As a former college golfer at Davidson College, David Fowler is used to reading which way the wind blows.
And professionally, Fowler—fixed operations director with the Modern Automotive Group in North Carolina—is equally adept at gauging which direction things are moving. As such, he has taken note of consumers’ growing demand for effortless purchasing.
“It certainly seems like the retail world, in general, is just going to faster and faster transactions,” notes Fowler, who has a background in sales. “Time is very valuable, and trying to streamline the purchase of goods as much as possible” is important.
“I mean, you’ve got one-click buying on Amazon. So, I think the general retail space is moving that way, and it’s bound to trickle down to automotive also.”
That helps explain why, not long ago, Fowler’s employer began using an e-pay system, in an effort to streamline several elements of both its service and parts departments. Fowler has found that using CDK’s ePayments setup for repair orders, counter sales, and some over-the-phone transactions is a system that’s widely appreciated.
“We felt like it was a pretty easy transition,” he says, “because it took something that was pretty clunky and made it smoother and faster.”
Fixed Ops Business recently spoke with dealership leaders to get their insight on how to implement an e-pay setup. Here’s what two had to say:
Give Employees the Sales Pitch
If you want an e-pay setup to take root at your dealership, you need to convince your employees—especially advisors—of all its advantages. At Modern Automotive—which has 12 dealership locations that combine to do $32 million in service department sales—Fowler has made it a point to explain the efficiencies that a system like ePayments can provide.
“To collect payment, our service advisors were having to log in to a separate website to interact with the credit card machine,” he says. “They were having to log in to a separate website to process a check remotely. And now we’re able to just use the DMS log-in credentials and it authenticates through the integration. So it eliminated several steps for them.”
It’s also important to convince service managers and parts managers of the setup’s merits. Fowler typically stresses the fact that an e-pay setup makes collecting necessary information a far more streamlined process than traditional setups, noting that, typically, “employees want to do whatever is fastest and easiest.”
Chris Vann, the general manager at MINI of Marin in Madera, Calif., noted in 2015 how implementing an e-pay system could lessen many of his employees’ work volume through a trickle-down effect, especially in the service department.
“This is the way I put it in front of them,” Vann recalls. “If a car’s done at 3 o’clock, they call their customer and say, ‘Your car is all ready; I can also send you an email that allows you to pay online; it’ll save time when you pick up.’ So, the idea was they can control their workload more.”
Inform Customers of All Features
It’s no secret that consumers are often creatures of habit. And, getting a dealership’s customers to break out of their routine takes time. That’s why Modern Automotive implemented its e-pay system incrementally, all the while explaining its benefits to clients.
Modern Automotive’s customers are slowly warming to the fact they can take advantage of amenities like having their credit card information kept easily accessible within their dealership’s database—if they elect that option.
At MINI of Marin, after initially offering e-pay to all customers (and subsequently having long, explanatory conversations with many who ultimately weren’t interested), Vann now simply has service advisors gauge which clients are likely to be intrigued by the new technology. And, the GM estimates that around 15–20 percent of his customer base currently uses the e-pay setup—but that the number is increasing fairly steadily.
“The e-pay is a great thing, and a neat function,” Vann says. “It’s very convenient for our customers. … They can pay directly online, and it’s a simple process.”
Don’t Forget About Accounting
If you’re not careful, Fowler says, it would be easy to overlook the ease of use an e-pay system can create with regard to accounting, too. That’s why he suggests promptly—and carefully—explaining an e-pay setup to your dealership’s accounting team. In general, he says, e-pay setups help balance accounts surprisingly quick.
An e-pay system, he explains, automatically “knows whether the customer is paying with cash, card, or check. And, it’ll automatically apply that to the right account, so at the end of the day, when the accounting team is trying to reconcile all those postings, it’s much easier for them to do that. … So, we’ve seen some time savings on the accounting side, as well.”