Dealers seem obliged to put up with a lot of really, really crappy software.
Now, I’ve found that this is often true of the enterprise as well. Big companies put up with poorly designed software with poor usability. Software that their employees and executives wouldn’t put up with as consumers. This has led to a rush of issues lately. Enterprise software is being supplanted by consumer software that simply works better.
Case in point; Dropbox. I use Dropbox to share files with my boss and my co-workers even though we have a company network that should make file sharing relatively simple. But to set up file sharing on our corporate network requires me to go through our IT people, have them set it up (eventually), have them assign me the proper permissions, etc. and I still can’t use it from my iPad or home computer. No, Dropbox is just easier and better produced all round.
So I’m circumventing my own IT department (and so is the owner and many others in the company), because I’ve found a better product. I also use Google Calendar, not Outlook to share my schedule with my staff. I use Google Docs to create collaborative presentations, and word processing documents, etc.
Unfortunately, there just aren’t good Dealer Management Solutions or off-the-shelf CRM solutions that we can substitute this way. The really good ones are expensive and the inexpensive ones are not very good. Why aren’t there good, cheap systems for doing what we do? It’s certainly a big market; one that is extremely ill-served.
It’s like the story about the man who went to buy a new suit. He found one that he liked the looks of, but it was extremely ill-fitting. Too long on the right arm, too short on the left leg, too tight around the middle. So the tailor says to him, “Well pull your right arm up a little and hold it tight to your side. Bend you left knee and point it in a bit. Now straighten your back and suck in your gut. See. Now everything’s fine.” So the guy buys the suit and walks out of the store, limping, arm pulled up to his chest, back arched, etc. As he walking down the street two women pass him. One looks at the other and says, “That poor man.” The other answers, “Yes, but what a great looking suit.”
We contort ourselves, our sales process, and our workflow to make the CRM look good. Shouldn’t it really be the other way round?
So I ask again. Why? Why do we put up with getting crap from our software vendors? One answer I’ve come up with is Barrier-to-Exit. Now, I’m sure you’re familiar with barrier-to-entry. It’s a fundamental business principle. A barrier to entry is anything that keeps your competitors from entering your market. For car dealerships, the barrier to entry is often simply the start-up costs. For Buy-Here-Pay-Here dealerships it’s the lack of enough capital to commit to a two or three-year note and carry those charges in-house. It could even be the lack of suitable real-estate in your area.
Barrier-to-exit is part of the business model for many DMS/CMS vendors. What was the biggest challenge we had in migrating from our old CMS to our new one? Moving OUR data out of their system. The cost for which came to about 1/3 of the entire project. Yes, they charged us through the nose to extricate OUR data. Data we entered, data we (theoretically) own. Legacy data that would have left us starting again from scratch had we not taken the time, trouble and cost to process. In short, barrier-to-exit in this case was simply making it hard to get our data out.
I just ran into a similar problem with our DMS provider. Our data is stored on our own servers at one of our locations. The database itself is MS Access, but the DMS provider won’t allow (not can’t, won’t) direct read-only access to the tables and wants to charge us to create an automatic “feed,” that will allow us to integrate our inventory data with our website and our automated business intelligence. Then charge us a monthly fee for maintaining this feed.
We have been told this is a standard industry practice. I’m sure it is. My questions again is, “why?” Why do we tolerate this? Barrier-to-exit, once again. Even if we could find a provider that would allow us direct access to OUR data, migrating from the current DMS to a new one would be extremely expensive and time-consuming. So we pay their fees, because it’s the cheaper alternative to abandoning our business intelligence plans entirely.
To me, it sounds a lot like, “Ya’ gots a real nice database here. Be a shame if anything happened ta it.”
What do you think?