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Internet-based business model revs up savings for auto dealers - 2001-05-21 - Houston B...             Page 1 of 2Houston ...
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Internet-based business model revs up savings for auto dealers

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Internet-based business model revs up savings for auto dealers

  1. 1. Internet-based business model revs up savings for auto dealers - 2001-05-21 - Houston B... Page 1 of 2Houston Business Journal - May 21, 2001http://houston.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2001/05/21/focus6.htmlIN DEPTH: E-COMMERCEFrom the May 18, 2001 print editionIndustry ApplicationsInternet-based business model revs up savings for auto dealersRichard B. ColeAs technology encroaches more into the way businesses operate, industry specific applications are becomingmore prevalent, including those that are not thought of as high-tech. Car dealers, for instance, traditionally relyon old-fashioned face-to-face customer relationships. But many are beginning to explore technology as a wayto improve upon that service.Automobile dealers may recognize the potential value of the Internet, but how to establish a fully functional e-commerce system remains a mystery to many.Developing a truly functional operational model for either an e-commerce or Internet-based customerrelationship management system only requires a little creativity mixed with an understanding of the businessprocesses. Combine this with a working knowledge of emerging technologies, and automobile dealers caneasily develop fully functional e-commerce models, increasing both productivity and profitability.They need to realize, however, that an e-commerce model is part of an overall customer relationshipmanagement program.For most businesses, using the Internet as a backbone allows connection to not only potential customers, but tocurrent customers, vendors, lenders, manufacturers, businesses and a host of others. But there are a number ofareas that are unique to automobile dealers because of the connectivity issues that must be addressed.For an automobile dealer, creating a fully integrated e-commerce model for existing operations can establishdouble-digit growth sustainable with minimal increases in support systems.Fully Internet integrated dealers must operate two connectivity platforms simultaneously. One is for the generalconsumer, and the other is for internal business functions. This requires integrating multiple levels of securityand working with third-party vendors to integrate the technology while staying within the limitations of theconsumer segment while harnessing the power of the business segment. Basic connectivity. A dealerships first step towards success with an advanced online system reliesheavily on providing Internet access for everyone at the dealership. This basic connectivity establishesthe foundation. Once the proper connections are made, the dealer can operate an advanced local areanetwork integrated with an advanced communications platform for both interdepartmentalcommunications and external communications.The platform allows dealers to begin integrating technologies available in both the consumer and industrialmarkets that have become readily available.For example, programs for reading documents sent in Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded at no cost.http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2001/05/21/focus6.html?t=printable 5/18/2004
  2. 2. Internet-based business model revs up savings for auto dealers - 2001-05-21 - Houston B... Page 2 of 2Adobe Acrobat, the prominent document transportation program, allows documents to be sent over the Internetwithout loosing any formatting while allowing them to be read on any personal computer. Unless they areextremely large, documents can easily be sent as e-mail attachments.Thus, creating the platforms allows dealers to not only simplify, but improve communications between thedealer and the customer base. Training programs. Distance learning applications allow dealers to control the content and thecontinuity of company training programs. Consistent training programs can be accessed during slowperiods or even from an employees home.Dealers also can implement testing programs that confirm the intended knowledge was not only reviewed by anemployee, but that the employee retained the knowledge as well. Human resources. Technology is also available that allows automobile dealers to establish an onlinehuman resources department that gives employees 24-hour access to an abundance of information,including company training programs, forms, policies procedures and employee benefits. Combinedwith features from a distance learning program, the dealer can ensure that an employees knowledge ofspecific policies or procedures has been obtained. Video conferencing. Interdepartmental communications also can increase operational efficiencies.Integrating simple technologies such as Web cams operating on local area networks, which make videoconferencing possible, eliminate unnecessary trips for face-to-face meetings. Such imaging technologiesalso are becoming an increasingly valuable tool for communications with customers as more becomeconnected to the Internet using broader bandwidths. Process integration. Dealers can also interface current databases and automate a number of businessprocesses, freeing up employees to handle other matters. Combined with wireless applications, such asthe pocket PC, employees can access updated information at anytime on or off the premises.Creating an e-commerce operations model for the automobile dealer can vastly improve efficiency andprofitability of the business. All it takes is a little creativity and a little know-how. As technology continues toevolve, bringing more and better connectivity for both businesses and consumers, dealers taking advantage ofthese technologies hold the power to implement best practices with advanced models resulting in maximizedproductivity and efficiency in all departments.RICHARD B. COLE is CEO of Katy-based FirstAlliant, a business development firm that specializes inintegrating technology into operational processes in industries including automotive and health care.© 2001 American City Business Journals Inc. Web reprint informationAll contents of this site © American City Business Journals Inc. All rights reserved.http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2001/05/21/focus6.html?t=printable 5/18/2004

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