Have you ever asked your dealers and their employees how easy your company is to do business with? The answers probably range from “you could do better” to “it’s hard and it’s getting worse.” But how can this be with all of the new technology designed to make things simpler? All control de asistencia manufacturers compete for the mindshare of their customers and do a reasonable job or they wouldn’t be in business. But manufacturers also compete for the mindshare of their dealers’ employees too, and it’s becoming increasingly important to win this competition to achieve a good ROI.
Before the Internet, manufacturers had large computer systems that processed dealer orders and information, but communication had to be mailed or faxed and inputted into the “system,” and the results sent back to the dealer. There was no connection. When the Internet emerged, companies started launching dealer support applications, usually through their own extranet. These discrete dealer support applications made it simpler to do things like send in orders, check inventory and obtain financial data. Their success spawned more of the same. Suddenly, manufacturers were deploying extranet dealer support applications everywhere-for equipment ordering, parts purchasing and warranty processing. It was getting very complicated for dealers even as these unconnected applications were making it simpler for each task. These extranet applications were now becoming a “tangled web” of confusion and frustration.
A solution that has greatly simplified dealer “life” as it relates to the manufacturer has been the development of “dealer portals.” These portals, called Partner Relationship Management (PRM) systems, are web-based solutions that allow the dealer to obtain direct access to a variety of resources, like pricing and sales information, proprietary applications, technical details and support. They have truly helped “untangle” and simplify the interaction of the dealer and the manufacturer, through single sign on (SSO) access and menus directing individuals to the right information.
Portals Mature – “Unification”
As helpful as these portals are, they only provide a “veneer” of usability. Individuals still end up with links to many disparate applications and technologies. They are not unified. But there is a next step. There are PRM solution providers that offer a unified suite of applications. A unified PRM combines all disparate applications into a single platform. This type of dealer portal is “contextual,” so users get what they need quickly and easily. It is role-based so it unifies all assets that relate to that job role, whether it’s sales, parts, service or finance. For example, a sales person only sees training related to his job. He/she sees messages that are specific to salespeople for products his/her dealership sells. Further, one of many “widgets” located right on the home page of his dealer portal can show his own certification status. These widgets are dynamic in nature in that they pass information back and forth between applications and don’t just link to the other applications.
A Tangled Web of Useful Products
Remember the days when you carried a cell phone for phone calls, a PDA to keep track of your contacts, a camera to take pictures and a computer to get to the net and connect to your company? You carried a lot of “stuff”. Although each “thing” was great and you couldn’t live without it, they were beginning to get cumbersome and tangled (like a dealer support extranet).
Now what do you carry? A smartphone. All of the important functions and applications are in one place (like a portal). On a smartphone you can call, email, snap a photo, get to the web, and launch an application. But do you know what else a smartphone does? It “unifies” these functions. They are all connected. You can look up a contact, find them, and one moment later you can email or call them. You can dial a number, save it to your Contacts, and proceed with the call. You can get an email with a web link, click on it and go to that site. It’s Nirvana! And this Nirvana, which we call unification, has been developed for the next generation of dealer support portals.