Published Articles

Providing Comprehensive Service to Dealers through Online Solutions

Posted: April 7, 2010

P&A Magazine

This article was originally published by P&A Magazine in their April 2010 Issue. See the original article here.

In the last issue, we discussed the options available for connectivity to menu systems. It is clear that the safest route is to connect to all menus. Unfortunately, this is also the most technically challenging and complex solution to deliver; it requires a standard interface that all menu systems deliver to in order to avoid serious challenges when updates are required.

Menu dilemma or not, there remains some questions on what functionality should be left to the menu systems and the functionality that should be available on a provider’s website. One thing is clear: every business needs its own website at the very least as a marketing channel; however, what additional functionality should it deliver?

Most dealers use menus, but they are not used all the time. In addition, menus deliver varying degrees of connectivity and functionality, and this will continue for some time to come.

With this in mind, providers need to deliver a site that has all the functionality needed to enable a dealer to sell and consummate a sale as accurately and completely as possible. Also note that functionality must not be standalone, and should always be driven through the administration system. Allowing any functionality to remain apart from the administration system will not only create further challenges but will severely limit the functionality that can be offered. Below is my suggestion on this functionality:

You have enabled the F&I manager to do a quick quote, collect the customer information and print a contract. In doing so, the data should flow to the provider administration system in a pending status, waiting for the signed contract to be received with the payment.

If a menu system is connected to you in the manner discussed previously, you will be in the same position. I would regard the functionality described below as phase two of the process. The signed contracts are now in the back office waiting to be remitted to the provider.

When the remittance is finalized and printed, it should be held as pending in the provider administration system. When payment is received with the remittance and signed contracts, the provider should be able to retrieve the remittance, confirm the total against payment and activate all contracts with the touch of a button. Contract entry or even confirmation of individual amounts becomes entirely unnecessary.

Given that all transactions are being done online, it may be that as opposed to waiting for a dealer to submit the contracts with payment, the provider could invoice and/or actually withdraw the funds for contracts on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. This is clearly a tough sell to dealers at this stage, but the process sets up the possibility, even if it is only instituted with a few dealers.

There are still a few nice to haves:

A provider website is not simply a marketing tool. It is a destination for the dealer where a deal can be closed, a contract printed and a remittance completed. It is the source from which the provider, the dealer and the agent can get the reporting they need. The menu systems are providing the sales channel but a supplement channel with complementary functionality is essential if a provider wants to deliver the kind of service dealers need to sell more product and run an efficient business.