Just What the Doctor OrderedBy Kim Phelan
Article Date: 03-01-2008
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Roll up your sleeve - this IT pep talk won't hurt, much.
Has it occurred to you that your business is judged - among many other things - on its technological savvy? That, in fact, your adoption and mastery of IT tools today are inseparably woven into your ability to deliver superior customer service; superior, as in, better than your competitor. It has occurred to your customers - of this I have little doubt.
Right or wrong, a lot of people today just equate the proficient use of technology with brains, with having it together. And, as they say, perception is reality.
Last year at my doctor's office the nurse who took my blood pressure and weight (none of your business) wrote these stats down - I am not making this up - on a paper towel and put it into her pocket. If you are doing a mental gasp of horror, you "get" it. Today, physicians' office and hospital personnel should be using their state-of-the art information systems, entering data electronically in paperless or paper-light environments. When they don't, whew, it just screams unprofessionalism.
OK, now I know you're not doctors, but there's a parallel here to your company. I know this because I've seen a glimpse of the sophisticated software products that are marketed for the equipment dealership, and because they exist the bar is on a new notch and keeps rising. More choices are coming, the products will become increasingly intuitive, and the level of sophistication in electronic business and sales tools will continue to astound.
All these tools are designed to help your staff do their jobs and serve your customers with greater efficiency; they also make them (and you) look really smart and on top of your game. Customers have choices, as you know - but who wouldn't be impressed with a dealer who has more responsiveness and more intelligence about the customer's individual history and present requirements?
AED hosted a panel discussion at the Annual Meeting called, "Taking Business Management Solutions to the Next Level," during which Bram Pieterse from e-Emphasys said: "It's not just about doing the right thing. It's about doing things right."
Actually, in my opinion, it's both, but his point is well taken. You know how to sell, rent and service equipment, i.e. doing the right thing. But if you're only using 10 to 20 percent of your dealer management system (DMS), if it's mostly used as a glorified billing system, can you honestly say you're doing business by acceptable 2008 standards?
A unified message that panelists communicated that day was that dealer principals must immerse themselves in the decision process when considering a DMS, and not leave this hugely important decision in the lone hands of the IT staff.
If new business software is a consideration for your company, I too would encourage you, the president and/or owner, to listen to the provider presentations, understand the capabilities and features, and make informed, educated buying decisions that fit your operational objectives. These systems obviously represent large investments that have the power to advance revenues. You may prefer the sanctuary of a sales meeting, but this is a process that needs your attention and your wisdom.
As I hinted earlier, another clear outcome from the panel was that the capabilities of the DMS are vastly underutilized at most dealerships. I wonder whether lack of early user adoption plays a defeating role here. Consider another medical example: In leading, progressive hospitals, buying teams comprised of CIOs, clinicians and administrators evaluate information systems together and make purchases that meet the needs of diverse user groups. In some cases, though, it's after the IT people have bought expensive systems that docs and nurses wound up not using.
A buying team is an approach that tends to foster better, more widespread adoption of an unfamiliar and potentially intimidating tool. Of course you don't want to run your company by committee, but certainly when you're introducing new technology, adoption from the daily users is critical. Perhaps soliciting input from departmental representatives may be a good prescription for early endorsement of your new technology.
Thanks for reading.
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