Jim Waldron, a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealer in Davison, Mich., and chairman of NADA's IT committee, discussed dealers' dissatisfaction with information technology providers, as shown in a recent survey, with Staff Reporter Leslie J. Allen.
Why have IT vendor ratings slipped?
Our general economy has a lot to do with that. The expectations of the dealers are set so much higher. If you're spending more for certain products, you expect more. As time progresses and we see improvements in every area of new technology, we expect things to be that much better.
Did anything about the NADA survey surprise you?
I expected more of the vendors to be on the defensive when they had poor scores. They came to the table with, "What can we do to improve?" vs. a "Well, this doesn't make sense, and this doesn't have credibility because of the way the question's asked."
In which areas are the IT suppliers doing a good job?
Some of the high marks were improvement in third-party vendors and applications allowing them access to our systems.
What's the main issue there?
For years there was a controversy over who owns the proprietary information. If I lease the equipment and buy the system and the software from you as a vendor, who really owns and can access the data?
It's a double-edged sword. If we let a third-party vendor -- for example, a follow-up company or a service-reminder company -- have access to our computers so they can call in, get our files and do programs that we buy from them, if that corrupts the system that one of the vendors is supplying us, who's responsible for repairs and who's responsible for the expenses? And when it came full circle, they said, "OK, we're going to certify certain people, and if they meet our standards, we'll let them have access."
What issue is most important to dealers right now?
Do you find that most dealers are open to change, open to learning?
Generally, no. Most dealers I know around the country are less open to change. And a lot of that has to do with age. I know the younger individuals that are involved in dealerships today, they accept change much more readily. My son is a great example. I think I can do just about anything, but every day I learn something from him.
IT costs are rising at your dealership. Why the increase?
We're going to the social networks. We're going to the lead providers. That is very expensive. You've seen what Google is doing and what Bing is doing with MSN and how the competition is getting pretty fierce. If you want to have your [search engine] optimization utilized to its maximum benefit, it's very, very expensive.