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Team, Meet Technology. Technology, Meet Team

When you think of the word “team,” you probably think of people. In a business, your team includes your employees and possibly your customers and vendors. You might not think of technology as a team member but, in a way, the tools your team uses to achieve goals become an extension and a part of your team.

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When you think of the word “team,” you probably think of people. In a business, your team includes your employees and possibly your customers and vendors. You might not think of technology as a team member but, in a way, the tools your team uses to achieve goals become an extension and a part of your team.

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As you assemble a team or work on team-building exercises to promote a more profitable work environment, it’s helpful to think about how technology can contribute. In particular, your dealership management system (DMS) plays a pivotal role in how your team operates on a daily basis. Employees use it to do their jobs. Managers use it to track their progress. But can it have a greater purpose?

Instead of just reviewing numbers, managers can use the DMS and its reporting tools to help build team cohesion.

Reporting

How do you review numbers? Your modern DMS should have a dashboard that displays key metrics so managers can instantly and visually see where they are versus where they need to be. Dashboards are far more efficient than reviewing numbers the old-fashioned way (by calling your office manager in accounting and having them run reports). They’re also far more accurate than relying on your department managers’ spreadsheets, which may or may not include correct data.

Using the data in your DMS gives you the most reliable and up-to-date picture of where you are in terms of your goals at any given time. This is important because it keeps your team members on the same page.

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For example, it’s a common scenario to have your sales managers estimate their anticipated gross by the end of the month. But sometimes they don’t take into consideration items that impact their gross such as charge backs and rebates. When accounting balances everything at the end of the month, your sales team may get hit with a nasty surprise: lower-than-anticipated sales revenue.

With a dashboard that displays custom metrics every team member can view, everyone knows where they are not just on a daily basis, but on an hourly basis. In sales, you may want to have your entire team be able to view every salesperson’s monthly gross and the team’s total gross along with department goals. This can help motivate not just the salesperson on an individual basis, but the team as a whole.

If a team member is struggling one week, having other team members see that may inspire them to either help that team member, or realize they have to step up to the plate if the team needs to meet a goal.

Instead of individuals playing the “blame game” at the end of the month, having KPIs out in full view of a team helps to facilitate discussion, problem solving and action within that team. Sharing numbers in an open forum provides transparency and allows your team to be proactive, instead of reacting in a frantic scramble at the end of the month.

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To keep numbers in full view of team members, a dashboard that displays metrics offers the best solution. If one isn’t built into your DMS already, there are several reporting tool vendors that offer this type of visual display.

Self-Management

Another advantage of having a dashboard that helps you visualize data is allowing department managers to self-manage and save a lot of time. The last thing you want your managers doing is spending their valuable time compiling spreadsheets or waiting for accounting to run reports.

When managers can view the dealership’s performance at a glance, it allows them to spend more time managing. Instead of trying to identify what’s causing a problem, they can instantly drill down to see which numbers are causing the problem.

Another way that tracking KPIs helps build team unity is when a department or team meets a goal. Sharing success with individuals and the dealership as a whole is a great way to keep a team motivated. Why wait until the end of the week or month? Successes can be shared on a daily basis. When a salesperson sells two cars and sees their percentage meter rise, they can visualize how their part contributes to the whole.

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The Right Fit

Using the reporting tools within your DMS, CRM or fixed ops software can be a great way to inspire team members. But the technology must work with your team, not make their job harder. Is your DMS easy to use and customized to your processes, or are you forced to customize your processes to the way your DMS operates?

Finding the right system for your team is critical. For that reason, it’s important to include your team members in the selection process when considering a new DMS, CRM or other system.

Asking for your team’s input to see what’s important to them and gathering consensus in terms of priorities can help increase your team’s buy-in and eagerness to try a new system. Instead of resisting change, they will be more likely to embrace the change as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and build new, more efficient team-oriented processes from scratch.

Education

One important aspect of team building is organizing activities that all team members take part in. Team activities that take place away from the work environment, in particular, are proven to strengthen bonds and improve working relationships.

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Another important aspect of team building is education. This can — and should — be  accomplished while in the workplace. Your DMS probably has built-in training modules, but do you know if your employees are really paying attention to them?

My guess is that most employees use only half of the features available to them in your DMS. These are features you’re paying for, so how can you increase usage?

Make training and education a team exercise. Assign team members a monthly project, such as going through a particular training module,  learning how to customize a process or implement a new process in the DMS. Then, hold a monthly meeting in which every team member shares what he or she learned with fellow team members.

When employees view a training module with a proactive purpose in mind, they are much more likely to be engaged and retain information.

Your DMS, CRM and other software solutions are more than just tools to be used by your employees. Technology can help keep employees on the same page, increase transparency, motivate teams to achieve goals, share successes and increase knowledge, all of which help to strengthen your team-building efforts within your organization.

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Mike Esposito

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