE BECOMING MORE DIGITAL – BUT HAS IT GONE FAR ENOUGH?
In recent years, many dealerships have taken big strides to improve the sales and customer experience by investing more heavily in digital. Customers are doing more research online and, thanks to companies like Amazon, now expect everything to be one-click easy and instant. Dealerships have largely risen to the challenge by implementing CRM systems, online advertising, virtual walkthroughs of cars, online negotiations, and free home delivery. COVID, underpins just how critical a strong digital presence is for dealerships. When people won’t or can’t come into the showroom, the only way to sell is online. However, COVID also highlighted a more serious issue that many dealers would care to forget.
THE PAPER PROBLEM
Many dealerships are overloaded with paper, often generating hundreds, if not thousands of pages per day that are stuffed in banker boxes and filing cabinets. The business office runs on paper: contracts, ROs, credit applications, financing, invoices, checks. Everything is printed and shared on paper, and records are filed away for years. Finding these files has always been a drain on employee time, but COVID has shown us how big a liability paper really is.
During COVID, with many non-essential employees forced to work at home, paper files cannot be accessed which leaves dealerships vulnerable. What happens when a file needs to be located for a warranty or service audit, but the staff member who filed it is remote or working to keep distance from other employees? Furthermore, passing physical papers around the dealerships increases the chances that germs will spread.
Despite investing time and resources into digitizing other areas of dealership operations, for many dealers, the prospect of scrapping paper filing for a digital document management system seems totally out of reach. One trip to the jam-packed file room filled top to bottom with documents dating back to the Nixon administration is enough to make anyone think twice about the amount of work it would take to switch…After all, “it’s how we’ve always done it”, right?
EXTEND DIGITAL TO PAPER FILING
Wrong! Moving to digital document management is one of the easiest and most impactful digital changes a dealer can make. Not only will it save you tons of time and money, but it will also protect your business from the next crisis, disturbance, or disruption whether it’s a pandemic, a tornado, or simply from employee turn-over.
Digital document management also does not need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Storing your files digitally doesn’t mean you won’t ever use another piece of paper, it simply means that starting tomorrow all of your important documents will be organized, instantly searchable, and protected in the cloud. You’re existing documents can sit in storage until they can be shredded or scanned into a permanent protected archive.
While some dealerships have attempted to go completely paperless, using tablets to enter customer information, sign contracts, and enter technician notes, others find that is a step too far. They simply choose to continue doing business on paper, but scan the documents into the cloud, and stop filing and searching through filing cabinets.
Here is an example of how a post-COVID car deal might go while using digital document management:
- Customer reaches out online about a vehicle they saw online
- Negotiations happen over the phone, via email, or via text message
- A credit application is run digitally
- A contract is printed and brought to the customer’s house for signature
- The car is delivered to the customer’s house
- Back at the dealership the contract (with wet signatures), funding proof, rebate backups, and commission vouchers are scanned in seconds into the digital document management system where they can be accessed instantly for years to come.
As you can see, the process is not wholly different from what you do today. The main difference is that now all of the customer and vehicle information is available online, from any device, instead of buried in a file room. By storing all of your documents online, you can free up tons of space in your dealership, cut the staff time, and save money that will help you increase profit margin. More importantly, you will be able to offer your customers and employees an experience where they feel safe, secure, and comfortable.
REBOUNDING FROM COVID
The past few months have been challenging for everyone, but it is important to look at them as a learning experience. For dealerships, they have highlighted areas that need to be improved, but have also opened the door to new opportunities for growth and expansion. Doubling down on your investment in digital and taking the step to storing documents online will pay dividends down the road and help to protect your business from future disruptions. If you would like to learn more about how Advanced Digital Technology can help your dealership take the next step towards digital document management, schedule a demo.