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Relationship Management

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When the internal operations of a dealership are running smoothly, the vibe carries over to how the dealership interacts with customers. Dealer management software is designed to ensure that sales, service and other departments are communicating with manufacturers and customers alike.

“Generally speaking, dealers are looking for ways to provide a better customer experience,” says Robert Grant, director of manufacturer solutions for CDK Global, which makes LightspeedEVO dealer management software. “It comes down to the time and efficiency it can provide, as well as the level of detail.”

Some 700 dealers in the marine industry are using LightspeedEVO, along with 200 in RV and 2,000 in powersports, Grant says. Dealers pay an upfront cost, then get a subscription tailored to the number of licenses and how many personnel need to be able to log in. Technicians can use the LightspeedEVO mobile app to upload photos and work orders. Grant says dealers currently use the second or third generation of LightspeedEVO. One of the newest features is the ability to use bidirectional text messaging, which lets LightspeedEVO communicate directly with the customer by sending maintenance updates and similar information.

LightspeedEVO also has sales, finance, insurance, service and parts modules. A sales consultant can build a quote and include the finance and insurance, so the customer can see all of the numbers in one document. For service, writers can generate work orders, manage schedules and send bills to customers. Parts and accessories inventory can be managed through LightspeedEVO, as can ordering and rental fleets. Because it’s cloud-based, LightspeedEVO manages the servers and back end.

Another program designed to help is Dealer’s Circle, which started in 2003. It links manufacturers to their dealers. Owner Scott Davis says that all his clients are in the marine industry, and that 23 manufacturers use the program to connect to 1,200 dealers that subscribe. Dealer’s Circle manages all interactions between the dealer and the manufacturer, including ordering, configuring options and accessories, and warranties. Dealer’s Circle also can send out surveys and emails to customers. It then provides feedback to the manufacturer and dealer.

For the future, Dealer’s Circle is working on adding OEM suppliers. “If the dealer is packaging an order, we’re moving into the supplier market, and it will allow the dealer to package it with the OEM product,” Davis says.

If a boat is ordered with a trailer, a copy of the order goes to the boatbuilder and the trailer supplier to facilitate scheduling. Dealer’s Circle provides updates in case scheduling changes are required. If an OEM supplier signs up, Dealer’s Circle takes care of all warranty registrations.

Eventually, Davis’ goal is to be able to integrate Dealer’s Circle into other programs, including LightspeedEVO and DockMaster. “We understand that dealers all use a management system, and we have talked to most of the DMS providers about integrating with their systems,” Davis says.

After the startup fee, he says, the manufacturer and dealer each pay a subscription. Everything is backed up in the cloud, and the manufacturer doesn’t need to install anything. “We’re able to price it affordably based on usage,” Davis says.

When asked if dealers have been receptive, he says, “When we started, there was some resistance from longtime dealers who were used to doing it their way, but for the dealers who are forward-thinking and open to using technology, there aren’t many that don’t like us.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue.

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