In the latest installment of the annual Power 300 issue of Auto Remarketing, we go behind the scenes with some of the leading companies in the used-car space and their top executives with a few Q&A features.
Next up is Lori Wittman, the general manager of VinSolutions and senior vice president of retail dealer solutions at its parent company, Cox Automotive.
Auto Remarketing: What are some ways VinSolutions and Cox Automotive as a whole are trying to connect dealers and shoppers, and foster the ‘human element’ of the transaction?
Lori Wittman: As a leading provider of dealership customer relationship management (CRM) software, our vision at VinSolutions is to give dealers the data and tools to make every customer engagement count — and that means humanizing and personalizing as many exchanges as possible. Every dealership is different, and its customers are different. We’ve designed our products to accommodate the unique characteristics of each dealership and its customer base with processes that are fully customizable and easy for dealers to adjust.
This may sound like a small thing, but I’ve heard from dealers that having the ability to control CRM processes is key to driving the ownership and usage that lead to results. Our tools also deliver a single view of the customer across the business, which is key to understanding each customer’s needs.
With a more convenient view of the full picture of each customer’s car-buying journey, dealers can build better relationships with customers and make more repeat sales. Fostering meaningful connections between dealers and car shoppers requires technology partners, dealerships and automakers to work together. We’re quite bullish on our integrations with Cox Automotive brands, such as Dealertrack DMS, Autotrader and Xtime.
These integrations take more of the ‘computer work’ out of dealers’ hands, so they can focus on using the insight these products provide to add more value to each interaction and to drive even deeper relationships with customers.
AR: Wearing your retail dealer solutions hat for a moment, what are some projects your team is working on this year that you’re particularly proud of?
LW: At this year’s NADA show, VinSolutions unveiled Enterprise Customer for Connect CRM and the brand-new Connect Mobile app. Both of these solutions really speak to our commitment to meeting dealers’ needs and addressing shifts in our industry. As consolidation in our industry continues, more dealerships are part of a dealer group. Enterprise Customer enables dealer groups to see a single customer profile — across rooftops — in one place.
Another important trend is the desire of dealership personnel to get out from behind their desktop computer and work from their mobile device as much as possible. Our new VinSolutions Connect Mobile app streamlines the dealer’s process for collecting and storing customer information on both Apple and Android devices, which allows dealers to deliver a better customer experience. For the Xtime business, the best way we can help our dealer clients is to make sure their service shops are fully utilized.
This full shop utilization starts with an intuitive experience that allows customers to easily identify services for their vehicle and book an appointment quickly. We’re excited about an all-new Xtime-enhanced consumer experience currently in pilot, because it delivers that exceptional experience by bridging info-sharing gaps between consumers and dealers.
AR: Even as the auto industry becomes more digitized and disrupted — be that in online sales, new ownership models like subscriptions, and other innovations like connectivity — it seems dealers are still an essential piece of the equation. Why do you think that is?
LW: Absolutely. As you pointed out ... from consumers’ desire to purchase cars online to ridesharing services to the deployment of modern technology such as autonomous vehicles, the automotive industry is clearly changing. VinSolutions is at the center of this change, and we’re committed to helping our partners — dealers nationwide — win. Dealers bring excellent value to customers as true experts, whether you’re buying or maintaining a vehicle. Despite all of this digital disruption, the human element is still vital.
A vehicle is second only to a home in terms of the biggest purchase a consumer makes in their lifetime. People still want to talk to another person when making a purchase decision that valuable. In fact, more than 60 percent of consumers want help from dealership staff , even if online buying is available, according to the recent Car Buyer’s Journey study conducted by our Cox Automotive research team. Dealers are the ones at the end of the day who make those connections count.
AR: VinSolutions has its VinWorx event coming up in August. What are some themes to this year’s event? What’s the agenda shaping up to look like?
LW: VinWorx continues to build on its momentum as an annual opportunity for Connect CRM users to discover new ways to grow their business with VinSolutions. Our theme this year, “Harness the Power of PROactivity,” underscores our core belief that, despite auto retail’s current post-peak sales environment, there’s no better time to cultivate existing customer relationships, build new ones and capitalize on revenue opportunities.
The key? Taking a proactive approach to lead generation, instead of waiting for customers to come to you. It’s all about choosing to take control of your dealership’s success by understanding where you can improve and implementing the right technology to make those improvements. We’re really excited about this year’s agenda!
Dealers will have the opportunity to connect with their peers on important topics, hear directly from a panel of dealers, and get hands-on coaching from the talented VinSolutions Performance Management team. Attendees will also hear from a great lineup of speakers, including Cox Automotive president Sandy Schwartz, Cox Automotive senior director of industry insights Charlie Chesbrough and Google’s automotive industry strategist Tim Mueller. We look forward to seeing all our dealers Aug. 14-15 in Kansas City!