"What our staff had done before was write a customer's name and contact information on the back of business cards or scraps of paper," explained Eric Hamm, general sales manager for Razzari Ford Mazda.
Sometimes those names were later entered into the dealership's customer database, sometimes not.
Now after greeting car shoppers, the salesmen whip out specially programmed iPaq Pocket PCs and punch in the contact information, no matter where they are on the car lot.The data gets stored instantly, and it can be retrieved later for follow-up calls or printed onto sales contracts.
"It lets us generate letters and offers and send out coupons, that kind of thing," Hamm
Dodge also has purchased the devices, which cost about $600 each.
The program, called Dealer Advance, was developed by Stronghold Technologies Inc.
of New Jersey.The three Razzari dealerships are among the first in the region to use it.
"I looked into 10 to 15 different systems (to improve contact management)," Hamm
said."But this was the only hand-held I saw with a program designed for the auto industry." Hamm's
staff started using it several months ago, and it worked so well that their sister dealerships bought them in October.
"We have tried to embrace technology ahead of the competition," Hamm
Customers like the devices, Hamm
said, because they speed up paperwork and they give salesmen more access to information.The devices use wireless connections to the dealership's computers and are programmed with car inventory data.
So dealers instantly can find out what's in stock from anywhere on the lot.The program also is designed to automatically fill in the blanks on credit applications, sales contracts and other documents.That means information -- like a customer's address -- only has to be entered once.