Crafting the perfect implementation
Shawn Davis
| 19 August 2021

Crafting the perfect implementation

Change is seldom easy. It’s human nature to prefer the comfort of old routines over new ones, which makes implementing a new system challenging for everyone at the dealership. Increasing the challenge further is the sheer number of details involved in a successful installation, leading to results that range wildly from one extreme to the other: some installs are rocky and end in dissatisfaction, while others go so smoothly that they take your breath away, especially if you’ve experienced the rocky variety first.

This all leads to the question: Is a perfect implementation possible every time — or are there too many human and logistical factors to calculate, making it more a matter of luck? Two recent examples may provide us with answers.

Recommendation from Premier Automotive

While all service providers will say they perform great implementations, it’s the dealership perspective that really counts. Bill Madden of CDK Global, after receiving a request for a reference from a potential partner, contacted Wayne Skinner, VP of Operations at Premier Automotive. Skinner’s recommendation was enthusiastic:

Bill, I cannot praise you and your team enough. I have been through eight installs with various DMS providers and this has been the most seamless of them all. If any dealer group has questions have them feel free to call me.

Madden’s response included hints to CDK’s success:

Thank you for the kind words. It is amazing what can happen if the pre-work, focus and commitments of both customer and [strategic partner] are driven by the same goals. I am blessed with a great team that worked together with your organization to reduce impact to employees, customers, and revenue generation. Please call if I can ever assist your efforts.

Unsolicited praise from another dealership

More clues can be found in a letter to CDK from the Systems Manager at a second dealer group:

I am writing you because recently we have made two implementations with Carlos Augusto Rodriguez [Business Solutions Consultant at CDK] on his own, and they have both been outstanding …

He made sure to show us how to maximize our full process … He gave the techs a sense of urgency with the estimates and it made them hungry to produce more, showing them how they had more visibility now over the repair … He made sure that everything was taken care of and made us feel calm and under control in an opening. As you know, openings are stressful and full of tiny details that need to be corrected on the go, and I have to say that he made sure to give us peace of mind during such time. We consider Carlos a key element in our team.

I am so grateful for his work and the passion that he has … even though he doesn’t directly work for us, he makes sure to treat us like teammates and adds great value to our operation.

Analyzing what went right (and what can go wrong)

Going over these dealer letters with a magnifying glass, we can isolate several specific factors for implementation success.

1. Supplier as Strategic Partner

As you read in our previous blog article, a service provider who relates to the dealer as a vendor is primarily focused on the immediate sale, while a strategic partner focuses on the long-term and treats the dealership with the care of an ongoing relationship.

Building a close partnership is one of the most important factors contributing to a successful implementation; and in both of the above dealer examples, we can see how the strategic partner relationship contributes to a positive experience. Madden refers to CDK’s “focus and commitment … driven by the same goals,” while the Systems Manager shows appreciation for how the CDK consultant “made us feel calm and under control,” providing “peace of mind,” and acting as “a key element in our team” who “makes sure to treat us like teammates.”

2. Staff Inclusion

Diving deeper into the “teammates” comment above: one can’t underestimate the importance of including employees in the process — even before the physical installation has begun. If expectations aren’t set and benefits fully explained beforehand, the team can only guess what went into the decision-making process. Without their buy-in, staff is left feeling strong-armed into adapting to a new system they neither wanted nor asked for.

In the second dealership example, the CDK consultant includes staff on-site by making “sure to show us how to maximize our full process.“ Prior to that, CDK reached out to dealership management with the tools to help them ensure staff was on board. This is a critical piece of the puzzle many providers overlook.

3. Dealer Preparation

Part of “Staff Inclusion” worthy of specific attention is preparing staff with instructions on operating the new system. But this must be provided with a careful attention to balance: too detailed and it becomes daunting and complicated; too light and it places the staff in a frustrating spot — they’ve lost a tool they knew how to use and been handed a tool they don’t know how to operate. Whether the new tool is objectively better than the old one is beside the point.

Once again, the CDK consultant came through. The second dealership tells us how he walked employees through the system and got them excited by demonstrating capabilities they didn’t have before: “He gave the techs a sense of urgency with the estimates and it made them hungry to produce more, showing them how they had more visibility now over the repair.” This built on CDK’s virtual training which preceded him on the scene, providing pre- and post-assessments to determine each staff member’s training needs.

4. Minimizing Disruption

This one seems obvious: The longer an installation takes, the greater the disruption to a dealership’s business. To really feel the enormity of the issue, consider the timespan between the shutdown of an old DMS and the startup of a new one — and all the manual processes that have to take place during that time. That’s a huge inconvenience, and it’s up to the service provider to keep it to a minimum in order to maintain a positive dealer experience.

However, implementation can’t be rushed either (see “Staff Preparation” and “Dealer Inclusion” above). The right partner knows how to strike the balance, and as we see in the Premier example, CDK did it right. When Madden credits “a great team working together to reduce impact to employees, customers, and revenue generation,” this is exactly what he’s talking about — plus one more element.

5. Coordination

There are so many moving parts to the implementation process. Lack of coordination among them can lead to a host of issues ranging from dealer confusion over the process, to not knowing which supplier contact to call, to accidentally missing portions of the install.

In our Premier Automotive example, when Skinner says “I have been through eight installs with various DMS providers and this has been the most seamless of them all,” that’s a telling statement. Coordination is where so many service providers’ implementations fall apart. The key to CDK’s coordination is our standard implementation process.

Raising the bar on precision

The standard implementation process turns every install into a science. Its goal is to simplify and standardize every element so installation is optimal, reliable and reproducible across multiple storefronts and locations.

CDK’s SureStart approach accomplishes this by:

  • Consolidating roles to increase efficiency, improve end-to-end ownership and simplify communication
  • Proactively aligning expectations through Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to establish deadlines and reduce surprises or delays
  • Establishing escalation paths at every touchpoint to keep jobs on track throughout the process
  • Utilizing a dealer-facing status-tracking tool to encourage greater involvement and a closer partnership between dealership and strategic partner
  • Ensuring rigorous adherence to a carefully designed five-step process which pays equal attention to dealer site readiness and workflow

The total benefit of CDK’s standard implementation process is undeniable: it addresses every one of the factors above so users are better prepared. Resources are used more efficiently. Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. Relationships are strengthened. Go-live is smoother. And dealers receive a quicker return on investment. The end result is greater dealer satisfaction — with implementations that are as close to perfect as possible, every single time.

Coming next: From Training to Learning
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Shawn Davis
Shawn Davis

Shawn Davis, Vice President of Implementation Operations at CDK Global, has over 27 years of experience within CDK and the automotive retail industry. Shawn leads a team responsible for successfully implementing CDK products and solutions that provide automotive dealerships with the tools they need to drive growth and deliver an exceptional experience for every customer.

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