Software vendors address integration, dealer needs
Dealers can expand their business bottom line by paying close attention to software upgrades that can expand revenue streams.
Boating Industry recently surveyed consultants and industry experts for suggestions, tips, and strategies that can be used when it’s time to consider a computer-based management system change.
We asked about new software applications for the marine industry, as well as a recap of common concerns as expressed by prospective clients.
It’s increasingly clear that customers want the most an application or program has to offer as they seek to enhance their business operations.
Software companies are busier than ever listening to dealers as well as boat builders, providing new solutions for a key service and product segment of the industry.
BiT Dealership Software in Knoxville, Tenn. has been serving boat dealers since 1985, but since the introduction of its cloud-based system, the company has been adding new dealers and marinas at an accelerated rate, said CEO Edward MacFawn. “We have more than doubled our size the last 2-1/2 years,” he said. “One of the reasons for the success of our system is the ease with which we add clients. We typically get a new dealer set up and start remote training within a week.”
Moving BiT to the cloud has opened up a number of valuable features. The ease with which dealers can email quotes, estimates and updates on work order status or special orders is very helpful, MacFawn said.
“We built in some email prompts and customizable canned emails so that the staff on the front lines communicating to the customers are reminded how easy it is to keep customers informed, which improves customer satisfaction,” MacFawn said.
Another valuable feature with a cloud system is the ability to operate at a boat show. Dealers can enter or update their leads at the show, create quotes on boats in stock and ordered boats and take deposits as easily as they do from their dealership. “Our cloud system also functions on an iPad or tablet, which is great for mobile techs or salespeople who are walking around the showroom,” MacFawn said.
BiT’s software support consultants advise clients on processes to increase sales, increase margin, and provide better customer service so that they can grow their business.
Integration opportunities exist
According to MacFawn, there’s a big opportunity for a higher level of integration with manufacturers and distributors.
If boat builders, engine OEMs, and distributors would work together to open up an interface with DMS vendors, MacFawn said it would be possible to substantially reduce some inefficiencies and costs that face dealers.
“There are ways we can help across the board – parts, service, and sales departments – if we can get information from and provide it to the vendors utilizing current technology,” he explained.
Specific opportunities exist for improving efficiency include integrating parts and accessories price files and parts availability, parts ordering, boat model and option information for quoting ordered boats, and managing warranty claims, MacFawn said.
For example, engine manufacturer BRP has done a good job of creating APIs for DMS vendors to integrate.
“BiT is one of the software companies on their approved vendor list, but the industry can really improve efficiency and customer satisfaction if we can extend that further,” he said.
Upgraded interface example
Blue Springs Marine has been working with MacFawn and BiT for 14 years. Three years ago, the dealership upgraded to BiT’s cloud based version.
“We took a look at many of the DMS players in the marine industry,” said President Jeff Siems. “I ultimately decided to stay with BiT due to Ed and his team being able to provide personal and quick service when things are not going smoothly.”
Another big issue of concern for Siems was data accuracy. “BiT does not include accounting in their platform, which allows us to use Quickbooks, a very mainstream and very tested piece of software,” he said. “That gives me the confidence of accounting accuracy.”
Since many Blue Springs Marine employees who use the company’s DMS are not computer savvy, having an easy navigational interface was a must, Siems said. Likewise, having a vendor that’s open to changes and modifications to its platform to better meet a dealer’s needs was a strong point of the BiT team.
“A big time saver came after introducing the BiT team to my web host for my dealership,” Siems said. “They came up with a strategy allowing BiT to push all my data to my website without any further work for my sales staff.”
Tracking technician hours
Blue Springs Marine uses its DMS system to have its technicians log all billed hours on each job they do, along with logging all non-billable hours.
“We take the data from our DMS and maintain a bi- weekly Excel spreadsheet and graph to see how our department and individual technicians are performing and compared to the past three years,” Siems said, adding he includes all service support staff in such reporting, which encourages them to bill hours of their own.
“This promotes friendly competition between technicians as to who can have the best efficiency each period,” he added.
Improving overall workflow
DockMaster serves nearly 4,000 users in seven countries and is used by more than 650 marinas and facilitates in the care of tens of thousands of vessels, helping marine professionals manage inventory, marina management, financial management, sales, services management and lead management.
“We’ve expanded our integrated credit card solutions and now offer three options to meet our customers’ needs,” said Jodi Newfield, DockMaster account manager.
The company’s Ideas Portal garnered DockMaster a 2018 Boating Industry Top Products Award.
“We’ve spent a significant amount of time improving workflows and functionality within our software, culminating in four releases per year,” Newfield added. “This has helped us increase the amount of testing before a release and help us bring new functionality to market more often.”
Consumer-facing applications such as Boat Cloud and Speedy Dock Dry Stack Launch Scheduler push transactions into DockMaster, streamlining accounting and eliminating double-entry, Newfield said.
“Our teamMarine integration allows sales people to manage leads and units in Salesforce, while keeping DockMaster up to date,” she said. “In addition, service personnel can now manage their schedule and tasks with the taskMaster service scheduler that is integrated with DockMaster’s service module.”
DockMaster’s latest release will include an integration feature for processing fuel transactions, an ARI PartSmart integration, and YachCloser integration.
According to Newfield, mobile time tracking and scheduler enhancements will become active Dockmaster products that are scheduled for release early next year.
Dealer discussion, interaction
Seattle Boat Co. has been a dedicated Beta partner of Dockmaster; according to dealership Vice President James Baker, the two companies regularly meet to discuss ideas and functionalities to determine which DockMaster offerings work best for improving the Top 100 dealer’s business.
Technicians entering their start times into Dockmaster on each specific work order, marking the beginning of a specific operation. If the technician breaks from this task, he enters a stop time and adds “Technician Comments” into the system.
When a Seattle Boat Co. technician has completed this operation, he codes the operation as “Closed.”
This allows anyone in the entire organization to answer customer questions about the status of a boat being serviced. Daily health reports become automated directly from Dockmaster and are reported daily, weekly and monthly.
Shipyard Marine, another Top 100 dealer with locations in Green Bay and Oshkosh, Wis., generates technician efficiency reports using its DockMaster software system. Each technician is provided a copy of reports for review, with service staff meeting weekly to discuss continuous improvement, said President Andrew Hewitt.
Connecting dealers, builders
DealersCircle, Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla. recently added six marine manufacturers and their associated dealer networks to its growing roster.
Those six entities include Nautique Boats, Key West Boats, BRIG/Sirocco RIBs, Iconic Marine Group, Twin Vee Catamarans and International Pontoons, said President Scott Davis.
The company’s web-based proprietary software simplifies and automates the process of boat and parts ordering, warranty claims, and customer follow-up, creating a link between the OEM, the dealer network and end consumers.
The company’s application facilitates the use of customer support and document correspondence, such as scheduling the emailing of ‘thank you’ letters, service reminders and notices concerning up-to-date manufacturer and dealer discounts.
“We provide a B2B application between dealers and boat manufacturers,” Davis said. “The manufacturers already have back-end systems, and they want to use us for their B2B,” he said. “They want data to flow into their back-end system.” DealerCircle has started doing dealer-side DMS integration, and is currently working on putting such a framework in place, Davis said. “One of the things we are looking to do is bring a complete package to the boat manufacturer that has DealerCircle for the B2B, material requirements planning, and a financial package that’s integrated together and affordable for the small- to medium-size boat builder,” he said.
As dealers become more tech-savvy with their DMS use, DealerCircle is considering expanding its software offerings to include DMS integration.
“It would really streamline the process,” Davis said. “In order for a dealer to use a current DMS to its full capacity, many times, they have to reenter data by hand. We could easily push pricing data back in and make things a lot easier for the dealer.”
Change is constant
According to Winboats President Bryan Potzner, sometimes, the willingness to make a DMS or other computer-based system change can be difficult.
His goal after working more than three decades in the industry is providing the best software tool possible to help dealers run their businesses.
“For me, it’s not about selling software,” Potzner said. “I analyze the dealership’s business and offer suggestions for growth. I want to be partners with them.”
Potzner said the biggest problem that he encounters involves a perceived failure of another DMS program or software. “It’s not the fault of a particular program,” he explained. “It’s typically the management of the dealership that’s not getting behind the changes that they want to make. That’s the biggest challenge that I run into. It seems crazy, but it’s very, very common.”
Potzner said there are only so many ways that a dealer can sell parts and labor. And regarding manufacturers’ build-a-boat sites, a disconnect exists, he said. “Manufacturers are losing sight that they should be working to meet dealership needs as opposed to retail customer needs,” he contends. “I think built-a-boat sites are still needed, but manufacturers need to dive in and help dealers grow sales. That’s what this industry has needed all along.”
Correct utilization of a DMS is an issue Potzner continues to encounter in the field.
“I don’t care whose brand it is, if a dealer doesn’t utilize their DMS correctly, it’s worthless and there’s money being wasted,” he said. “You need to use everything possible, and make sure it can feed your website. Having a database within your DMS is vital for mining and extracting data. It’s a huge, huge asset.”