The Tablet Revolution is Coming: Is Your Dealership Ready?

Nov 30, 2012 | | 14603 |

The Tablet Revolution is Coming: Is Your Dealership Ready?

By Mark Dante

If you’re like most of today’s busy dealerships, the answer to that question is short: “probably not.”

Let’s take a step back for a moment. In August 2012, PCWorld reported that “shipments of Windows laptops and desktops have hit new lows as tablet shipments continued to rise during the second quarter of this year.” In fact, some resources predict that the tablet will replace desktop PCs at some point in the next few years.

Tablets and other handheld technologies are actually perfect for auto dealerships. After all, Service managers can do their walkarounds, entering vehicle and customer information into the DMS from their tablets. PCs don’t have that level of portability. And that’s not the only tablet application, either. The benefits of mobile technologies for dealerships are nearly endless. OEMs recognize this trend, and are writing specialized applications for tablets. Dealership technology partners are also creating applications for the DMS, Service department, and more.

Some progressive dealerships have already started transitioning to tablets, empowering salespeople with mobile technologies to, among other things, look up vehicle information while in the Showroom or on the lot. But what happens when wireless access isn’t available? Suddenly, the tablet—and the investment in it—is almost useless.

Wireless network infrastructure is critical to mobile, portable dealership technologies

Several years ago, dealerships first started deploying wireless network access for customers waiting in the Service lounge. It was a great value-add for customers, allowing them to be productive while waiting for an oil change, tire rotation, what have you. It was easy to deploy wireless in this way, too; simply pick up an access point at your local consumer technology superstore, read the instructions, and you’re off and running.

Then wireless network access became important to laptop users in the Sales and Service departments, so dealerships began adding wireless access points in much the same way as they did for the Service lounge. And perhaps a CRM vendor needed a wireless access point in the dealership  to support that software. These “band-aid” type solutions worked just fine, most of the time, and when it didn’t, the hard-wired PC wasn’t too far away.

The problem now with these piecemeal, self-deployed wireless networks is that they simply are not designed to support a dealership that wants to implement tablet technologies. Existing wireless infrastructure doesn’t have the security, capacity, or coverage availability dealerships need. As more dealerships want to transition to tablet technologies, they’ll have to take a hard look at their current infrastructure, then work with a network services partner to deploy a business-class wireless network.

Prepare your wireless network for tablet technologies

Existing wireless infrastructure might work fine when your dealership has two or three tablet users. But once your dealership embraces all the benefits tablet technologies have to offer, you’ll need to replace existing wireless infrastructure to support the 20, 30, or more tablet users.

Security and management

Begin by selecting whom you want on your network—Sales employees? Service? What about Parts? The business office? After that, you’ll need to be able to manage the network’s traffic and give priority to certain types of users.

A wireless network partner will be able to help manage your network in this way while protecting your necessary data and applications.

High capacity output

Adding dozens of users to the wireless network will compromise it if the infrastructure cannot provide the high capacity output your dealership will require. The wireless network’s backbone has to provide the bandwidth you need to keep your employees productive and customers satisfied.

Seamless, constant coverage

Employees will need to stay connected to the network, wherever they end up on your dealership property: in the Service bays, on the lot, in the Showroom, and so on. Moving throughout the dealership while still accessing the DMS, CRM, and other applications is the key benefit of tablet technologies, so seamless, constant coverage is a critical feature of your new wireless network.

Just like your hard-wired network infrastructure provides the backbone to your business, the wireless network will become just as central when your dealership joins the tablet revolution.

Selecting a wireless network partner

Deploying a business-grade wireless network is simple when you find the right technology partner. Because auto dealerships rely so heavily on their networks to run their businesses, there are several key criteria you should consider when selecting a wireless network partner:

  • In-depth auto dealership experience – any network provider helping an automotive dealership ought to have extensive, in-depth experience in designing, deploying, and supporting auto dealers’ networks—not grocery stores, dentist offices, or movie theaters.  Partners with extensive automotive retail experience will fully understand what challenges dealerships face, how to solve those specific issues, and how to prepare for the changing auto retail landscape.
  • Close alignment with automotive manufacturers – when a network partner works closely with automotive manufacturers, the partner can help dealerships meet OEM requirements. These partners will know exactly what OEMs look for in terms of wireless network security and connectivity, and can help dealerships comply with those needs. There’s no guesswork, scrambling, or wasted investments.
  • Robust network support team – the right partner will have a robust, comprehensive team of network engineers and specialists who can design, deploy, and support the wireless network you rely on to sell cars, parts, and service. Additionally, these partners will be certified by Cisco and other technology partners to the highest possible degree—giving your dealership access to a wealth of knowledge and competitive pricing arrangements.
  • Single team supporting all technology solutions – today’s dealerships don’t have the time or resources to manage multiple vendors for many different solutions. A single dealership technology partner gives dealerships “one throat to choke”; that is, if a support situation arises, a single partner means a single phone call … no running around trying to determine who’s responsible for what.

As we look to the future, tablet devices will be crucial to running your business. Now is the time to prepare your network infrastructure for the revolution—it’s coming, and the upside to your dealership is clear.

Why tablets will replace PCs in auto dealerships

  1. Portability – Although you can carry a laptop around the dealership and perform necessary tasks, the portability and ease-of-use tablets provide is second-to-none. It’s lighter (less than one pound, versus up to 12 pounds); smaller, but with a large, readable screen; and uses a touchscreen rather than a mouse or trackball. Write up Service tickets, enter leads into CRM, evaluate a trade-in, even manage payroll–all from the tablet and from anywhere in the dealership with wireless network access.
  2. Easy, elegant user interface – Quite simply, tablets feature an elegant, easy-to-use interface that even the most novice technology users can appreciate.
  3. Battery life – Most tablets can carry a charge for a full workday or more, even with near-constant use. Sure, some laptops offer great battery life, but those are in the minority. Losing power is unacceptable in today’s busy dealership environment.
  4. Cybersecurity – Viruses and malware that plague PCs are almost unheard-of for tablets.

Learn the Latest in Networking Technology

Mark Dante