DMS Central | Your Dealership Management System Resource | Auto/Mate
29Sep/140

Auto/Mate Integrates DMS with MaximTrak F&I Suite, Boosting Auto Dealer F&I Performance and Profits

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ALBANY, N.Y. – September 29th, 2014 – Auto/Mate Dealership Systems (http://www.automate.com) announced today the integration of its dealership management system (DMS) with MaximTrak Technologies' F&I Suite. Auto dealers using both systems may now benefit from a real-time, bi-directional exchange of information that speeds up the F&I process, keeps transaction data and contact information accurate, improves customer satisfaction and increases profits.

 

"Our Open/Mate certification is easy, inexpensive and fast for third-party vendors, lowering costs and expanding vendor choices for dealers," said Mike Esposito, President and CEO of Auto/Mate Dealership Systems.

 

"Our focus is on creating a better buying experience for the customers, which is accomplished by the professionalism and speed of our F&I menu and reporting solutions," said Jim Maxim, Jr., President of MaximTrak Technologies. "Having our product suite integrated with a dealer's DMS eliminates redundancies and errors caused by incomplete transfer of information."

 

MaximTrak's F&I Menu Platform enables F&I managers to quickly create custom menu presentations, navigate between screens with ease, and present multiple deal scenarios with a flexible interface. Plus, MaximTrak allows data to be saved as a presentation progresses, eliminating the need to re-type information, and allows for a branded presentation with custom graphics and color design.

 

Auto/Mate's dealership management system is a user-friendly, flexible solution with more than 20 modules to serve every departmental need. Auto/Mate received the "Highest Rated" DMS award in the 2012 and 2013 Driving Sales Dealer Satisfaction Awards, and is known for offering the best customer support in the industry.

 

Both Auto/Mate and MaximTrak are integrated with credit bureaus and offer advanced, easy-to-use reporting capabilities.

 

For more information, visit Auto/Mate at www.automate.com or MaximTrak at www.maximtrak.com.

 

About MaximTrak

 

MaximTrak Technologies, Inc. is the automotive, motorcycle, boat, RV, and power sports industry's premier F&I Menu and Reporting Systems provider. MaximTrak is the F&I industry’s number one, full-scale e-menu, e-contracting and reporting suite for more than 30 years and services some of the most prominent dealerships and dealership groups. The MaximTrak platform is designed to transform the vehicle delivery process into a customer friendly program that converts conventional F&I wisdom into consistent, repeatable and sustainable results. For more information, call 1.800.282.6308 or visit www.maximtrak.com

 

About Auto/Mate

Auto/Mate Dealership Systems is a leading provider of dealership management system (DMS) software to retail automotive dealerships, typically saving dealers thousands of dollars per month from their current provider. Our Automotive Management Productivity Suite (AMPS) is a user-friendly, feature-rich DMS in use by more than 1,100 auto dealers nationwide. Auto/Mate received the "Highest Rated DMS for Customer Satisfaction” in 2012 and 2013 in the annual Driving Sales Dealer Satisfaction Awards.

 

This is a testament to the more than 900 years of Auto/Mate employees' combined experience working in franchised auto dealerships, the foundation of its “Designed By Car People For Car PeopleTM” slogan. Auto/Mate is committed to winning their customers' business each and every month, which is why they require no long-term contracts, free software upgrades for life and free training for life. For more information visit www.automate.com, follow them on Twitter @AutoMateDMS and subscribe to their blog at http://blog.automate.com.

 

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23Sep/140

Do Your Vendors Deserve Your Loyalty?

Does a Vendor Deserve Your Loyalty?

by Mike Esposito, President & CEO, Auto/Mate Dealership Systems

 

I'd like to have a heart-to-heart with dealers and high-level managers at dealerships, because I am genuinely curious about something. You are all focused on customer loyalty these days, as you should be. It takes genuine effort to earn--and keep--a customer's loyalty. You implement best practices, train your employees, try to keep your employees happy and motivated so they'll provide great customer service, and you demand honesty and accountability when a customer is unhappy.

 

So why then, do you not demand the same amount of effort from your vendors to earn and keep your loyalty?

 

It seems to me that I hear dealers grumble about various vendors, products and services on a regular basis. Perhaps the product or service isn't right for them, or they're paying too much, or they have to sign a long-term contract they don't want to sign, or the vendor doesn't provide the level of customer service they want, or worst of all, they find out their vendor isn't being honest with them!

 

So why do you Mr. Dealer, when you have the ability to switch vendors, remain loyal to the vendor you have been complaining about? If a car shopper isn't happy with the experience of buying a car or getting their car serviced at your dealership, they will go somewhere else next time. And, if you, Mr. Dealer, aren't happy with value you are receiving from a specific vendor, then you should move to a different vendor. Your vendors should be working to earn your loyalty with every single transaction, every day.

 

I know what you're thinking. I've heard the objections before, but they really don't hold water:

 

Objection #1: I've been with (my current vendor) for so long, I owe them my loyalty.

 

Really? Since when does the amount of time you've been with a company have anything to do with how much loyalty you owe them? I've had a free personal checking account with the same bank for 20 years, but I assure you if they start charging me a $10 monthly checking fee, I'll leave and open a new account somewhere else in a heartbeat. Vendors should be trying to earn and keep your loyalty every day with every single transaction. Time has nothing to do with loyalty.

 

 

Objection #2:  The process of vendor selection, implementing and learning a new technology or system is hard and time-consuming.

Yes, it is. If you recall, nobody wanted to move from typewriters to computers either, but they learned and eventually realized they couldn't get along without them. Every once in a while, leaving your comfort zone is required in order to achieve better results for your company. Learning anything new requires time and effort, but if and when you do finally find a great vendor with a product or service that meets your needs, along with great customer service, you will be thrilled. The effort is worth the reward.

 

Objection #3: My employees don't want to change.

Employees need to be involved in the change process as soon as possible. They aren’t so much against change as they are against being changed. Talk to your employees about the change and see what their objections might be.  You will also need to ask employees for commitment. Once the change has been announced, it is important that you personally ask for each employee’s commitment to successfully implement the change. Once you are involved in the change you need to be committed and remain firm. It is of utmost importance that you see the change through to completion. Stopping it halfway through the process accomplishes two negative impacts. First, it destroys your credibility. Second, it tells every employee that if they take the stance of a dinosaur, this change, and possible all other changes you want to make, will pass by.

 

If you care about earning your own customers' loyalty, shouldn't you care about whether your vendors are trying to earn your loyalty? What are the attributes a vendor should have in order to earn your loyalty? Here are a few of my thoughts and recommendations:

 

1) Honesty. Do you have to review a vendor’s bill every month only to find that there is a mistake (and always in their favor)? Or when asking your vendor to resolve an issue or help you with a problem do they constantly refer to the contract you signed with them? A company should be honest and straight forward with you. You deserve it. You are the customer.

 

2) Great customer service. Your customers expect it, and YOU expect it in all other facets of your life. If you're paying good money for something, you expect the vendor will rapidly respond to your questions, concerns, complaints and suggestions. Perhaps it's because so many large tech companies don't even bother to give ANY customer service (i.e. Facebook and Twitter) that some companies seem to think it's not as important as it used to be. Yet, I guarantee the companies who do provide great customer service have higher customer retention rates.

 

3) Showing gratitude for the business you're giving them and not trying to sell you more stuff that you don't need. You know that if you start selling your customers service repairs they don't need, they will not remain loyal customers for long. It's one thing if you could really use or benefit from a product or service. But if the vendors goal is to just gain a larger share of your wallet the I would say for you to RUN the other way!

 

Dealers, what are you thoughts on customer loyalty and vendor loyalty? I'd really like to hear why you are loyal to your vendors and what you think vendors should do to earn your loyalty.

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16Sep/140

Create Customer Loyalty by Building Employee Loyalty

Mike Esposito, President and CEO of Auto/Mate, talks about the importance of building employee loyalty as a precursor to building customer loyalty. Includes thoughts on re-thinking pay plans to motivate employees.

 

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9Sep/140

Dealerbaby Announces Integration of Mobile App Platform with Auto/Mate Dealership Management System (DMS)

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Integration Improves Shopping & Service Experience for Auto Dealer Customers 

Saratoga Springs, NY: Dealerbaby, a custom mobile app platform for auto dealerships, is proud to announce its integration with Auto/Mate’s Open/Mate third-party integration system. Users of Auto/Mate can now experience the benefits of a native mobile app without the high costs associated with custom mobile app development. With Dealerbaby, auto dealerships can increase customer retention, profits and leads, and become a leader of the mobile dealership community.

“Our partnership with Auto/Mate gives us the ability to create a powerful user experience by letting the customer interact with the dealership on the device they use the most—their smartphone,” said Padraic Doyle, Co-Founder of Dealerbaby. “The key is the two-way communication with the DMS, which is made possible with Open/Mate.”

"More car shoppers are using smartphones and tablets to shop for cars, and mobile apps are easier to use than browsing a mobile website," said Mike Esposito, President and CEO of Auto/Mate. "DMS integration ensures that all inventory and service data is displayed to customers in real time, reflecting all updates in your dealer's DMS."

To help improve the mobile experience for auto dealerships and their customers, Dealerbaby integrated the following features in its platform with Auto/Mate's DMS:

• Service Appointment Scheduling: Dealership apps on the Dealerbaby platform display service schedules, available service appointments, and offer users the ability to schedule various services all within the dealership’s mobile app.

• Inventory Listings: The Dealerbaby mobile app platform displays inventory updates in real-time as the inventory is updated in Auto/Mate's DMS.

Auto/Mate's DMS is a full-featured, user-friendly solution that is scalable for any size dealership or dealer group. The system comes with the best customer support in the industry and is available in both web-based and in-house server solutions.

 

About Dealerbaby

Dealerbaby, produced by My Thank You Notes LLC, is a custom mobile app platform for auto dealerships based in Saratoga Springs, NY. Founded in 2014, Dealerbaby is dedicated to helping auto dealerships leverage their inventory and service offerings through mobile technology. To learn more, visit www.dealerbaby.com, follow them on Twitter @Dealerbaby, or email sales@dealerbaby.com

 Dealerbaby Announces Integration of Mobile App Platform with Auto/Mate Dealership Management System (DMS)

About Auto/Mate

Auto/Mate Dealership Systems is a leading provider of dealership management system (DMS) software to retail automotive dealerships, typically saving dealers thousands of dollars per month from their current provider. Our Automotive Management Productivity Suite (AMPS) is a user-friendly, feature-rich DMS in use by more than 1,100 auto dealers nationwide. Auto/Mate received the "Highest Rated DMS for Customer Satisfaction” in 2012 and 2013 in the annual Driving Sales Dealer Satisfaction Awards.

!This is a testament to the more than 900 years of Auto/Mate employees' combined experience working in franchised auto dealerships, the foundation of its “Designed By Car People For Car PeopleTM” slogan. Auto/Mate is committed to winning their customers' business each and every month, which is why they require no long-term contracts, free software upgrades for life and free training for life. For more information visit www.automate.com, follow them on Twitter @AutoMateDMS and subscribe to their blog at http://blog.automate.com.

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3Sep/140

Are You a Leader or Manager?

Mike Esposito

By Mike Esposito, President and CEO, Auto/Mate Dealership Systems

 

Good leaders are great at setting priorities, directing resources, keeping strategies on track, overseeing process accountability and operations. These are all important and necessary skills, but sometimes, the very qualities that make a good leader can naturally create a "top down" leadership style that negatively impacts employee morale, customer service and profits.

 

When I was a general manager at a large, multi-line dealership, I was taught the following maxim: It's not what you expect, it's what you inspect. What that implies is that the dealer tells managers what has to be done, then inspects to make sure that what he wanted actually got done. Since then, I have studied leadership and management principles extensively, and I have learned that good leaders don't have to inspect what they expect. They create a vision and mission. They communicate these to all levels of management. They understand that they need to empower their people.  If you find yourself inspecting everything that you expect, chances are you are a manager, not a leader.

 

Do you think you are a good leader? Take this little quiz:

 

1) When you leave your dealership for a week, are you anxious because you think everything will fall apart when you're not there?  Good leaders don't worry about leaving because they know that everything that's supposed to get done will get done.

 

2) Do you inspire employees to give great results, or do you demand great results from them? Good leaders genuinely care about their employees and focus on making them happy. In return, the employees knock themselves out to make sure their leader is happy.

 

3) Have you earned the respect of your employees or do you feel like you have to insist upon it because of your position? Good leaders never have to pull rank. Even if their employees disagree with a decision, they will always treat their leader with respect.

 

4) Do you feel like the majority of your employees are disengaged, have attitude problems and/or are unhappy, and that it's their fault for being that way? If you find yourself saying, "It's hard to find good employees" more often than not, try looking in the mirror and ask: "How can I be a better leader?"

 

 

 

How The Typical Dealership Is Run

 

The first step to becoming a better leader is to rethink how your dealership is run. This needs to be a powerful paradigm shift for you the dealer. When we think of a management structure, we naturally think of putting the dealership principal(s) and/or general managers at the top, with one or two layers of managers underneath and the majority of employees at the bottom. Decisions are made at the top and delegated downwards with employees at each level implementing orders and providing accountability to the managers above them.

 

The problem with this structure is that when pressured from above, it's too easy for managers to shift the blame to employees in the level below them. Another reason why this structure doesn't work is that employees typically feel disengaged from the decision-making process

 

How Dealerships Should Be Run

 

Employee satisfaction is the primary focus for all good leaders. If your employees don’t love your company your customers won’t love your company.  During the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009, the CEOs of Southwest Airlines and Costco made the decision not to lay off any employees as a cost-cutting measure. Those decisions showed their employees that they cared; and today these two companies have very high levels of employee loyalty (not to mention customer loyalty and profitability, but that's another article).

 

The point is, managers should not think that the front-line employees work for them. Rather, managers should have the attitude that they work for their employees. Moving down a level, the managers do not work for the dealer. Instead, the dealer should have the attitude that he or she works for the managers. What do your managers and employees need to make their jobs easier? Good leaders make it their job to find out and then deliver it to them.

 

 

Inform, Empower and Reward Employees

 

The second step to becoming a better leader involves creating an environment where employees really enjoy coming to work every day. That doesn't mean you have to install an espresso machine so all of your employees can have free lattes. Employee satisfaction is not achieved through lattes or monetary rewards. Employees want to be informed, empowered and rewarded.

 

Inform. Where do you see your dealership in five years? What's your vision? How can your employees help you get there?  What's your company mission statement? What are your company values? Great leaders know the answers to these questions and they also make sure every employee knows too. Employees want to feel like they're part of something, that what they're doing matters and that they are all working towards a common goal.

 

Empower. Everyone thinks that great leaders have a lot of power, but becoming a great leader actually requires giving up power. Once your employees know what goals they are all working towards, empower them to make decisions that are in alignment with those goals. I promise you, they won't give away the store and they will be much happier.

 

Reward. Many dealers still use the old "carrot and stick" approach when it comes to rewarding employees, i.e. 'if you reach this goal, I will give you that.' Research has proven that the old carrot and stick approach is not an effective motivator or reward system. Rewards should be given based on behavior that aligns with the company values. Rewards don't have to be monetary; employees also appreciate verbal and public recognition of a job well done. Rewards should also be individualized; if there's someone who works 60 hours a week, chances are they'd appreciate two days off a lot more than they would a $200 spiff.

 

Becoming a better leader requires focusing on employee satisfaction and creating a great workplace. This may require a paradigm change in your leadership style, and it may take some time and effort, but in the end it will be worth it. If you inform, empower, reward and genuinely care about your employees, I can assure you they will walk through a wall for you.

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25Aug/140

Auto/Mate to Host First User Summit for Auto Dealership Executives, Highlighting DMS Features & Best Practices

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ALBANY, N.Y. – August 25th, 2014 – Auto/Mate Dealership Systems (http://www.automate.com) announced today that it will be hosting its first annual User Summit for auto dealer clients on Friday, September 19th in Albany, NY. More than sixty dealers and managers from dealerships around the country are scheduled to attend, where they will learn the newest features of Auto/Mate's dealership management system (DMS) along with best practices associated with implementing the latest technologies into dealership processes.

 

"Our clients consistently tell us about the cost savings and increased efficiencies achieved with Auto/Mate, so we thought it would be a great idea to host a summit where they can share tips and network with peers," said Mike Esposito, President and CEO of Auto/Mate Dealership Systems. "Additionally we look forward to sharing our DMS's newest features in a format that's interactive, so we can see reactions and hear constructive feedback."

 

Auto/Mate's User Summit is geared toward dealership executives and managers who are looking to improve efficiencies and processes with their DMS, as well as those who use the system daily to manage, track and optimize department profitability. Highlights of the User Summit include the following:

 

  • Introduction: Vision & where Auto/Mate is going (8:30 a.m.)

 

  • New Feature Announcements: Desking, Dispatch, Open/Mate, Data Security & more (9:00 a.m.)

 

  • Rockin' 101: High-level feature overview of all modules in Auto/Mate's Automotive Management Productivity Suite (AMPS) dealership management system (11:00 a.m.)

 

  • Break Out Sessions featuring Auto/Mate's advanced tech support "Go Team," and a "Town Hall" format where users can ask questions and discuss ideas in an open forum (1:00 p.m.)

 

The Auto/Mate User Summit is scheduled for Friday, September 19th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Albany, NY. Sponsors include 700 Credit, DealerSocket, Total Customer Connect, MOC1, OneView, Great America, Inland Associates, TimeHighway and Route One. For more information on the User Summit and/or sponsorship information, contact Auto/Mate at 518-371–4331.

 

About Auto/Mate

Auto/Mate Dealership Systems is a leading provider of dealership management system (DMS) software to retail automotive dealerships, typically saving dealers thousands of dollars per month from their current provider. Our Automotive Management Productivity Suite (AMPS) is a user-friendly, feature-rich DMS in use by more than 1,100 auto dealers nationwide. Auto/Mate received the "Highest Rated DMS for Customer Satisfaction” in 2012 and 2013 in the annual Driving Sales Dealer Satisfaction Awards.

 

This is a testament to the more than 900 years of Auto/Mate employees' combined experience working in franchised auto dealerships, the foundation of its “Designed By Car People For Car PeopleTM” slogan. Auto/Mate is committed to winning their customers' business each and every month, which is why they require no long-term contracts, free software upgrades for life and free training for life. For more information visit www.automate.com, follow them on Twitter @AutoMateDMS and subscribe to their blog at http://blog.automate.com.

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12Aug/140

The History of Auto/Mate’s Dealership Management System

Remember the term "Wang It?" Mike Esposito shares the 40-year history of the development of Auto/Mate's dealership management system (DMS), starting with Wang Computer's F&I System

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11Aug/140

Auto/Mate Celebrates Fortieth Anniversary as a Leader in Dealership Management System (DMS) Technology

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ALBANY, N.Y. – August 11th, 2014 – Auto/Mate Dealership Systems (http://www.automate.com) is celebrating its fortieth anniversary as a leader in dealership management system (DMS) technology. Auto/Mate was originally developed as an F&I system and was introduced to auto dealerships by Wang Laboratories in 1974. Over the past forty years Auto/Mate has evolved into one of the industry's premier DMS solutions and has twice been voted the "highest rated" DMS in the Driving Sales Dealer Satisfaction Awards.

 

"Many auto dealers don't realize that Auto/Mate was an established technology solution long before any other DMS provider; even ADP and Reynolds were just service bureaus at that time," said Mike Esposito, President and CEO of Auto/Mate Dealership Systems.

 

In the 1960s IBM was one of the only companies that sold computers, but the computers were large mainframes that filled an entire room and were not practical solutions for small businesses. In the early 1970s Wang Laboratories, Digital Equipment and Data General introduced "mini computers" about the size of a table, and began to market them to businesses. Wang was the leader in word processing computers and wanted to expand into different markets. Wang identified the dealership market as ripe for computerization and introduced the first in-house F&I system that did all the financial calculations and printed all the forms. Wang called their in-house F&I system Auto/Mate. What soon followed was the addition of an integrated accounting module that allowed the deals to be electronically sent to accounting and booked. This was something completely unheard of at that time. At one point in the 1970’s, of all the dealerships that had a computer system in house, 70% of them had Wang computers running Auto/Mate. In fact one of the colloquialisms in the dealership market at that time, when working a deal, was to “Wang-it”!

 

When Wang Laboratories closed its doors in 1992, the lead developer of the Auto/Mate F&I system acquired the rights to the technology and started Auto/Mate Dealership Systems. Shortly after, Esposito started with Auto/Mate as a sales representative, was soon promoted to Vice President of Sales & Marketing, and became the President and CEO in 2005 when the company was sold to a private investor.

 

Under Esposito's guidance, Auto/Mate's software development team has evolved the system into a cutting-edge, full-featured DMS solution currently in use by more than 1,100 auto dealerships nationwide. Today Auto/Mate's DMS is user friendly and the company is known for having the best customer support and the highest level of customer satisfaction in the industry. Auto/Mate's policy of hiring employees who have experience working in car dealerships ensures that the developers and support staff know exactly what auto dealer employees are dealing with on a daily basis.

 

"We're really proud that Auto/Mate's product and the company has been around this long, and we will continue to focus on doing one thing: being the top DMS for customer satisfaction in the industry," said Esposito.

 

About Auto/Mate

Auto/Mate Dealership Systems is a leading provider of dealership management system (DMS) software to retail automotive dealerships, typically saving dealers thousands of dollars per month from their current provider. Our Automotive Management Productivity Suite (AMPS) is a user-friendly, feature-rich DMS in use by more than 1,100 auto dealers nationwide. Auto/Mate received the "Highest Rated DMS for Customer Satisfaction” in 2012 and 2013 in the annual Driving Sales Dealer Satisfaction Awards.

 

This is a testament to the more than 900 years of Auto/Mate employees' combined experience working in franchised auto dealerships, the foundation of its “Designed By Car People For Car PeopleTM” slogan. Auto/Mate is committed to winning their customers' business each and every month, which is why they require no long-term contracts, free software upgrades for life and free training for life. For more information visit www.automate.com, follow them on Twitter @AutoMateDMS and subscribe to their blog at http://blog.automate.com

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28Jul/140

Auto/Mate Honored with Platinum Award in Auto Dealer Monthly’s Dealers’ Choice Awards

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ALBANY, N.Y. – July 28th, 2014 – Auto/Mate Dealership Systems (http://www.automate.com), a premier dealership management system (DMS) provider, has received a "Platinum" award in the 2014 Auto Dealer Monthly Dealers' Choice Awards. This year marks the first time that Auto/Mate was honored with a top ranking in the magazine's annual award program that recognizes the industry's best product and service providers as selected by hundreds of dealers and dealership personnel.

 

"To receive this recognition is a real honor because the votes for Auto/Mate came from our customers, and this Platinum award lets me know that we are successful in our primary goal which is to be the top dealership management system provider in customer satisfaction," said Mike Esposito, President and CEO of Auto/Mate.

 

In May, voters weighed in to recognize their favorite partners in 27 categories. Providers were scored on the product or service itself, customer support and service, value, and whether they would recommend the company to another dealer. To qualify for a first-place “Diamond,” second-place “Platinum” or third-place “Gold” award, a company must be among those that scored above the group average score in each category.

 

Recently Auto/Mate was also honored with the "Highest Rated" dealership management system (DMS) vendor award in the 2012 and 2013 DrivingSales Dealer Satisfaction Awards. In 2014 Auto/Mate also received a "Top Workplace" award for the third consecutive year by the Albany Times-Union, and a "Best Place to Work" award for the fourth year in a row by the Albany Business Review.

 

Auto/Mate's DMS is a full-featured, user-friendly solution that is scalable for any size dealership or dealer group. The system comes with the best customer support in the industry, has an open API for third-party vendor integration, is currently in use at more than 1,000 auto retailers nationwide, and is available in both web-based and in-house server solutions.

 

For more information call Auto/Mate at 877-340-2677.

 

About Auto/Mate

 

Auto/Mate Dealership Systems is a leading provider of dealership management system (DMS) software to retail automotive dealerships. Its Automotive Management Productivity Suite (AMPS) is a user-friendly, feature-rich DMS in use by more than 1,000 auto dealers nationwide. Auto/Mate received the “Highest Rated DMS of 2012" and the "Highest Rated DMS of 2013" awards in the annual Driving Sales Dealer Satisfaction Awards.

 

Auto/Mate’s employees have more than 850 years of combined experience working in auto dealerships – the foundation of its “Designed By Car People For Car PeopleTM” slogan. For more information visit our website, follow us on Twitter @AutoMateDMS and subscribe to our blog at http://blog.automate.com

 

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9Jul/140

Is It Time to Take Another Look at Auto Dispatch? (Part One)

Larry_Colson

by Larry Colson, Auto/Mate Dealership Systems

 

You’ve got the finest, best-trained technicians around. You’ve purchased and installed some expensive diagnostic machines. Your parts manager always has what you need in inventory, and you’ve optimized the process of getting parts to your technicians. Tech efficiency ratings are the best in your 20 Group – heck, they would be the best in most 20 Groups – yet you’ve still got more work than you can handle and your dealer principal keeps asking for you to do more with what you have. Sound familiar?

 

This might sound more like a fantasy – all except for that part about the pressure from your dealer to move more work through your shop. In response to this pressure, service managers are constantly on the lookout for ways to get more efficient. If you’re not already using an automated job dispatch system that is integrated with your DMS, or if you’re using one but you’re not happy with how it’s working, now may be the perfect time to take another look.

 

The basic concept of auto dispatch is pretty straightforward. It’s all about getting the Right Job to the Right Technician at the Right Time. To help do this, most dispatch systems have two major functions. First, they allow skills such as ‘brakes’, ‘electrical’, and ‘engine’ to be assigned to both technicians and job lines.  These skills are typically customized by the service manager and are defined to whatever level of specificity is desired. Second, the dispatch system will provide some method of allowing one job line or RO to be prioritized against all the others. The priorities are defined by the user with attributes such as 'RO Create Time,' 'Promised Time,' 'VIP,' 'Waiter,' 'Come Back,' 'Appointment,' or 'Walk-In,’ used to help prioritize the order in which jobs should be dispatched.

 

Armed with all this data, when a technician asks for work, the computer determines a list of possible jobs that the technician has the skills to do. It then eliminates certain ineligible jobs, such as jobs on cars that are currently being worked on by someone else, or jobs that are on hold. Finally, it sorts those jobs based on the attributes mentioned above and voila – the “best” job is the one at the top of the list. Simple.

 

Simple, except that it’s not. Due to the many setup options, sometimes the system does exactly what you told it to do, but not what you want it to do given the conditions in your shop right now. And unless your technicians are the perfect choirboys from the service shop mentioned at the beginning of this article, they’ll be constantly searching for ways to game the system.  Because of this, some service managers try auto dispatch but give up on it, while some others simply never try it, afraid they’ll lose control of their shop.

 

Is Dispatching an Art or a Science?

Most dispatchers will tell you that dispatching is an art, yet with a computerized auto dispatch system, we’re specifically trying to make it a science. They can’t both be true, can they?

 

The reality is that most of the time, it’s a science. The artistry usually comes into play in two circumstances. One is in truly unusual situations, when the creativity of the human mind is required to overcome a unique circumstance. The other is when the “science” rules have been bent, ignored or misapplied, and the resulting situation just appears to be unique and difficult. Proper definition of the rules and proper application of those rules will naturally lead to conditions when “artistry” is needed far less often, and that’s when the efficiency starts.

 

Just a little KISS

The biggest mistake made by first time users of auto dispatch is to over complicate the setup. Modern auto dispatch systems have many options and it’s tempting to want to use them all, but it’s important to resist, at least at first. The more complicated the setups, the more likely it is that they will interact in strange ways, yielding unintended consequences. Overcomplicated setups make the system seem buggier than northern Minnesota in the summer after a wet spring, but it’s probably doing exactly what you told it to do. Regardless, it’s infuriating, and can make you want to throw the computer out the window, right after you throw out the salesman who sold it to you.

 

The KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) concept ought to be your guiding principle when first setting up a new auto dispatch system. Start small. It’s not a bad idea to start with only 'Waiter' and 'RO Create Time' being the main attributes to determine job ordering. Set that up and see how things go. Tweak it if your waiters have too much or too little priority, but barring catastrophe, do your best to be patient. Don’t change too much too fast.

 

After a week or so, you might add in some user-selected priority value. Your system might have a 'VIP' flag or a 'Priority' value, both of which would be selected by the advisor when the appointment is created and/or when the RO is written up. However, be prepared for situations when priority is incorrectly used.  If everything is important (e.g. Priority 1), then nothing is important, a concept that we in the computer world call GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

 

For skill setup, you can be a little more creative, but try not to get too crazy. A good rule of thumb is that eight to twenty skills for a normal shop is somewhere in the ballpark of the right number of distinct skills. Depending on your specific circumstances, such as number of OEMs you typically service or if you have a truck shop, it may be convenient to define more. The more granular the skill and the fewer technicians that have that granular skill, the harder it will be for the dispatch system to find a tech for a particular job at a particular time.

 

With a little persistence and customization to your shop's needs, auto dispatch can boost productivity and ensure that the right techs are working on the right jobs, which ultimately helps to boost customer satisfaction and retention levels. For service managers who are hesitant about making the switch, the best recommendation is to start slow and monitor how jobs are being dispatched, making small adjustments when necessary.  When you’re comfortable, then you can take it to the next level.

 

In Part Two of this article, we'll discuss: Care and Feeding, Handling Special Circumstances and Cherry Picking

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