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December 2, 2016

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Going to NADA make the most of it II

Going to NADA make the most of it II

Don’t fall for the fancy placement or presentation. There is nothing new there.

So, you are going to NADA and you want to make the most of it. But before you go, you need to decide exactly the reason for making this trip. You could be going for the lovely sights of New Orleans but, I would presume, if that was the only reason, you could go at a less congested and overwhelming time. So, you are going because of NADA and that is, maybe, because you are seeking a special service and the best providers. All vendors have spent a lot of money to be present at this event but some far more than others. The reason, needless to say, is as some companies have far more wherewithal to drop cash than others. But the size of booth or its placement has nothing to do with quality of product. For that matter some of the biggest booths are owned by those with the oldest tools that have not changed in years. Those companies try to make as much “noise” as possible to assure voice of the little guy with exceptional tool is drowned. And, let me tell you, mostly they succeed. But just as in most other tools and services there are constantly new and better versions developed, so are in automotive especially technology sector. So, do yourself a favor by visiting the smaller booths with unknown names; they have got something to prove and you might find exactly what you need and at a far more competitive pricing.

So, go check out the 10X10 booths in the far corners and see what they have to offer first. Or for that matter make your lists starting with those “little guys” and then go to the big guys and then compare the options. You might be amazed at what you find.

July 5, 2016

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Disrupt or be Disrupted

Disrupt or be Disrupted is the topic of a great article in the Fortune Magazine June of 2016.

The essence of this article is the following sentence.
“Accelerate speed and drive competitive advantage through digital transformation”

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A survey of hundreds of thousands of autoWALL client members on the question, “what services and technologies does your dealer use that are most important to you”, was responded with these simple two characteristics.
1- Systems that save me time
2- Systems that allow me to communicate easily and seamlessly with the critical employees at the dealership.

Now, if you want to stay in business and flourish there are a few rules that you have to follow, they are as follows.
1- Listen to your customers needs
2- Implement processes and tools that get you a way to address the client needs
3- Do all of the above in most the cost effective way possible
4- Remember that at any moment other companies may wake up to your “customer’s needs” and can come up with better tools and services to nab your customers

These “Better Tools and services” are usually called “disruptive systems”. Think of Uber, people used to wait for a cab at a curb or have to call the night before and sit in a dirty yellow cab. No longer is that necessary, you can call an Uber from an app on your smart phone and have a cab in ten minutes and also provide a job and revenue to anyone who might like to join Uber and drive part time to supplement their income or work full time. Both sides of the equation win. The customer is provided an easier better way to get a ride and every day common people are provided more income. Of course, you can say that the Taxi Cab driver loses here and the answer to that is yes, and I am sorry for that, but why the Taxi Cab companies did not come up with an APP that could call a cab in ten minutes? I guess the answer is they were sitting on their laurels!

The auto industry is in danger of this also. There are many places that “disrupters” can hit and the easiest and the most critical is the service department. You see most service departments are run still using old technology which, in all fairness to them, is pushed down their throat by their OEM. A great article written by the insightful “Alpha Dawg”, Jim Ziegler was published in Auto Dealer Magazine on June 2016 addressing this issue eloquently and is very much worth reading. Appointment setting tools of the 1990’s which require 14 clicks to set an appointment, and no way for a customer to directly and easily communicate with critical employees at the dealership other than through the dealership phone system. They are told that a CRM, actually builds a relationship with customer, when in reality it is only a database management tool. Websites developed in the early 2000 by Cobalt are still touted as the state of the art tools.

At some dealerships service department employees are now handed a tablet, but the software on the tablet does not provide systems that enable the customer and employee to save time and communicate. Technicians are not at all part of most systems even though the technician diagnoses a lot more issues that could end in more sales and profitability in the fixed operations. The customer is usually not notified of those issues until later, requiring another trip to service department and further cost resulting in an unhappy customer.

So, there is some very cool technology that could handle all these needs and keep the dealership service department from becoming obsolete and disrupted. There is online payment system tool for a service and interactive multipoint inspection tools where technician, parts and service advisor can communicate with the customer. These tools enable the customer to directly text the status of an issue with their car to a road side assistance center. All of these tools keep service departments in the Millennium, keep millennials happy and increase customer satisfaction. This relates directly to customer retention and ultimately increases revenue. The greatest advantage of these tools is that they make the dealership the “disrupter” not the “disrupted” and improve revenue, which is the ultimate goal of any company.

August 19, 2015

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Service drive technology – Increase Revenue and Improve Customer Satisfaction

The purpose of this workshop is to help build your fixed operations brand and hence improve its profits. Service departments have for years been called “Fixed-Ops” or “Fixed Operations”. Have you ever taken a moment to find out why? In a great article written by Don Reed in Auto Dealer Today on line magazine titled “The Meaning Behind the Term “Fixed Operations”, he said it was ” because you don’t have as many variable conditions in service and parts as you do in sales.” And that essentially your customer count tends to be the same month after month. Have you wondered why the customer count does not increase with the number of sales? After all the customer has to bring the car back to your dealership for most the services needed. So as your customer count in sales goes up why does it not go up in service department also? After all you have just increased the pool of people who need you to service their car. This very specific and important question is the essence of this workshop. Why is it that a dealership that sells 100 cars a month does not show an ever increasing monthly number of customer pay repairs at their service department. I actually do not like the term “Fixed-Ops” as it is limiting and implies lack of growth. So, from now on and in this workshop we are going to refer to service department just that! Service department or perhaps Parts and service department!

A few days ago, I was listening to the BBC World News station. In one very interesting documentary, they were discussing the eminent emergence of the cars that are self driving. Wow, how cool is that I thought, you could sit in the back seat and work or snooze or whatever else you wanted to do. All those text junkies will feel that they have died and gone to heaven, no more having to go without texting for a few minutes of their lives! Well, this although eminent is still a bit in the future. The physical relation with other vehicles and the mental calculation a driver does in busy major cities makes this a bit more complex. So, maybe not immediately, but we are going to own use and yes have to repair the said vehicles. Wow, can you imagine the complexity of repairs and the extent of knowledge of a technician of the millennium? And the opportunity all of this offers for the service department. Although we don’t have the “self driving” car, we still have cars that stop when facing an obstacle, veer around an obstacle, warn us when we are about to move right or left when there is a car next to us and essentially help us drive far more safely. With blind spot protection, manufacturers are already talking about reduction in sheet metal sales. But all of this safety has a price, higher repairs cost and potentially more repairs. This is a great opportunity for the automotive service world. Now, all we need to do is address the first point in the paragraph, why are our repair numbers not steadily increasing and what can we do about it? And then what next steps we need to take to improve service department absorbency far beyond 100%. That will be discussed in my workshop titled “Service drive technology – Increase Revenue and Improve Customer Satisfaction” presented at Digital Dealer 19 in Vegas this October, I will be honored to see you there so that we may further explore this topic together.

June 22, 2015

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We Will Be Closed In Observance of Independence Day

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 We will be closed in observation of Independence Day from July 3rd – July 5th, 2015.

Normal business hours will resume on Monday, July 6th, 2015.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day!

May 6, 2015

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CDK Global approved interface

We are honored to announce that Gratis Solutions is now an approved interface with CDK Global.  Service-Pay-Online for CDK dealers, as well as many others, is totally seamless and requires no human interaction.  Once the RO is completed in that DMS, the communication with the consumer via text, post or email can initiate where the customer can pay the repair through a secure system directly online.  This makes lines at the end of the day shorter, life easier for service advisors, less need of yet another cashier who does not know what the repair was, and most importantly, less red tape when someone is using a spouse’s or parent’s card to pay.

CDK_ApprovedInterface

March 10, 2015

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Saphura Long, presenter at the 2015 Digital Dealer Conference

It is with great honor I announce that I have been chosen as a workshop presenter at the upcoming Digital Dealer Conference in Tampa Florida April 21-23, 2015.  My workshop is entitled “Wondering Why Your ecommerce Marketing Campaign is lacking in ROI?” This workshop is held Thursday the 23rd at 10:00 am. If you wish to join us at Digital Dealer, you may receive a discount of $100 if you use my “sharable discount code” of DD18SL.  Also, visit us at Booth #115.

I hope to see you there,

Saphura Long

CEO/President

Gratis Technologies

November 4, 2014

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Join the ranks of the winners

DT_OT_LOGO

Join the ranks of the winners

Dealertrack and autoWALL Service-Pay-Online

It is an honor to have received the prestigious DealerTrack certification with Opentrack and the integration with the Dealertrack DMS.  Service-Pay-Online for Dealertrack dealers, as well as many others, is totally seamless and requires no human interaction.  Once the RO is completed in that DMS, the communication with the consumer via text, post or email can initiate where the customer can pay the repair through a secure system directly online.  This makes lines at the end of the day shorter, life easier for service advisors, less need of yet another cashier who does not know what the repair was, and most importantly, less red tape when someone is using a spouse’s or parent’s card to pay.  A win-win situation!

If you are a Dealertrack user,  click here for your very special offer.

October 29, 2014

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SPOL now texting notifications

SPOL is now texting notifications

Great News!  For very nominal charges, SPOL now can send notification via text!  Click here to sign up!

September 10, 2014

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Service Pay On Line

News Release

 

Gratis Solutions, the producers of autoWALL, are proud to announce another revolutionary tool added to its arsenal of client care; SPOL or Service-Pay- On-Line is now released and successfully operational. Service-Pay-on-line makes the lives of customers and service personnel much easier and payment of a repair much quicker. autoWALL’s core functionality is focused on addressing the needs of the everyday common user of dealership services and the onset of SPOL, makes that customer experience just that much easier and more seamless. Rather than waiting to pay at a dealership cashier or service advisor at the end of a tired business day, SPOL users will be able to pick up their vehicle and go. Service advisors will already have been notified of the on line payment having been made. Or the customer can show their receipt on their mobile device, retrieve vehicle and drive off.

Saphura Safavi Long, president of Gratis Solutions, indicated that this one tool has brought more attention to the company in a short period of time than any other of the tools available within the autoWALL Interactive Customer Community. She attributes this success to a need in this vertical that is being addressed easily and with as few human interactions as possible. We all know that service advisors and accounting professionals at the dealership are busy and a process that makes their life easier, only adds to employee productivity and dealership bottom line.

A client service director indicated that this single tool makes not only the life of the consumer easier, but it also improves CSI as the customer does not have to wait at pick up. Also the advisors are not overly busy at pick up time so that they can address customer needs other than cashiering hurriedly at the end of the day. In this process there are also increased opportunities to discuss upcoming services as well as any declined services and a further buy-in is acquired from the consumer.

Of Course, the autoWALL declined service functionality, along with its reputation management capability singlehandedly delivers Google scores of 4.5-5.0 for a dealership, which is a requirement for today’s millennial consumers. it also delivers over 31% increase in organic leads and around 50-70% improvements in unique visitors. All this along with appointment setting capabilities and developing the branding of a service department are outstanding characteristics of this unique and revolutionary system.

Gratis Technologies has as its investors’ automotive dealers and professionals and is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee the home of one of the fastest fiber optics cities in the northern hemisphere. The tools are all developed in responsive web design and are developed in the latest available software environments. Please visit their website www.gratistech.com or call them on 423-521-7806 or email sales@gratistech.com.

September 3, 2014

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Loyalty begins with the seller

The art of selling is synonymous with the art of showing that you care!

We all want our customers to be loyal to us because it is so expensive to gain a customer, especially in today’s world where competition is so fierce.  We kill ourselves, or feel like we did, to gain a customer and after he or she buys from us, that customer never comes back for service or for a second purchase.  This is especially difficult as today’s auto business is far more about retention than acquisition.  The question is what makes a customer buy from us just once? Or perhaps the better question is what makes a customer a loyal, repeat customer.

After some 20 years of experience in customer management and serving over 500 dealerships in CRM and now with autoWALL, and much research, I have some conclusions that need discussing and they are as follows.

  1. When selling focus on the relationship rather than the sale.  Think of it as a family member asking your opinion on something so; be forth right in answering questions, remember you might sell them once but never again otherwise.  This is extremely applicable to the millennial as they have no loyalty to the car but they will build a relationship with the seller .Truth to be known disingenuous, people have a very low chance of selling anyhow.  This is a major problem in the automotive world as the focus is so much on the present sale that the relationship is forgotten.  Remember the true “BEST” salesmen have a great following who buy from them time and again and that is because they have mastered this art to perfection. Such focus increases your odds of winning the first sale and of retaining the customer for future purchases. Obviously, if you don’t win the first sale, you have nothing to retain.
  2. Pay attention to your COI on this matter.  What is COI?  Cost of ignoring!  Do not ignore the customer relationship.  So you say, I have a CRM, I have many salesmen and I have Internet department and a slew of wonderful service advisors.  That is all true, but what is your relationship barometer?  How do you gauge the “true” treatment of your customer?  Having CRM and enabling the consumers “voice” are two very different things.  CRM is a great tool, don’t get me wrong, and is very much needed but is designed for selling and its focus is inward not outward toward the customer. You need more because the customer wants more.
  3. The world is changing are you going to change with it? Dinosaurs were huge and successful and are extinct. So, remember your new consumer the millennial, they respond to transparency, and open lines of two way communication.  The systems you bought ten years ago do not address their needs.  The open lines of communication are the killer here!  This requires direct ability to contact to an “enabler” and that person in many cases can be many different people.
  4. Lastly remember that the most successful companies are those that focus on the needs of everyday common people; those are your customers.  Ask yourself this question “is my company at present equipped to do so”?