Computers play essential roles in the automotive industry. The industry has embraced industrial computers faster because these computers have been simple, agile and tough to use. Car companies use computers in new models design, testing for performance, safety, and efficient building. Most cars are also packed with electronic systems which require computers for effective operations, such as self-drive features, entertainment, and navigation. A car dealership is one of the prominent areas of the automotive industry that utilize computers to improve efficient operations and service deliveries. Automotive dealerships use computers to detect and categorize the position of the parts with the help of pattern recognition technology.
Car dealerships also use computers to enhance the picking of spare parts while tracking the entire procedure. Car Giant is one of the automotive dealerships I visited in White City, London. The dealership was founded by Geoffrey Warren in 1979 and ranked as the largest dealership in the world in 2007 based on the Guinness World Records. The focus of this car dealership is to help customers get the best cars at the best prices. When I visited this dealership, I discovered that there are several and the most extensive choice of models and makes of over 36 brands and 8000 cars. This paper’s purpose is to discuss the use of computers in giant car dealerships for improving the operations such as customer delivery, spare parts management, sales and marketing and finance. The other dealerships I visited included Currie Motors, Eltham Car Sale, and Hamiltons Used Car Sales.
Departments in Car Dealerships and Computers
The automotive dealerships I visited have several departments: sales and marketing, parts, human resources, finance, service, and customer service. The service departments in dealerships I visited play an essential role in referring customers to the sales team, especially when cars start reaching end life, and the sales department offers service contracts on used or new cars. Computers in these dealerships have enabled the sales and service departments to communicate, coordinate and work with each other effectively. In this department, computers have also been incorporated with cloud and mobile computing technologies to help customers effectively shop and interact with dealerships. This has enabled the visited dealerships to deal with customers’ increased expectations. These dealerships use systems and online platforms installed in computers to enhance online shopping of vehicles where most car buyers are hoping to purchase their new or used cars.
The sales and marketing teams of these dealerships are trained on how to effectively use computers to engage potential leads shopping online to convert them into customers. The finance and insurance department in these dealerships deals with sales aspects of vehicle insurance and financials. The finance and insurance department in these dealerships markets the loan products and other options like credit insurance, auto service contract or extended warranty to customers after agreeing to purchase the vehicle from the dealerships. The accountants in the finance departments of these dealerships use computers to store and access records of finances to make changes and alleviate the need to keep paper files. The computer files for financial statements and transactions in the dealerships can be accessed quickly and printed along with the required changes if the management needs the paper to be done.
In addition, the parts department is a business division in a dealership called the service garage, which sells parts for replacement. Employees in these dealerships describe the parts department as the necessary operational component. In some dealerships, I noticed that parts departments have employees who are experienced with parts but have yet to gain experience in sales. As a result, these dealerships have needed help growing the sales revenue in parts departments. The parts departments in these dealerships have computers connected to the internet and cloud computing systems which enhance daily operations visibility by controlling the sales price of parts, part definitions, costs, price tape updates, supersession, barcode definitions and catalogue images. It also empowers the driving of parts sales by the service advisors. Cloud computing in the parts department helps create invoices and price quotes to print or send emails. The computer system also streamlines service and parts with real-time visibility for checking the available products, adding the parts to the repair orders, processing return orders and calculating the shipment and taxation.
Salesperson and Managers
The dealerships I visited display vehicles outside, which makes a salesperson stay outside to show cars to customers and guide them through the procedure of making a purchase. These salespeople spend time indoors and outdoors, but most of the time, they spend much of their working day standing (Wilman & Bax, 2015). In addition, car salespersons must be able to persuade and communicate with customers effectively since they are mandated to educate them about specific vehicles. Customers are always advised to visit a salesperson’s office for help in deciding the type of car that suits their needs.
Studies allude that understanding how to communicate with customers effectively increases the success of salespersons in car dealerships. So, the work related to trade-in values, sales price, payments calculation and other paperwork requires the salesperson to work from the office. On the other hand, locating the car key, moving the car and removing the cars that block the purchased vehicle is done outside by the salesperson (Sangtani & Murshed, 2017). Each salesperson in Car Giant and Currie Motors has offices where they meet with customers and discuss their car ownership plan. However, salespeople in Eltham Car Sale and Hamilton’s dealerships share one common office where they carry out their sales duties. Each salesperson in these two dealerships I visited has a complete set of computer hardware with installed sales systems.
The managers in the automotive dealerships are visible, and they supervise and motivate the salespersons while promoting and encouraging strategies that grow the sales of vehicles and cars. These manage a person’s typical duties such as training, organizing schedules, interviewing, setting goals for salespersons and hiring. The sales managers in these dealerships also administer the annual operating budget for the new sales department. Managers also help individual salespersons in setting realistic monthly goals and objectives while providing the required support to meet the set goals. The sales manager is also responsible for directing and scheduling the activities of all employees in the department for better staffing. They also follow up on all potential buyers by developing, monitoring, and implementing sales and prospecting control systems.
Managers are also responsible for maintaining an accurate daily log which reflects all the sales activities in their respective dealerships. In these dealerships, the salespersons allow the prospects to leave without seeing the sales managers because they must make sales. This constitutes meeting with prospects, presenting and demonstrating the products, inducing and convincing prospects to purchase the vehicle, taking orders and effecting sales (Wilman & Bax, 2015). The salespersons in these dealerships are only required to submit daily or weekly reports to the manager, which detail information about the sales affected, calls made, service rendered, incurred expenses, and the number of prospects converted.
The service departments in these dealerships use appointments. Existing or new customers in Car Giant can use the chat to book appointments. Customers must use an online service appointment form to schedule a service with the dealership. An online service form of inquiry is an online web tool that enables customers to send service inquiries to the dealership’s car service units and mechanics. Some of these service inquiry comprises technical issues and maintenance (Sangtani & Murshed, 2017). The other dealerships I visited use systems such as ServiceConnect, which utilize ActivEngage to handle scheduling appointments sent to the automotive scheduling software of the dealerships directly. Most of these dealerships have integrated with Dealersocket, XTime Schedule and TimeHighway software for repair scheduling. With these computer programs, dealerships can see the history of customers’ appointments, confirm upcoming appointments and set recurring or future appointments during working hours of business. Customers booking appointments for car maintenance and repair can also see real-time availability.
The dealerships I visited use different programs to improve the quality of customer service. Some of these programs include Reynolds and Reynolds, ARSLoaner, Dealertrack DMS and CDK Drive. Reynolds and Reynolds is the program which helps car dealerships like Cargiant to redefine the customer experience and improve operational excellence by providing the best in class to dealers (Almohri, Chinnam & Colosimo, 2019). The software is used for accounting, inventory and contract documents in dealerships since the applications are designed to automate all dealership operations with integrated finance, parts, online marketing, sales and services. The system equips the sales team with skills to become more resourceful to meet the set goals. They are empowered to manage the interaction of customers.
ARSLoaner is another cloud-based system dealerships use to manage the parts and fleets of cars. The managers and salespersons can access the pricing data and inventory, manage the scheduling process and track the maintenance services offered to customers. This system helps dealerships pull data in real time from the dealer management system by eliminating Excel spreadsheets and paper forms. Dealertrack is another system providing these dealerships with management solutions specialized in digital retailing, DMS systems, sales, finance, insurance, and CRM systems (Abraham, McAnulty, Mehler & Reimer, 2017). The system allows salespersons and mechanics to create, track and manage daily agreements based on different classifications like retail, insurance, warranty and loaners. The CDK Drive is another management system used by these visited dealerships since it is designed to help automotive industry businesses manage sales and marketing departments, inventory, leasing and other compliance operations. This software helps sales managers track orders, gain insights into performance reports, generate shipping manifests, and identify new opportunities for dealership business.
Impacts of Computers on Customer Experience
Computers are essential tools for enhancing customer experience among the dealerships I visited. Most dealerships depend on customer reviews to boost business and enhance their satisfaction. Technology is the key to perfect customer experience in dealerships since over 90% of car buyers research vehicle information using computers, and more than half of the buyers use mobile devices. For instance, the service departments in these dealerships use tablets to enhance efficiency and productivity (Bharathiraja et al., 2022). These tablets are installed with apps that help mechanics send diagnostics to data management systems. It also enables service advisors to use tools that help streamline customers’ check-in process. Tablets also enhance communication between the mechanics and service advisors, resulting in appropriate servicing of customer cars. These dealerships have been getting five-star reviews because of enhancing smoother transactions, which makes customers more satisfied.
In addition, these dealerships have also ensured that they have websites in good condition so that clients can book appointments or services easily. Computer technology has also enabled some of these dealerships to implement Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools which have ended the era of paper-filled processes. CRM tools have enabled dealerships to work with different prospects simultaneously to increase profits (Staeblein & Aoki, 2015). The CRM tools have made it easier for dealerships to reduce overlapped deliveries and manage appointments. Salespersons and managers can take a few minutes to schedule emails and texts to reach a large number of clients when compared to mailers and newspapers.
Customer relationship management tools have also enhanced customer experience by fostering better communication and accountability. The sales team of these dealerships have been permitted to create digital leads which are accessible on their mobile phones and even in the offices, and this enables managers to view leads. This also enables managers to keep up with pending sales and daily schedules and maintain staff accountability since it enables them to view leads (Abraham, McAnulty, Mehler & Reimer, 2017). The managers in these dealerships no longer walk into every dealership to monitor the sales team’s performance. Still, instead, they access lead information wherever they use computer technologies. CRM tools also help managers and salespersons make their dealerships profitable by quickly converting the leads and sales information into reports. This computer system also cuts away clerical work to enable dealership employees to concentrate on what they do best.
The waiting areas of these dealerships I visited were full of customers waiting for their vehicles to be serviced. While talking to some customers, I realized they spent several hours in the waiting room of the service unit. Customers who visited the Car Giant dealership enjoyed waiting because the room was spacious, with well-lit open areas, nicer upholstered armchairs, free Wi-Fi, large screen TV, and the modest coffee set up complete with a bowl of free packaged snacks (Taylor‐West & Saker, 2012). Most customers I interacted with at Cargiant dealerships enjoyed waiting, and they felt at home because of the good services offered in the waiting room. I observed several activities in the dealerships, like servicing customers’ cars, booking appointments, meeting and discussing the car problems with service advisors, paying the bills, and waiting for the car to be repaired by the mechanics.
The other activities included new leads or customers negotiating the prices of new vehicles with salespersons, checking and testing vehicles, completing the sales and receiving the purchased vehicles. The only successful upsell I witnessed was in Hamiltons Used Car Sales, where two potential customers came in, and the sales department helped them find the right car that met their needs (Wilman & Bax, 2015). After getting the suitable cars, they bargained for them and were taken to the finance department, where they completed the transactions. The finance and insurance department helped one customer secure loans and purchase additional care protection plans. Before leaving the car, these customers visited various departments, such as the service department, where the cars were checked and tested.
The sales advisor in the car dealerships I visited also acts as a customer service who help in providing estimates, customers’ bookings, and deals with car suppliers. The service advisors also handle customer complaints, such as dealing with unhappy customers politely and diplomatically (Wilman & Bax, 2015). The service advisors in these dealerships also act as a liaison between customers and technicians. They are noted to enhance effective communication between these two parties where they explain the recommendations related to repairs in layman’s language and brief mechanics about customers’ needs.
One of the problems I witnessed the service advisor from the Cargiant dealership handle was the complaints about the delayed repair. The customer complained about his car overstaying in the dealership, and the mechanics had not started working on the repair. The service advisor apologized to the customer on behalf of the dealership and explained to him the reasons for the delayed repair (Taylor‐West & Saker, 2012). The customer was informed that the delay was caused by the car spare parts that were not available in the market, and the mechanics in the dealership had to import from the suppliers.
A collision estimate is also called an auto body estimate. It is defined as the process that happens after the accident to lead customers through repairing their cars. The collision estimates are the liaison between insurance companies, customers and parts vendors. This ensures that the process of repair is completed smoothly. Collision estimators help insurance companies provide detailed reports on vehicle damage costs (Staeblein & Aoki, 2015). It also helps dealerships conduct damage assessments and place orders for spare parts for replacement. The dealerships I visited use computers such as tablets, phones and laptops connected with programs such as Scott systems MaxxTraxx, web-East collision estimating software, CCC One Repair management and Mitchell cloud estimating systems.
Cargiant, Currie Motors, and Eltham Car Sale use CCC One Repair management system to predict the repair costs for damaged vehicles with several problems. The CCC One management system is a cloud-based technology that gives real-time updates. The system also helps the mechanics in these dealerships predict the cars’ age and the number of repairs to be done. The collision estimates are also done based on parameters such as transmission, repairs and the conditions of a car engine (Candelo & Candelo, 2019). The system has helped these dealerships to have a clear picture of the required today budget for vehicle repairs. CCC One management system also helps customers in these dealerships to make an accurate budget and save money at the same time by comparing market rates that can be negotiated easily.
The other system incorporated in computers by these dealerships is Scott Systems MaxxTraxx. This system is designed to help car and truck dealerships understand the amount required to repair the customers’ cars (Wilman & Bax, 2015). The system estimates the trade-in value based on factors such as the car model, vehicle style, value of tires, year, age, and the driver’s history. Scott Systems also comprise tools for tracking invoice in the invoicing software for other small and growing businesses.
Operations during and after the Covid-19 Pandemic
The Covid-19 Pandemic forced car dealerships to alter how they sell and deliver vehicles. These dealerships and showrooms implemented computer technologies since the Covid-19 pandemic forced customers and employees to worry about safety. The dealerships embraced touchless deliveries, digital financing and online sales. The licensed dealers were permitted to lease and sell vehicles remotely (Candelo & Candelo, 2019). They were directed to negotiate with customers using electronic methods or telephones. Since Covid-19 started, customers were also directed to the dealerships’ websites, emails and phone numbers for accessible communication.
Notably, dealerships have continued to sell vehicles online, and even car owners have normalized booking mechanics online for their car repair and maintenance. The service departments in dealerships have gone digital since Covid-19 up to date, and they use pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimization, live chat, video and online content. The live chat has enabled the service department to drive more online traffic, which helps generate more revenue from repair orders (Bharathiraja et al., 2022). Live chats enhance customer engagement across different devices and reduce phone waiting by providing convenient online communication. In addition, shifting to online has enabled service departments to improve service lanes’ experiences and get higher customer satisfaction scores. The service department personnel can receive repair information from customers sent directly into their messages.
Computers enhance customer experience and make Dealership More Effective.
Computers have enhanced customer experience since dealerships can collect data from customer interactions and surveys. Most dealerships use this data better to understand customers in the market and their needs. The dealerships tailor the data to meet the needs and wants of customers. The computer-collected data can also be used to influence buying decisions in the dealerships by showing the most popular car among specific demographics (Burkacky, Pautasso & Mohr, 2020). The collected information also helps dealerships build financial options that suit all first-time buyers, someone interested in leasing-related options and seasoned buyers. Dealerships have also enhanced customer experience with online scheduling, which enables customers to make online appointments. This computer technology enables customers not to play phone tag or wait on hold with the dealership; instead, they book appointments, and dealerships get back to them immediately. This technology makes dealerships more effective and more competitive.
Abraham, H., McAnulty, H., Mehler, B., & Reimer, B. (2017). Case study of today’s automotive dealerships: Introduction and delivery of advanced driver assistance systems. Transportation research record, 2660(1), 7-14.
Almohri, H., Chinnam, R. B., & Colosimo, M. (2019). Data-driven analytics for benchmarking and optimizing the performance of automotive dealerships. International Journal of Production Economics, 213, 69-80.
Bharathiraja, N., Shobana, M., Manokar, S., Kathiravan, M., Irumporai, A., & Kavitha, S. (2022). The smart automotive webshop using high end programming technologies. In Intelligent Communication Technologies and Virtual Mobile Networks: Proceedings of ICICV 2022 (pp. 811-822). Singapore: Springer Nature Singapore.
Burkacky, O., Pautasso, L., & Mohr, N. (2020). Will quantum computing drive the automotive future. Mckinsey & Company, 1, 33-38.
Candelo, E., & Candelo, E. (2019). Digital technologies are rewriting the old rules of marketing. In Marketing Innovations in the Automotive Industry: Meeting the Challenges of the Digital Age (pp. 141-154). Springer International Publishing.
Sangtani, V., & Murshed, F. (2017). Product knowledge and salesperson performance: Rethinking the role of optimism. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 35(6), 724-739.
Staeblein, T., & Aoki, K. (2015). Planning and scheduling in the automotive industry: A comparison of industrial practice at German and Japanese makers. International Journal of Production Economics, 162, 258-272.
Taylor‐West, P., & Saker, J. (2012). Computer assisted sales processes in automotive retailing. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 40(7), 493-509.
Wilman, M., & Bax, B. (2015). The automotive industry in Iran: a critical analysis. In Reintegrating Iran with the West: Challenges and opportunities. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.