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How to Introduce a New Technology Into Your Dealership

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

Every year at NADA I am amazed at the number of new and exciting technologies being introduced. Some are completely new, like virtual reality showrooms; others are upgrades to existing applications that dealers use on a daily basis, such as a CRM or DMS.

It’s easy to get excited about a technology that promises to increase revenue, streamline processes or improve the customer experience. But before signing on the dotted line, dealers know they’ve got to get buy in from the managers and employees who will be using the technology.

As any dealer knows, this can be a problem.

The biggest obstacle that dealers face when introducing a new technology is employees’ fear of change. Have you ever run the idea for a new service application, CRM or DMS by your managers and employees, only to face resistance? They dig in their heels and say things like, “We’ve done it this way for 25 years. Why change now?”

They fear the change will be disruptive to business, or they fear it will take too much time to learn. So the employees insist they won’t use the new technology, and all too often, the dealer caves to their resistance.

The problem with this is that today’s dealerships must keep up with technology in order to compete. Independent service shops are being built from the ground up with technology incorporated into every step of every process. Much of this technology is designed to improve the customer experience; from mobile tablets to diagnostic tools and texting communications platforms.

In sales, industry disruptors are promising customers a fast and pleasant online buying experience, bringing them to the point where customers can pick up their new vehicle at the dealership or even have it delivered. Other dealerships are experimenting with a no-haggle experience provided by ‘product experts’ instead of salespeople, with promising results.

Are you confident your dealership is delivering a better, faster, more pleasant customer experience than it did five years ago?

Has your dealership embraced technology as a way to improve the customer experience?

Are you at the end of the rope with one of your current vendors?

As a dealer, if you feel strongly about a new technology that will help keep your dealership competitive, it’s important that you don’t cave to employees’ fear of change.

This doesn’t mean you have to force your decisions onto your employees against their will. As you may know, I’m all about creating a great workplace for employees. It’s difficult to keep employees happy when they feel like they are being forced into something.

So the key is to get their buy-in. Make them want the technology, or at least be open to trying it. Here are a few tips on how to accomplish this.

1) Discuss your decision. Hold a meeting with the department manager or managers that will be using the new technology. If they are resistant to the idea, ask them why. Don’t accept an answer like, “We’ve always done it this way.” Ask for specific reasons why they think the current technology, or current process, is better.

2) List pros and cons. Have a list of pros and cons for the new technology, as well as the current/existing technology or process that will be replaced. Go through the lists with the manager and ask them their opinion and input on each point.

3) Present your business case. Be open about the cost, potential revenue increase, ROI and any concerns that you may have. If they are still resistant, ask them to present their business case. Can the status quo deliver better results, and if so, how?

4) Give employees a say. You may not be giving them a vote, but they can certainly have a say in how, when and where the new technology should be implemented. The more you involve your managers and/or employees, the more they feel like they have some control over the situation.

5) Start small. If the technology can be introduced in a small way, or rolled out slowly, such as mobile tablets in the service department, offer a compromise. Suggest trying it with one service writer; preferably someone who likes the idea.

6) Form cross-functional teams. If the technology is a major system such as a CRM or DMS, the earlier you can involve your employees, the better. Form a cross-functional team to help in the selection process. They may resist at first, but as the process moves forward and you demonstrate that their input and feedback is important in the decision-making process, they will warm up to the idea.

7) Offer training. Be sure that everyone knows they will get the necessary training in order to come up to speed on the new system quickly. Deliver on that promise.

8) Demand accountability. Let your team know that you are demanding accountability for using the new technology. Then ask the manager and/or employees to define how they will be accountable, and what the consequences will be if they are not.

Thanks to technology, ten years from now the way we sell cars may look nothing like how we do it today. Dealers who embrace the coming changes early on stand to benefit the most, because they will be giving customers what they want.

Change is hard, sometimes scary but always necessary. But the more you can involve your managers and employees in the process, the more likely they will be to adhere to the decisions made. Instead of figuring out all the reasons why the new technology won’t work, they may actually take ownership of the process, get excited or at least be less resistant to the impending change.


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