Adopting new technology in a dealership is an important business decision that requires a process to ensure success. A comprehensive, user-friendly technology platform can be extremely advantageous and profitable to your dealership. It makes collecting data easier, provides the ability to mine existing customer information, and even helps integrate sales, service, inventory acquisition and other revenue-generating opportunities.
Selecting and implementing a new CRM, DMS, phone management system, inventory platform or other technology is a serious process requiring careful consideration. Becoming proficient with a technology takes time and you almost certainly won’t see success from Day One. As a result, change within a dealership is often avoided or unenthusiastically embraced because change management can be an agonizing task. Managing expectations is crucial.
The importance of making such a change successful throughout the organization cannot be understated. Too often, however, the human element of an implementation is not taken fully into account, and the result is a less-than-successful launch.
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- Find the right technology platform. The first step is to find the right platform for your dealership. Don’t try to save time on this crucial step. The time invested up front to research, poll staff and get informed will more than pay off in time saved and speed to revenue after implementation.
A few things you should look for when adopting a platform are integration with existing platforms, ease of use (user interface) and product features you really need. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of various platforms and look at how other dealers are benefiting and using them to determine which is best for your business. Vendors should be willing and able to provide this information; be wary if they aren’t.
- Lead from the top. Dealership management must make a public and often repeated commitment to the new technology. If management does not appear committed to the success of the implementation, the staff will simply view it as the “flavor of the month.”
The key to effective change management and adoption of a new technology is leadership embracing the change and providing clear and specific examples as to how the technology will make the staff ’s lives easier and simpler.
Make sure your supervisory team has proper training with the technology partner so team members fully understand what it entails, how to use it most efficiently and how to properly train employees to perform their normal functions most effectively on the new platform.
Motivate from the top down, and hold everyone accountable to move the process forward. That means setting measurable goals like “ask sales teams at least twice daily if they have any questions about X,” and holding every team member accountable by keeping track of agreed-upon actions.
- Work with your technology partner for training. Your technology partner is the most knowledgeable about its own product and should be a resource to your team for providing a change management plan as well as training. From firsthand experience, your technology partner knows best how to get the most out of the platform and how it can impact your business.
- Form change management teams and a communication plan. Adopting a new technology requires an accessible, optimistic support team. Change management teams should not display hesitance or doubt about adopting a new technology, or it will hinder the adoption curve and overall process. Team members should be carefully selected as enthusiastic adopters of the technology. They should develop a solid communication plan to ensure they are all communicating the same message.
Agreed-upon messaging should address all employee questions and concerns early in the process — having an FAQ is a useful tool at this stage in the process. “Work schedules will not change and will, in fact, improve” is different than saying “work schedules will probably not change.”
- Create measurable project milestones. Dumping a new technology on a team and expecting them to learn new processes all at once sets you up for failure. Sit down with the change management team and determine your incremental, measurable goals both for the implementation and the new technology. Understand that productivity may dip at first, but ensure you have the proper support so business doesn’t suffer and the change process continues to move forward.
When you are determining your project milestones, make sure they are achievable and measurable. Develop a process to take small steps (make one change at a time, not multiple changes) to ensure employees are fully understanding each step in the process and know exactly what is coming next. As part of establishing milestones and platform usage expectations, you may wish to consider removing the legacy platform. This might be an extreme step, but it ensures that staff members cannot fall back to the process with which they are comfortable. Eliminating the old platform takes away the ability to backslide and increases the adoption rate of the new technology.
- Review your progress (and adjust if necessary). If something is not working and milestones are not being met (or are being met faster than expected), adjust the plan. The plan should be fluid enough to make changes if roadblocks arise. Hold people accountable and track progress publicly — and communicate it with the entire team. If people feel they are making progress, they will continue to move forward.
- Listen. One of the most important steps in the process is to listen. Listen to the concerns of employees, ask questions and address them to keep everyone on target. If concerns aren’t addressed, particularly if there is one vocal critic, it can turn into a negative spiral in a team setting and hinder the overall process.
If you follow these steps when putting in place a new technology, the learning curve can be reduced significantly and you can create a culture of innovation, success and high morale. Change management reduces the human element and allows the new technology to begin doing its work.
There are countless positive impacts of adopting a new technology, including making your business attractive to potential customers, encouraging innovation within teams, increasing efficiency, generating additional revenue and developing more satisfied customers and employees.
The benefits of adopting new technologies are clear, if your management teams build a solid plan for the task of change management.
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