Business Management Software Systems and Website Services survey

For the third consecutive year, Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) conducted a Q&A survey of many of the leading business management software system and website services providers to keep you up to date on the latest computer technology trends in the OPE industry.

Our questions followed by their written responses, in the order they were received May 12-21, 2015, are as follows:

1507_OPE_FS_BMS-WS Survey1_ARI_James Hill2

JAMES HILL
ENDEAVOR WEBSITE PLATFORM
PRODUCT MANAGER
ARI NETWORK SERVICES, INC.
(MILWAUKEE, WIS.)

OPE: What is the latest OPE industry-specific news about your company?

James Hill: ARI Network Services, Inc. recently launched its Endeavor website platform at GIE+EXPO 2014. Endeavor provides websites with an updated look and feel, as well as a comprehensive service manager. Plus, Endeavor sites are mobile-friendly — they offer dealers a dedicated mobile site; an administration panel compatible with phones and tablets; and access to ARI Mobile, an all-new inventory app that helps dealers load inventory to their website in seconds via their mobile devices.

OPE: What is trending when it comes to website services for the OPE industry, and what factors are driving these trends?

James Hill:

Trend #1: Mobile and tablet adoption by Internet users is driving an intense focus on mobile website presentation. Google’s latest round of updates indicates that if your website isn’t mobile friendly, your site will rank poorly compared with those that are ready for mobile visitors.

Trend #2: Integration drives efficiency and helps transfer information without duplicated efforts. Look for business systems and service providers that integrate, so you can spend less time re-keying and more time focused on your business goals.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in website services?

James Hill: With increasing pressure from big box retailers and competition, dealers need to make sure their inventory, parts and services are readily available and up-to-date online to attract consumers who have more choices than ever for where they can purchase OPE products and services. If your customers can’t find what they need on your website, they will find it with your competition.

OPE: What should OPE dealers be looking for when shopping for website services?

James Hill: Look for a website that satisfies your core business needs (inventory, parts and service) with efficiency-driving integrations and administrative controls, a mobile-ready web storefront and industry-best product data to help your customers find what they’re looking for.

1507_OPE_FS_BMS-WS Survey2_c-Systems Software_Jim Phelan2

JIM PHELAN
VICE PRESIDENT & CFO
c-SYSTEMS SOFTWARE, INC.
(ARLINGTON, TEXAS)

OPE: What is the latest OPE industry-specific news about your company?

Jim Phelan: c-Systems Software’s guiding philosophy and mission, starting with the company’s inception in 1983, has been to provide innovative services and products that help outdoor power equipment and ag dealers manage and operate their businesses more efficiently and profitably. Thirty-two years later, that spirit endures as c-Systems continues to pioneer and develop new software applications within our leading-edge Infinity business management system.

Recently, c-Systems announced the addition of new Infinity e-commerce interfaces for Amazon, eBay, and ARI’s WebsiteSmart and PartStream products. These interfaces automatically retrieve customer sales orders from the dealer’s e-commerce website so they can be processed from within Infinity. Customer e-commerce orders are posted to Infinity’s unique Internet Orders Panel, where the dealer can easily expedite the order for fulfillment and shipping. Infinity’s enhanced e-commerce integration will help eliminate repetitive entry and lower dealership operational costs. Furthermore, each of these new e-commerce integrations will make a significant improvement in order proficiency and eradicate keying errors, so the dealership is more profitable.

During last year’s Kubota Corporation annual dealer meeting, Kubota’s president and CEO, Mr. Masato Yoshikawa, announced that they had embarked upon a new communication initiative between KTC and select dealer business systems. c-Systems is very proud to announce that our Infinity business management system has been selected as an approved system for Kubota dealers. This communication initiative will greatly enhance integration between the dealer’s business management system and Kubota Corporation in order to make it easier to do business.

We have also worked on many updates to Infinity. Now, users of Infinity’s Bid Assist & Rebates features will soon receive a major overhaul. The program upgrade release will provide substantial improvements in the way available rebates and bid assist programs are stored, maintained, displayed, and tracked. Products with associated rebates or bid assist programs will be available for display during the sales invoice process to ensure customers receive applicable rebates and dealers meet bid assist compliance.

We haven’t forgotten our Canadian Infinity customers! Soon, they will gain a new Stihl Product Registration Upload feature for their systems. U.S. Stihl dealers have had the ability to electronically register Stihl products from within their business management systems; now, our Canadian Infinity customers will enjoy a similar capability. Automated electronic product registration will eliminate the hassle of manually submitting registrations and keying mistakes, and ensure product registrations are posted with the vendor in a timely manner.

c-Systems continues to pursue the development of Automated Warranty Claims Submission. Several years ago, c-Systems’ Infinity system, in cooperation with the Ariens Company, became the first to electronically upload warranty claims from within the dealer’s business system direct to Ariens Company. Early last year, c-Systems extended Infinity’s warranty claims transmission capabilities with i-Warranty. This extended feature provides automated warranty claims submission for those vendors/manufacturers that either don’t have the capability or don’t have the programming resources to develop warranty claims transmission. i-Warranty automatically uploads required information within Infinity straight to the vendor’s warranty claim webpage. Upon implementation of our warranty claims automation, dealers have reported considerably fewer warranty claim errors, a reduction in missed claims submissions, and much faster payment of claims. What once took several hours, now takes a fraction of the time.

OPE: What is trending when it comes to business management software systems for the OPE industry, and what factors are driving these trends?

Jim Phelan: Business management software continues to evolve with each technological advance. OPE software trends are about adding more automation within dealer operations. Over the past few years, many business management systems have started providing features like automated product registration transmission or electronic inventory lookup/stock check at the vendor or distributor level. More and more dealers are also adding “Marketing Automation” functions within their business operations to help attract new customers, as well as maintain their existing customer base. These functions include provisions to track customer buying trends, so dealers can develop better marketing strategies.

Dealer websites are commonplace, but they are now understanding the need to implement an entire online store presence. Many dealers have added integrated shopping carts with Amazon and eBay on their websites in order to boost sales. A virtual dealership web store will increasingly become a requirement based on customer buying trends and habits.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system?

Jim Phelan: An OPE dealer should invest in a business management software (BMS) system because it provides a tremendous increase in efficiency and increased dealership profitability. Though it is a significant investment, if implemented properly, the BMS will quickly pay for itself.

A BMS system is also an important tool to grow a business. It provides dealers with simplified access to dealership information and reduces the amount of entries needed by hand. A quality BMS supplies the tools needed to quickly pinpoint and solve dealership problems.

A BMS system will help you:

* Improve efficiency and productivity

* Get organized and accomplish tasks

* Achieve goals with better results

* Reduce stress

* Increase profits

* Minimize human error

OPE: What should OPE dealers be looking for when shopping for a business management software system?

Jim Phelan: When considering the purchase of a BMS system, make sure the provider has a reputable track record producing these systems. Check the financial stability of the BMS provider and find out how long they have been in business. Ask their personnel how well they know the outdoor power equipment industry and their experience.

When you purchase a BMS system, you are buying more than just a product. It is a long-term relationship, so make sure the company is able to meet your specific needs, now and in the future.

1507_OPE_FS_BMS-WS Survey3_nizeX_Joy McClanahan2

JOY McCLANAHAN
SALES MANAGER
NIZEX, INC.
(MCDONOUGH, GA.)

OPE: What is the latest OPE industry-specific news about your company?

Joy McClanahan: 2015 has been a busy year for nizeX! We’ve made a number of improvements to our Lizzy software. Foremost has been adding the ability to show real-time inventory quantities for vendors, from right within Lizzy. This new feature has been a huge hit with dealers. And while we started initially with Western Power Sports, we’re looking to add all of the OPE vendors as well. If vendors don’t already have their own in-house program to share this information with BMS (business management system) vendors, nizeX has an open source program called merX (www.merxedi.com) that will allow them to implement these capabilities without a lot of development work.

We’ve also added the ability to create “also sell” products in Lizzy. This feature allows dealers to create links between parts so that when an employee adds a part such as a quart of oil to an invoice, Lizzy will automatically pop up related items, like oil filters. The “also sell” feature allows dealers to improve both profitability and service. Employees can quickly become parts experts, just by using Lizzy!

Finally, another addition that our OPE dealerships are really excited about is our new fleet pricing feature. Once a contact is entered as a fleet customer, Lizzy can track how long they qualify for special pricing on specified lines and automatically give the customer the proper unit price. Also, since fleet pricing customers don’t qualify for regular rebates, when you are ringing a unit sale for a fleet customer, Lizzy will show only fleet rebates by default, to prevent employee error.

OPE: What is trending when it comes to business management software systems for the OPE industry, and what factors are driving these trends?

Joy McClanahan: Right now, vendor integration is probably the most common request we get from our customers. Dealers are carefully watching what vendors offer, even if they don’t have a relationship with them. They take that info. back to their own vendors and say, “Company X has electronic ordering and real-time inventory. Why aren’t you offering this?” We’ve long been a big proponent of vendor integration with BMS, so it’s exciting to see dealers becoming their own advocates and creating momentum for these projects.

Webstore integration is also a hot topic. Many dealers are moving to the web to gain increased visibility from local customers, as well as gain a customer base outside their community. Managing a webstore is quite a task, particularly when you’re selling parts and trying to keep your unit inventory updated. Dealers want to make it as easy as possible. They don’t want to have to manually input online orders into their BMS — nobody has time for that! That’s why webstore integration is so valuable — it eliminates duplicate work.

Finally, web-based BMS — along with mobile apps — are still a growing trend, and I think that will only continue to expand. Dealers have found many ways to compete with the big box stores, but they need their software to keep up with the new way of doing business. Their commitment to customer service differentiates them from the “big guys.” They’re stepping out from behind the counter to help that customer find the part he’s looking for, right from the showroom floor. They’re offering pickup and delivery and providing mobile service work. All of these extensions are great ways to increase revenue and boost customer loyalty. However, traditional PC-based software doesn’t give dealers the flexibility they need to handle the increased demands of the industry. Having web-based software that you can access from any smartphone or tablet, or a mobile app that allows you to work without being chained to a PC, can really help you improve your bottom line.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system?

Joy McClanahan: When you choose the software that’s the right fit for your business and implement it properly, you should see a substantial return on investment, where the software is paying for itself.

What can the right BMS do for you? One, you can increase your profits. You can know exactly what you have on hand (and where you’re storing it), so that you can make the sale. If your software provider is giving you price file updates, you’ll have the latest information on what parts are available from your vendors, along with your current cost and the current list prices. This saves time by eliminating the need to have employees manually updating part records, and preserves profit margins by ensuring that you’re always charging the correct price when you sell an item. If you’re relying on your employees to keep track of when vendors’ prices change, you’re likely losing money when costs (and retail prices) increase!

Additionally, you can reduce the amount of time it takes to run the back end of the business as a BMS can streamline business operations tasks like accounting, payroll, and filing sales taxes. It can also decrease the stress of performing these tasks, keeping your employees happier. Increased productivity and happier employees — definitely, a winning combination!

OPE: What should OPE dealers be looking for when shopping for a business management software system?

Joy McClanahan: Before you pick up the phone (or the mouse) to get information on software, consider what your current pain points are. Is the inventory a mess? Are you struggling to keep up with your general ledger? Do you need a better way to track special orders for customers? The more you can pinpoint your specific needs, the more productive your conversations with software providers will be. You want to ensure the software will meet not only the current needs of your business, but your future needs as well. If you’ve been considering adding a rental program, or expanding to multiple locations, take this into account during your research. The right BMS should fit your needs even as your company grows.

Also, consider the time of year that will be best for the transition. You’re much better off making the shift during your slow time of year. Conversion and training are time-consuming and can be stressful (even in a best-case scenario); don’t make it worse by attempting to make a switch while you’re very busy! Consider getting buy-in from your employees as well. We’ve found that the businesses that involve their employees during the evaluation period have a much smoother transition and better adoption of the new software.

Ask to see the BMS vendor’s contract in advance of making a final decision. A good vendor should be upfront with you regarding their contract terms (if any) and be willing to show you the contract you’ll be held to. Make sure that you understand exactly what you’re agreeing to before you sign anything! There has been a rise in popularity of “hosted” software, where the software provider hosts your data on their own servers (instead of your business having a server in-house), and many dealers are choosing this option in order to break away from server and software maintenance. While hosted software can be very efficient (and cost saving) for dealers, be aware that some companies may refuse to give you the business data you’ve acquired while using their system unless you pay a fee. Some may even refuse to give it to you altogether! This can limit you in what you can bring over to a new system. It’s best to make sure questions about data ownership are answered before you ever sign a contract, and that you have the agreement in writing.

1507_OPE_FS_BMS-WS Survey4_Ideal_Greg Carradus2

GREG CARRADUS
DIRECTOR OF SALES
IDEAL COMPUTER SYSTEMS, INC.
(CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA)

OPE: What is the latest OPE industry-specific news about your company?

Greg Carradus: Since Ideal has become part of the Constellation Dealership Software (CDS) family, our reputation for industry-leading software and customer support has reached new levels of success. The concerted effort within the organization has provided Ideal with amazing resources that have allowed us to nearly triple our program development efforts. The collaboration and knowledge shared throughout the CDS software family has allowed Ideal to really build on our award-winning customer support, as well as our customer delivery and training. We’ve seen dramatic improvements with our customers’ ability to “go live,” which results in a much quicker and sustained return on investment with Ideal. We also place an emphasis in collecting feedback from our customers and use their feedback to help aid in our development. It is through this feedback that we learned in 2014, Ideal customers rate our support team at 97 percent in overall courtesy and professionalism and 93 percent in overall product knowledge.

Ideal now produces three major software releases a year that cover a variety of timely and industry-relevant enhancements and features. Our source of inspiration and knowledge continues to come from our number one resource: our customers. In addition, we seek guidance through our long-established relationships with leading industry consultants and dealership experts. When it comes down to it, our main goal is to provide dealers with a product that allows them to become more profitable. In order to do so, they need to be able to easily access key metrics that help them monitor their business performance. To help achieve this goal, we invested some time working with industry expert Bob Clements to modify and add new charts on the Ideal Dashboard. These charts contain pertinent information that all dealers should be looking at on a regular basis. Some of our recent updates include Average Service Completion Time, Estimated Wait Time, Fill Rate, and Average Transaction Value.

We also worked with Bob to develop a profitability feature, which has become extremely popular with our dealers, and that’s a parts percentage markup on items from your parts department that you add to your work orders. By adding just a 5-percent increase on parts, we’re seeing dealers easily add thousands of dollars to their bottom line.

OPE: What is trending when it comes to business management software systems for the OPE industry, and what factors are driving these trends?

Greg Carradus:

* Mobile technology: I’d say mobile technology continues to become more and more a part of our everyday world, and we’ve spent a lot of time incorporating this technology into our product. Service and parts personnel can now perform key tasks from anywhere in the dealership. Dealers are saving considerable time and improving overall business efficiencies by conducting year-end and cycle inventory counts with their mobile devices, and expediting parts receiving right on the spot. Service personnel can take and attach photos to work orders and compose a work order while standing outside with the customer. This dramatically improves the speed and quality of the engagement. Technicians are now able to clock in and out of jobs, add labor and comments, take pictures, and complete work orders on-the-go, without being tethered to a workstation. We expect the demand for mobile capabilities to continue to grow as dealers are becoming more accustomed to using their mobile devices for business.

* B2B communications: The OPE industry’s continued development of streamlined communication between dealer and supplier also continues to be a trend. We currently have more than 80 dealer-to-manufacturer/supplier integrations with our system, and those numbers continue to grow.

* Paperless office: Another trend we’ve seen is that dealers are looking for a reduction in paperwork and better ways to store pictures, signatures, customer files. With the development of a paperless office, dealers can store these items without adding to the size of their database, or taking up valuable space on their server’s hard drive. Paperless offices have made it easy for dealers to store data on a secure cloud server with unlimited space, and we’re happy to provide this service to our dealers.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system?

Greg Carradus: Everyone will tell you that business management software will save time, improve efficiency, and streamline business processes. While this is all true, the fact of the matter is dealers are mostly in business to make money, and a business management software system will help them do just that. While there is an upfront investment, your future returns are much greater and well worth the investment.

OPE: What should OPE dealers be looking for when shopping for a business management software system?

Greg Carradus: I believe one key factor that is overlooked when shopping for business management software is the dealer’s internal process of how they will arrive at a software purchase decision.

You should address several questions during your buying process:

* Who is involved in the evaluation and buying process?

* Where do they get their information?

* What are the best methods to obtain the information?

* What specific features does the dealership need to close the gaps in their business processes?

* How much weight do you put on peer recommendations and/or company provided referrals?

Some factors you should consider in your due diligence include finding a product that’s an industry-specific solution; has a user-friendly interface; includes features and functionality; a good reputation for customer support and training; good peer recommendations; industry leaders and consultant’s recommendations; and the company’s age, size and reputation in the industry. You also need to look at how many software vendors you want to invite into the process, the vendor-provided demos and/or independent access to the software they provide, and employee feedback.

While dealers want to get a new solution in place quickly and move on with life, a little due diligence will go a long way to ensure that the business management system truly meets your needs, now and in the future. Having key employees involved in the process will ensure a better adoption and “buy-in” with all the employees.

Try not to take a shortcut during this process. No one wants to burn their time and their employees’ time. However, sacrificing 30-60 days now will lead to a much higher probability of success that can last for years.

Dealer principals and key employees in the OPE industry are highly intelligent business people. I hope that this response helps “prime the pump” for the development of their own internal decision-making process.

1507_OPE_FS_BMS-WS Survey5_Charter Software_Anne Salemo2

ANNE SALEMO
PRESIDENT
CHARTER SOFTWARE INC.
(LITTLETON, COLO.)

OPE: What is the latest OPE industry-specific news about your company?

Anne Salemo: To meet the needs of OPE dealers following the increasing trend toward providing mobile servicing of equipment, Charter added mobile functions to its ASPEN dealer management system that allow dealers to remotely manage work orders and the parts inventory carried on service trucks.

Using their mobile device or smartphone, technicians can easily access work orders, as well as create parts pick lists for pickup rather than wait until they return to the dealership. In addition, they can access work order history, equipment, and customer information from their mobile device, allowing them to provide the highest level of customer service in the field.

ASPEN’s tools also simplify the reporting that dealers need to monitor the profitability or shrinkage of service truck inventory.

OPE: What is trending when it comes to business management software systems for the OPE industry, and what factors are driving these trends?

Anne Salemo: Mobile applications, remote access, internal communication tools and integrated customer relationship management (CRM)/contact management functionality continue to be the most currently sought-after applications within a business management system.

Competition between dealers for market share continues to drive dealers to find ways to attract and retain customers, which is often achieved by catering to their modern lifestyles by providing more responsive and flexible customer service. To dealers, this means having “24/7” accessibility to their inventory and customer data. This, along with the increased popularity of mobile service units, creates more demand for mobile access to dealers’ business data. The ability to look up parts, equipment and customer information; review and clock into work orders; and perform other routine tasks “on-the-go” is more than just a convenience to dealers — it is now a requirement.

In addition to mobile access to data, an integrated CRM system is a must-have tool for dealers to extend their marketing reach and improve their customer service. With these tools, dealers can analyze and leverage their own data to use for customized marketing efforts. Dealers can create custom messages to send to customers segmented by specific criteria, such as type of unit owned, demographic area, last service dates, etc.

A CRM also aids and speeds the sales process by providing the ability to track and manage quotes, view sales pipeline, and ensure follow-through with the ability to schedule reminders and monitor tasks.

Integrating the CRM functionality into the business management system is part of the trend toward streamlining multiple processes into one application, and eliminating the need for additional software programs. For example, dealers can send mass email or generate lists to use for marketing promotions directly from the dealership system, without requiring separate CRM software. In addition to minimizing the expense and effort involved in maintaining a separate software system, dealers also gain the benefit of keeping all their data “under one roof”– for example, a historical record of all customer contacts and marketing efforts is visible on the customer record and assists other dealership employees who may be working with that customer or prospect.

Likewise, integrated credit card processing, and integrated supplier transactions such as parts ordering, price updates, and product registration are very important to dealers looking to keep all their data and transactions contained within one system. This fall, EMV (“smart card”) technology will become a requirement for dealers who process credit card transactions, so a business management system that integrates with a credit card processing program supporting this technology will ensure the dealers’ compliance with this security measure.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system?

Anne Salemo: In addition to streamlining all processes and tracking all data, a business management system is an important tool that helps dealers identify and take immediate action on opportunities or weaknesses in the dealership. The business system dashboard literally places this information at the dealer’s fingertips. Being able to determine each department’s contribution to overall margins; following trends to determine seasonal stocking levels; tracking and analyzing all of their technicians’ time; streamlining transactions with suppliers; and harnessing the power of customer management and targeted marketing are some of the many ways a business management system can be used to impact their bottom line. Any dealer who is not using a business management system is missing out on many opportunities to improve parts, service and sales performance. “If you can’t track it, you can’t fix it.”

OPE: What should OPE dealers be looking for when shopping for a business management software system?

Anne Salemo:

  1. What kind of relationship does the vendor have with their customers? Vendors need to be responsive to dealers’ needs, and dealers need to feel that their needs are continuing to be met. Dealers should have a solid working relationship with their software vendor — to us, this means letting us know what’s working great for you, what’s not, and what we can do to best meet their business needs. We take a personal interest in our dealers’ success, and we do make enhancements to the software based on customer feedback.
  2. Operating system, platform and other technical specifications. Dealers need to ensure that the hardware platform is the most current, and is widely supported. To find the option most suitable for their dealership, dealers should inquire if there is an option to run the software as a hosted solution, or on a server if that is preferable. How secure is the data, and is it protected from threats? ASPEN was developed using Microsoft .NET and SQL Server to offer dealers strong security; a reliable, manageable IT infrastructure; and easy integration with Microsoft applications.
  3. Vendor’s industry reputation: Check out company longevity. Look for vendors with industry alliances or endorsements and that are recognized for their thought-leadership.
  4. Ease of navigation in the system and access to information: Do you own your data (meaning, can you access, export, or build your own reports if needed)? Built-in reports, “drill-down” access to source transactions, and the ability to set users’ permissions to access only specific information are all important considerations.
  5. Manufacturer integration: Do you need to access suppliers’ electronic parts catalogs and parts pricing, inventory ordering portals or the ability to submit financial reports? Can these transactions be performed from within the software? Consider the frequency of these transactions and the importance to your business.
  6. Accounting in the system: Does the software’s accounting system work with your methodology or support QuickBooks if that is your preferred system?
  7. Integrated credit card processing and EMV support: This functionality not only saves dealers time and effort, it ensures that their customers’ data is protected, and that the dealership itself is protected against fraud.
  8. Features and overall value/price: Does the software include built-in tools like mobile access, an integrated CRM system, and enable transactions with suppliers from within the system? These features help eliminate the need for other software, save time, and streamline processes, ensuring the greatest return on investment.
  9. Frequency/availability of software updates: How often is the system updated, and what if any cost is involved? Because of changes in the industry, a business management system is never really “done.” Therefore, we continue to update and enhance ASPEN on a regular basis, very often as a result of user feedback. These releases, as well as training on the new features, are included in our customer support.
  10. Product training: What level of basic training is available/required, and is any included in the initial cost? Ongoing training should be available as users progress with the software. We see the empowering impact that continuing training has on our users, particularly at our user conference, when users receive in-depth training on software features that correspond with their roles and duties at the dealership.

 1507_OPE_FS_BMS-WS Survey6_Basic Software_Chanse McGuire2

CHANSE McGUIRE
BUSINESS SYSTEM CONSULTANT
BASIC SOFTWARE SYSTEMS
(TEXARKANA, TEXAS)

OPE: What is the latest OPE industry-specific news about your company?

Chanse McGuire: With the recent launch of our amazing Data Mining and Custom Reporting Tool called ARCHWAY, dealer principles, owners, departmental managers, etc., not only have access to pre-defined reports, but also have the ability to customize their own personal reports and monitor them in real time within a dashboard setting. Each dashboard has its own levels of security, so that sensitive information is protected. This feature will allow key people in the dealership to see critical business information that affects daily decisions without the need to learn the entire business system to obtain it. Any area of the software may be reported on and drilled down into to find exactly the information needed and pull it all together in one report even across multiple modules. Reports, as well as color charts and graphs, may be created in multiple formats for presentations or export to Excel and other external software. We have found this capability to be unique in the industry and one that many customers and dealer principles have requested. We are excited about what this technical tool brings to the dealer in today’s world of instant information. Continued development and new features are added to ARCHWAY daily to bring a creative and much-needed tool for the OPE industry.

OPE: What is trending when it comes to business management software systems for the OPE industry, and what factors are driving these trends?

Chanse McGuire: The ability to have real-time information from your business management software system is a driving factor in new technology. Comprehensive reporting…seeing at a glance the status of service jobs; tracking parts sales and service by customer or equipment serial number; technicians’ productivity; availability of parts; open quotes or invoices; parts on order; and knowing at all times where you are with profitability in specific areas (e.g. service, parts, sales, rentals).

Use of mobile technology is helping dealers with access to business management software system information no matter their location, making them much more knowledgeable when dealing with customers on the showroom floor, in outside display areas, or when they are away from the dealership altogether.

As dealerships grow and add locations, you have the ability to view, sell, or transfer parts and equipment between store locations. This is vital in helping them not miss out on sales and meet the customers’ needs.

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management software system?

Chanse McGuire: OPE dealers should invest in a business management software system for many reasons. First and foremost, as smart as we are, we need help to keep up with a growing business. Many times, you don’t know what area of your business needs the most attention until you track it with a business management software system. The system can save you many hours and potentially lost revenue if used correctly. You will detect the losses and turn them into gains just by utilizing the time-saving capabilities of a business management software system.

Secondly, you must consider the needs of your customers and how you may best meet their needs through your business management software system. Your software solution should:

* Make the owner’s job easier, more cost effective, save valuable time, and give you a clear picture at all times of your profit margin and what is being done in each department.

* Provide all the tools that your employees need to do their jobs well in all areas (e.g. service, parts, equipment, sales, rentals and accounting).

* Provide tools for marketing.

* Communicate and manage relationships with manufacturers and vendors.

* Help you streamline daily activities and processes.

* Grow with you as you expand and add new services, new locations and users.

* Provide FREE access to continual training classes for existing and new customers, new employees and those just needing refresher classes.

* Provide technical support for questions when using software.

OPE: What should OPE dealers be looking for when shopping for a business management software system?

Chanse McGuire: Every department in the dealership (parts, equipment, service and rentals) should be able to be a profit center within itself. The business management system should be tailored so that the department heads can have information on a daily basis that analyzes their operation and highlights areas where there they are doing well and where they have room for improvement. There is no better way you can do this than through customized departmental dashboards that are refreshed continuously throughout the day.

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