Whether you’ve decided it’s time to transform your sales process or adopt a new technology, change management is a process you need to plan thoroughly. Too often, however, the human element of technology implementation is not fully taken into account, and the result is a less-than-successful launch.
Depending on how entwined your daily processes are with your current technology platform, adopting a new one may seem daunting. Before you get overwhelmed, remember that a comprehensive, user-friendly platform can be extremely advantageous and profitable for your dealership. It makes collecting data easier, provides the ability to mine existing customer information, and even helps integrate sales, service, inventory acquisition, and other revenue-generating opportunities.
Becoming proficient with a technology takes time and commitment of personnel, and you almost certainly won’t see success and profit from Day One. As a result, change within a dealership is often avoided, or unenthusiastically embraced. Between rapidly changing consumer technologies, high employee attrition rates, and old-school mentalities among seasoned sales reps, it can be hard to convince people to change.
That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, however.
One thing most leaders can agree on: Adopting the right technology will ultimately help grow your business and (eventually) make everyone’s job easier, if they’re on board and the adoption is managed correctly. The following seven change-management steps will help you implement a new technology platform in your dealership. Using them, you can guide the process of change management and reduce the negative impact of the adoption learning curve, as well as help teams work together to make change.
Don’t cut corners on this crucial decision. The time invested up front to research, poll staff, and get informed will more than pay off in the time saved and speed to revenue after implementation. There are a few things you should consider in a new technology solution. It should facilitate integration with existing platforms, provide ease of use (user interface), and offer product features that you really need. To determine what’s best for your business, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of various platforms, and look at how other dealers are benefiting from and using them.
Dealership management must make a public and often-repeated commitment to the new technology. If management does not make a practical commitment to the success of the implementation, staff will not take its role in the change seriously. Leadership must set an example by embracing the change, and by providing clear and specific examples about how the technology will make the staff’s work easier and simpler.
Your technology partner is the most knowledgeable about its products, and should be a resource to your team for providing a change-management plan, as well as training. From firsthand experience, this partner knows best how to get the most out of the platform, how it can impact your business, and how to overcome staff apprehension.
Change-management leaders should be enthusiastic adopters of the technology. They should work together to develop a solid communication plan and ensure they are conveying a consistent message. They should motivate from the top down, and hold everyone accountable to move the process forward. Agreed-upon messaging should address all employee questions and concerns early in the process. Providing an FAQ is useful at this stage. Make sure communicators fully understand and explain how this platform may impact team members, including potential changes in hours, compensation, daily roles, etc.
Dumping a new technology on a team and expecting it to learn new processes all at once leads to failure. Management should develop incremental, measurable goals for the implementation and the use of the new technology, and then hold every team member accountable to keep track of agreed-upon actions and goals.
When determining project milestones, make sure they are achievable. Develop a process to take small steps — make one change at a time, not multiple changes — to ensure employees fully understand each step in the process, can see real progress, and know exactly what’s coming next. As part of establishing milestones and platform-usage expectations, you may consider removing the legacy technology platform. This is a somewhat extreme step, but it ensures staff members cannot fall back to the old process with which they are comfortable. Eliminating the old platform takes away the ability to backslide, and increases the adoption rate of the new technology.
If something is not working and milestones are not being met — or, more happily, are being met faster than expected — adjust the plan. The plan should be fluid enough to make changes if a roadblock arises. Hold people accountable and track progress publicly, and communicate it with the entire team. If people feel they are making progress, they will continue to move forward, not backward.
One of the most important steps in the process is to listen. Listen to the concerns of employees, ask questions, and address them to keep everyone on target. If concerns aren’t addressed, particularly if you have a particularly vocal critic on staff, the situation can turn into a negative spiral in a team setting, and hinder overall progress.
There are countless positive impacts of adopting a new technology, including making your business attractive to potential customers, encouraging innovation within teams, increasing efficiency, generating additional revenue, and developing more-satisfied customers and employees. If you focus on the human element when putting new technology in place, the learning curve can be reduced significantly, and you’ll more quickly realize benefits for you and your team.
As director of business development for California-based DealerSocket, Nathan Usher consults with the nation’s top dealers and dealer groups to improve and implement process and technology. Nathan began his DealerSocket career in the field, and quickly moved through the company ranks to strategic services roles, product management, and now, business development.
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