What to look for when choosing a new Dealer Management System (DMS): Choosing the right vendor
Lisa Cho
| 21 January 2021

What to look for when choosing a new Dealer Management System (DMS): Choosing the right vendor

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When it comes to choosing the right DMS, it’s much more than just selecting the right solution with the appropriate collection of capabilities, features, and benefits. How your new DMS is installed, how your employees are trained, and the support you receive once the vendor leaves your dealership may be as important as the functionality of the system itself. And before any of this is decided, selecting the right vendor partner is critical to your success.

So what should you look for in selecting the right vendor?

Installing your new DMS
Your DMS journey should start with developing a partnership with your vendor based on listening and understanding the needs of the dealership. Collaborating up front provides a solid foundation for what should be a long and prosperous relationship. The vendor should be agile, willing and able to pivot on a moments’ notice to provide a unique experience tailored to the specific needs of the dealership. Whether it’s a single location or several, a new installation or an unhook, no two installations are the same. Never has this been more important than during the current health crisis we all face.

This was recently put to the test as CDK Global, a DMS provider, was forced to adapt and began to install their DMS and other products virtually. As business restrictions and travel requirements became more difficult, CDK moved to a completely remote installation process, with approximately 30 percent of all installations between the months of March and June performed virtually.


Follow ups are important after the install is complete. This is a partnership and the vendor should be there through the installation and long after it’s done to help answer any lingering questions and show you how to get the most out of your system. This not only gives your dealership a much-needed sense of security after a big change, it also helps you achieve a proper return on your investment.

Training your employees
As we mentioned earlier, an intuitive DMS with a user-friendly interface and a common screen structure can vastly reduce the amount of time it takes for new hires and new users to get up to speed on the system. On-site training once the system is installed is generally the norm, but continued or ongoing virtual training is becoming more and more common as well. An onboard training module or component that includes step-by-step instructions on how to complete specific tasks is also a big plus for employees. This helps them reduce the time it takes to learn tasks and become more self-sufficient.

A great training program is only as good as the follow-up and ongoing support received once the trainers have left the dealership. It’s one thing to learn how to use the system, but having access to someone that can quickly and easily help you with a question or concern really instills confidence and shows you’re in good hands. Even having someone to help with after-hours support is a huge plus. Your chosen supplier must be willing to do this.

Even the best support organizations can get busy and may not be as accessible when you need them. When that happens, you need access to online support resources such as informative data banks, user forums, tutorials, and online training courses. You should also have another way to get support other than the phone, such as chat or text help.

The right vendor
Choosing the right DMS for your dealership starts with choosing the right vendor. Larger dealerships may already have a vendor in place or may have limited choices based on required functionality or volume of business. But smaller dealerships have many more options, and choosing the right vendor to help you navigate through this decision is your first big choice.

Consider these questions when making your final vendor decision.

Does the vendor have a good reputation?
Are they recommended by people you trust?

Are their products known for their quality?
Is the brand innovative and forward-thinking?
Are their products a good value for the money?

Is the vendor customer-centric?
Do they show a genuine interest in solving your problems?

Brand Alignment
Is the brand relevant to my dealership? Do they align with my dealership's values and beliefs?

Putting it all together
Selecting the right DMS is never going to be easy, and most decisions that impact your business this much rarely are. Remember to do your homework, talk to your peers and ask a lot of questions. Don’t just focus on cost or functionality. Consider the process, not just the product. And last but not least, select a vendor you can trust. If you do these things, you can’t make a bad decision.

Lisa Cho

Lisa Cho is the Product Marketing Manager for CDK Drive Flex. She is responsible for the research, launch, and marketing activities to maximize usage and improve overall business processes and ROI for automotive dealerships. She began her career with CDK Global as a member of the Inside Sales organization, where she focused on creating efficiencies in Fixed Operations and Back Office applications.

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