Ideally, vendors and businesses work together as partners. Having a genuine relationship and being able to problem-solve together is an advantage no matter what. The auto business is not exempt.
Dealerships have done well during the last couple of years. But there’s a downside to good times: dealerships sometimes develop bad habits because it becomes so easy to wait for customers to come to them instead of going out and finding new ones. Without leadership and a good plan, teams can fall apart quickly. As John C. Maxwell said, “Teamwork makes the dream work, but the vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.”
Having a vendor as an ally in business can play a crucial role in the success or failure of an organization. Organizations should work to strengthen their vendor relationships in the same manner that they focus on team development and fostering customer loyalty.
Once your goals are set and your vendor has committed to working with you, it’s important to maximize the relationships so you continue to get the most out of your tools. Here’s how to keep relationships going so you see the best results:
Team Training and Support
Working with vendors to come up with a well-thought-out training plan for your team helps with integrating new products into your dealership. At times, it can be hard to implement new tools because daily routines are set, and everyone is pressed for time.
That’s why it’s important to work closely with your vendor to set your team up for success. When possible, bring in a vendor representative to train and educate your employees. That way, everyone understands how to use the new product.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Vendors should provide you with KPIs. KPIs create targets for your teams to hit, milestones to track progress, and insights to help organizations make better decisions. Using feedback from KPIs will help you to continually improve performance.
Set up regular check-ins with vendors to talk about what’s working and what’s not. This is where you can get the help you need. A receptive vendor will use your feedback to improve its product, so be honest.
It is also important to establish open channels of communication for your team to ensure everyone using the vendor tools knows how to get help if they need it.
Training is not simply finished after the initial setup. Follow-up training from your vendor is important because it allows your team to give feedback, get questions answered and allows for training as the product develops new features. You’ll keep your staff engaged and maximize the value of your dealership tools.
A good vendor is there to help you achieve your goals, so make sure to stay on the same page, keep your communication going, and continue to look for ways tools can benefit your dealership. Having a great relationship with a vendor who has a vested interest in your business can prove to be beneficial in a number of ways:
Being a good customer — with consistent orders and on-time payments — can lead to vendors offering volume discounts and having special deals.
In order for you to meet your obligations and provide excellent customer service, you need to have the tools you need delivered on time. That’s what’s great about having a good relationship with your vendor, they will prioritize you. Vendors will deliver the goods ahead of time. In addition, they’ll make sure that you get the best training and will follow up.
When issues arise, the vendor will be prompt in their responses. More than likely, they’ll go beyond the basics to address your problem and compensate you for your trouble.
As your vendor begins to understand your business, they can provide you with unique and customized products that can create a competitive advantage over other businesses in the marketplace.
A strong relationship with your vendor can also impact other relationships, that of your customers and your company. When you deliver goods and services on time and free from issues, your customer relationships will become stronger. This can foster loyalty and trust as they will feel that their money is well-spent.
There is more to consider. Recent trends in the auto industry are affecting dealerships, and dealers will have to adapt. What are some of those changes?
You already know about an increase in EV sales, but specifics are harder to find. How many will be built, and where will they be distributed? When will the national charging infrastructure become a reality?
Additionally, what are the next steps in putting digital technology into ever-more-connected cars? How will tech partnerships with auto manufacturers affect product offerings and sales strategies, including the market for accessories? Also, what progress is being made on autonomous cars?
Will interest rates continue to rise? How will that affect the drop in used car prices as market conditions stabilize and supply chains return to normal? What about the regulatory environment? Major changes in finance, insurance and lending have all taken place.
How will dealers create a consistent sales experience for customers? Will they refine multi-channel coordinated marketing? Will they go to Gen Z’s current search engine favorite, TikTok?
As the market changes, finding low-hanging fruit may be more difficult. Establishing and maintaining solid vendor relationships is vital. Now is the right time to return to selling basics — focusing on customer service while maintaining cost efficiency, quality and developing your market are key. That means using your DMS to give you the information about customers you need.
NADA keeps statistics about many aspects of the auto business, but one of those statistics has to do with inventory. About 2% of the people in a dealer database return to the market every month, but that doesn’t mean they return to the dealership where they bought their last car. Very few customers are loyal to a specific dealer, but a good DMS can help you to identify helpful information about customers: When was the last time they did business? Did they buy or lease? Pay cash? Buy insurance? What was their payment range?
How do you track your customers who aren’t coming back to your dealership? The technology is now there to know when customers visit other dealers. Dealers can use that information to determine why their customers are going elsewhere and possibly find ways to bring them back. Google Analytics (GA3) is making way for a unified GA4 specification written by the Automotive Standards Council, due in November 2023. Also, you can look forward to tracking across all vendors and outcome-oriented conversion signals that replace clicks.
With the pandemic over and concerns about disease fading, how is shared mobility developing? We know fewer people are currently buying new automobiles. Of those who do, they don’t often have much equity in their old one. Will younger people continue to avoid buying or driving cars, or will they finally decide that getting a license and having a car is worth the time and money? What will happen to the subscription-based services manufacturers are experimenting with?
Some people are coming in to return leased vehicles and walking out with a substantial check instead of another leased vehicle. If fewer people are buying automobiles, that also means there are fewer used automobiles.
Optimizing revenue streams has become critical to staying in business. Dealers and vendor partners both benefit from communicating ideas and solutions for the problems they see. It’s easy to spend time on administrative tasks instead of building relationships and talking with business partners is as important as any other task.
Maximizing your vendor relationships will increase your return on your technology investments and keep your dealership ahead of the curve. Finding a balance is key.
Sharon Kitzman leads the launch and long-term growth of Dominion DMS. Previously, she managed the strategic direction and product development for Reynolds & Reynolds and Dealertrack. Her experience spans every area of dealership software development, including sales, marketing, product lifecycle management, process re-engineering, OEM management, professional services, and customer services.
Kitzman is a recognized leader in the automotive industry for her expertise in DMS technology. She received numerous accolades for her leadership, including Automotive News Top 100 Leading Women 2015 and 2020, Auto Remarketing Women in Retail 2021, and AutoSuccess Women at the Wheel 2021. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Ohio State University.
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