Phone: 630-495-2282 Fax: 630-495-2260 Map/Directions

Personal digital assistants helping dealers cut paperwork

November 23, 2010
Wireless technology tracks customers pricing, inventory

Jeff Higgins doesn't shuffle paper anymore when he sells new cars. Higgins and the rest of the sales staff at Toyota of Bloomfield in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., now use a personal digital assistant and stylus instead of filling out mounds of paperwork. "I think it's cool," he said. "It lets me do everything faster." The car dealership is one of only two in the Detroit area that have turned to a wireless technology that enables their sales people to track and access customer, inventory and pricing information through specially-equipped digital assistants. A dealership salesperson typically must complete forms in every step of the car-buying process-from finding the right model in the inventory to financing. That doesn't include keeping a record of customer appointments or a list of potential customers to follow up with later. The system, similar to technology used to create wireless computer networks in homes and businesses, speeds up the process and eliminates most of the paperwork. "We didn't have an efficient contact management or customer follow-up system before," said Jill Bernardi, Toyota of Bloomfield's general sales manager. "Now our sales associates have it at their fingertips." Staff and customer feedback has been mostly positive, Bernardi said. "The staff just loves it," she said. "Customers are a little unsure about it until we show them what a great tool it is." The wireless system, called DealerAdvance, was developed by Stronghold Technologies Inc., a mobile technology service company based in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. The company has leased its wireless system to 50 dealerships across the country. The price for the system ranges from $2,500 to $3,500 a month. "Instead of running back and forth between customers and the back office, we're taking 30 minutes to 40 minutes out of the whole new-car buying process and improving customer satisfaction along the way," said Chris Carey, Stronghold Technologies' CEO. More and more car dealerships are turning to technologies such as the Internet, Internet telephony and computer software to help them sell cars to consumers more efficiently and give customers a better buying experience. "There are a lot of technologies out there, everything from a salesperson giving customers his cell phone number to a digital assistant that lets dealership personnel access inventory remotely," said Chris Denove, a partner with J.D. Power and Associates. "The key for dealers is to separate those (technologies) that serve an actual customer need from those that are just cool."