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Above photo provided by Charter Software Inc.

BMS Software and Website Services Overview

Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) magazine recently asked leading business management system software and website services providers to share their insight into the lest computer technology trends for the outdoor power equipment industry. Their responses are as follows:

 

AJAY THAKUR

General Manager

Ideal Computer Systems

 

 

 

OPE: Please tell us the latest about your company and your products for the outdoor power equipment industry.

Thakur: In 2018, Ideal Computer Systems’ parent company, Constellation Software Inc., acquired c-Systems Software Inc. – Ideal’s biggest competitor.

Together, Ideal and c-Systems represent the largest and most capable dealer network in the outdoor power equipment industry. Through our combined efforts, we are excited to provide innovation, new capabilities and operational efficiencies to these dealers, so they can continue to successfully differentiate themselves from big-box retailers.

2018 also saw the release of our new Dealer Insight Report & Trends (DIRT) tool. By pulling data directly from their Ideal dealership management software, our customers can:

  • Compare nationwide dealership data
  • Compare average, minimum and maximum values
  • Track performance using more than 120 vital metrics
  • Analyze trends via numerous charts and graphs
  • Receive a four-page report on a monthly basis

 

OPE: What is trending with regard to business management systems for the OPE industry, and what is driving those trends?

Thakur: The biggest focus for Ideal and c-Systems is on mobile applications and analytics tools like DIRT, which allow dealers to work more efficiently, as well as access crucial data whenever and wherever they need it.

Like many businesses today, OPE dealers are looking to leverage the latest tools to make themselves more efficient and accessible to their customers. This in turn will help them compete against big-box retailers and online juggernauts like Amazon more effectively.

After all, big data and convenience are some of the biggest factors behind Amazon’s success. OPE dealers see that, and they want the same. That’s what we’re here for.

 

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management system?

Thakur: By connecting all OPE departments and business activities, a system like Ideal allows dealers to access and share real-time data at any time, uniting the flow of information and ensuring higher productivity, better decision making, fewer errors and more long-term savings and cost reductions.

 

OPE: What should OPE dealers look for when shopping for a business management system?

Thakur: OPE dealers who are serious about investing in a business management system should carefully examine the following:

* Industry experience.How long has it been in your industry and what is its reputation? Does it have specialized experience providing solutions to businesses like yours? Does it have solid relationships with other industry businesses and leaders? Is the future direction of the company and its products aligned with your business’s future?

* Ease of use.How fast is the system? What is its impact on the end user? Can your management team, parts counter, service technicians and CPA easily and effectively use the system to do their jobs? Does the software look, feel and function like a unified whole, or more like a bunch of different products tied together?

* Scalability. Can the system adapt to your business growth, accommodating new users, additional locations and data increases? Is it scalable through technology – such as mobile devices – allowing you to improve your flexibility, efficiency and customer experience?

* Support & training.First-time business management system buyers have support and training close to the bottom of their list of requirements. On the other hand, second-time buyers have them at the top of their list. So, ask around – who has the best support? Go for the one with a support team on hand to assist you at every stage – from implementation to upgrades and maintenance.

 

 

JAMES STONEHAM

Director of Sales

Charter Software Inc.

 

 

 

OPE: Please tell us the latest about your company and your products for the outdoor power equipment industry.

Stoneham: Keeping up with the constant changes in technology means we are continually investing in our product, the ASPEN Business Management System. In 2019 we’ll focus on three major areas; mobile, reporting & analytics, and e-commerce enablers.

We are looking at the next generation of our mobile offering, moving it to a new platform to take advantage of the functionality offered by a native mobile app.

ASPEN is the only business management software that provides OPE dealers the actionable data insights they need to understand what drives their business. We’ll be focusing this year on creating more proactive notifications that will help dealers identify issues early so they don’t turn into customer satisfaction issues. We’ll also be enhancing our reports, working to make them even more interactive and informative.

Charter will also continue to expand our website and e-commerce relationships with companies like Dealer Spike, ARI, CWS and Sandhills Publishing.

 

OPE: What is trending with regard to business management systems for the OPE industry, and what is driving those trends?

Stoneham: At Charter, we continually focus on updating our products to keep up with technology trends. Technology’s integration in our everyday lives is rapidly changing OPE dealers’ customers’ expectations. Today’s customers’ purchasing and service needs are driven by immediacy. They are more comfortable making large purchases sight unseen based on internet research, and expect a dealership to answer their questions quickly or self-service via the dealer’s website – including purchasing or making payments online. Having enabling technology like e-commerce website integrations, customer portals, mobile access to real-time information and accurate data for estimating service repair costs and times is essential. That’s why we feel it’s important to invest in things like our mobile application and the OPE Flat Rate Guide we built with UEDA.

 

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management system?

Stoneham: Using a business management system like ASPEN makes it easier to keep up with technology-driven customer expectations. When you partner with a company like Charter you don’t have to worry about keeping up with the changes in technology because we’re doing it for you. A business management system also helps dealers streamline their daily processes, making things like product and warranty registration, electronic parts ordering, and inventory control easier because they are available from within the software. A BMS can also suggest parts to order based on sales history tends. Using business management software helps dealers keep everything organized in one place so they can focus on growing the business instead of organizing paperwork. At Charter, we call that working ON the business instead of IN the business.

 

OPE: What should OPE dealers look for when shopping for a business management system?

 

Stoneham:This is a great question, one that can be overwhelming when evaluating software.

  • Choose a business management system that is scalable, so it grows with your business and makes adding new locations quick and easy.
  • Get a system that offers the functionality that will help you exceed customer expectations. It should include robust mobile capabilities, website integrations that help you showcase inventory, and a customer portal that allows them to self-service.
  • Look for a system that includes manufacturer integrations with the brands you sell. This will save you time, improve accuracy, and help you run your business more efficiently.
  • Make sure it includes the reporting and analysis tools you need to stay on top of your business. This includes things like dashboards, customizable notifications, custom reports and multiple ways to access and manipulate your data.
  • Software updates should be included in the product price – not an additional fee.

These are just a few things out of many to consider. We publish a free whitepaper to help dealers determine what they need in a business management system. Dealers can download it for free at https://info.chartersoftware.com/researching.

 

 

KEVIN STEVENETT

Sales Management & Strategic Initiatives

nizeX, Inc.

 

 

 

OPE: Please tell us the latest about your company and your products for the outdoor power equipment industry.

Stevenett: nizeX, Inc. produces the Lizzy business management system (BMS). Lizzy launched in 2009, but we’ve actually been in the outdoor power industry since 1994, when we released The Business Assistant (known as TBA). Company founder Glenn Hancock had experience working at Snapper, and was familiar with the specific needs of an OPE dealership. Glenn utilized his expertise to create TBA, and later, all the enhanced capabilities of Lizzy.

Glenn realized the convenience of a web-based system was the future. Lizzy was the first and only web-based BMS for outdoor power equipment and powersports dealers for a long time. Being web-based, Lizzy is available from anywhere – a big plus when owners and managers are away from the dealership, but still want to keep an eye on what’s going on. Hundreds of dealers have realized that not having to manage an on-site server, and the hassle of storing offsite data backups, frees up both time and money. With Lizzy’s SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) subscription model, startup costs are much lower, which allows smaller and startup dealerships to reap the benefits of a BMS program like larger dealership operations.

Lizzy provides a comprehensive BMS to OPE dealers across North America. We are truly an all-in-one solution. Lizzy provides a complete toolset for every department, with real-time accounting, customer relationship management (CRM), parts, sales, finance and insurance, service, warranty, and rental. All of Lizzy’s departments are fully integrated, so the information you enter in once is available throughout the system immediately. Lizzy also offers automated double-entry accounting, which is an extraordinary time saver for dealers. Lizzy will hit the correct General Ledger (GL) accounts whenever an invoice is closed out or when inventory is received. Lizzy will automatically create an Accounts Receivable (AR) for dealer rebates, customer financing, and warranty claims. You always know what money you’re owed. Lizzy offers true cost-based accounting, not averaging, so your financial reports are more accurate.

Lizzy continues to add third-party integrations, such as parts and unit integration with ARI, Dealer Spike, and DX1 websites, serialized units pushed to Equipment Trader, online order integration with ARI/3D Cart/Magento and others, manufacturer interfaces with AGCO and Toro EZ-Link. Lizzy can import web leads from many OEMs and website providers, and auto-assign to sales personnel, while alerting management. Lizzy offers e-mail and texting to dealership customers, and maintains all “conversation” history. We are excited about further e-commerce enhancements coming soon.

 

OPE: What is trending with regard to business management systems for the OPE industry, and what is driving those trends?

Stevenett: The old adage continues to prove true…time is money. A business system saves time and increases profits. Your customers are researching online, and are more educated than ever. They have expectations that you will not only have the products they need, but can provide those items quickly. Your customer expects swift and superior service of their unit, and that you will also maintain all history of every purchase and service transaction they have had with your dealership. A BMS does all this, while giving visibility of quantity-on-hand on the dealership’s shelves, and at the OEM or parts vendor warehouses.

The demands on the dealer principal’s time are greater than ever, too. Industry and OEM events require time away from the store, yet you need to stay connected. Having “anywhere” access via the internet is trending, and we’re proud to have been first to market and provide this ease of access to dealership information, regardless of the internet-connected device accessing the system.

Communication is key. Responding to customer requests in a prompt manner creates trust and loyalty. A solid BMS will include e-mailing capabilities. To take it a step further, and with texting now trending more than ever, Lizzy has incorporated text messaging into Parts, Service, and Sales department communication to customers. Lizzy maintains all these “conversations” for future reference vs. only being logged on an employee’s cell phones.

At Lizzy, we focus on automating tasks and simplifying complex business practices between the dealer and OEMs, parts vendors, and communication with your customers. Automatic parts price file updates, one-click parts ordering, direct warranty registration and submission, VIN decoding, and receiving OEM service bulletins direct are examples of this.

 

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in a business management system?

Stevenett: A business management system is designed specifically for the numerous unique facets of an OPE dealer. While off-the-shelf packages like QuickBooks can manage basic point-of-sale and accounting needs, there are substantial limitations that will cause a dealer frustration in trying to “make it work” for the needs of the entire dealership.

A business management system can manage thousands of part numbers without limitation, and provide automatic parts price file updates, including cost, retail, superceded parts, discontinued parts, and often cross-reference information. The main components of any BMS worth considering will include:

  • Parts department: A BMS can automate and manage parts pricing (matrix pricing), discount levels, invoicing, special orders, lay away orders, parts ordering, parts receiving, barcode label printing, cycle counting, processing of ecommerce sales (web orders), and more. Invoicing in your BMS should have integration with efiche systems from OEMs and third-party solutions like ARI’s PartSmart. Shipping parts is simplified with direct integration to FedEx, UPS, DHL, and USPS… from weighing the package, to selecting the lowest shipping cost, to printing the shipment label.
  • Service department: A BMS can create and manage job estimates and repair orders (ROs), designating jobs that are customer paid, warranty paid, charged to extended service contract, or sent out to a local sublet vendor… managing multiple jobs from a single RO. Technicians can clock in and out of jobs, look up efiche diagrams, request parts, and suggest other work to be done. All service history is maintained by the BMS for easy recall, if needed. Technician efficiency reporting is among Service reports, along with warranty management.
  • Sales department: A BMS benefits this dealership profit center greatly –from managing serialized inventory (along with aging) to tracking all the numbers of the unit sale. Most importantly, a BMS is a simple mouse click to ensuring profitability of a deal, even with the complexity of all the many items involved in that deal –tracking front end profit, back end profit and add-ons, flooring expense, trade-in values, commissions, financing fees or points, and so much more. With today’s competitive market and online pricing information, margins are low. A BMS ensures you are making a profit before that unit ever leaves the dealership.
  • Accounting department: All dealership transactions in the BMS should feed into Accounting in real-time, saving hours of office staff accounting, ensuring exact accuracy, while providing to-the-second information. When running a profit & loss or balance sheet, it should be current to that moment without any extra effort or delay. Having accurate current information empowers dealership principals and managers to see profitability by department, and make the most informed decisions on behalf of the store.

 

OPE: What should OPE dealers look for when shopping for a business management system?

Stevenett: Before you even start looking at software, take a few minutes to define your expectations. What are your must-have items? What areas in particular are most important to you? What problems are you striving to resolve? It’s really easy to be blown away with lots of cool features and lose sight of what is most important for your business. What’s important for a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer isn’t as relevant to a dealer who does more business online. Tell the BMS sales consultant what your specific needs are, and request that they show you how their system can meet these needs. Take time to really review the system, so you understand the day-to-day process.

Consider the company that you are entrusting your livelihood with. Does their history prove that they will be there tomorrow to support your dealership? Is their ownership solid, or does their history include being bought/sold several times, with dealer fees increasing with each acquisition? Are they able to provide dealership references for you to call? Take time to call each one to discuss their system experience. You are likely to experience the same.

System shopping is a lot like shopping for a mower or tractor – honestly! Research is important. Don’t underestimate the value of a test drive. You don’t want to end up with a system that is underpowered and unrelated to the OPE industry. You will quickly become overwhelmed with trying to make it work for your business. Again, consider your specific needs and preferences. After all, a tractor could be incredibly efficient and a good value, but if the cab is cramped and the seat hurts your back, how much are you reasonably going to use it?

Review your top choice with employees. Include your team in a demonstration. Asking for their input not only shows that you value their opinions, but they can provide big benefits to you. Your team will have questions or ideas that you haven’t considered. Their buy-in will make a big difference in how quickly they accept the change, invest in training, and ultimately provide even better service to your customers.

 

 

TONY ZANE

Sales Manager – Outdoor Power Division.

ARI Network Services

 

 

 

OPE: What is the latest OPE industry-specific news about your company?

Zane: We just kicked off our fourth year of the Toro Dealer Website Program. Toro dealers are now able to utilize their “Snow Co-op” funds towards an ARI Powered Dealer Website. In 2018, we rolled out a new process for co-op submittal: we now submit for reimbursement on the dealer’s behalf. We understand the demands placed on our OPE dealers – time is critical in both the busy and the slow seasons.

We also welcomed Brian Rhode back to our OPE team as business development manager. Brian previously managed our Dealer Growth Team for our tire and wheel dealers before transitioning to the business development role.

 

OPE: What is trending when it comes to website services for the OPE industry, and what is driving those trends?

Zane: Lead management is the key! In order to stay relevant in the industry today and combat the box store competition, dealers need a website that will drive new business to their front door.

According to Statista, mobile search now dominates over half all website traffic worldwide at 52.4 percent. Voice search is among one of the more common search methods for consumers to locate products and services, therefore it’s more important than ever to make sure that your website is built with relevant content. Don’t forget to claim your online directory listings like Google My Business and keep them free of errors.

 

OPE: Why should OPE dealers invest in website services?

Zane: Your website is the foundation of your business. Think of it as your online dealership. It’s no secret that Google is becoming more and more of a lead-generating agency. When customers search for products or services online, Google generates a “local pack” of search results, including ads for local businesses. If your website is built with relevant content and ranks highly organically, you are very likely to have high local pack rankings. Making sure your directory listings are maintained as well as claiming your Google My Business page is not enough. A well built website packed full of relevant content helps complete the circle.

 

OPE: What should OPE dealers be looking for when shopping for website service?

Zane: OPE dealers should look at the following:

  • Platform –Responsive websites drive the industry today. Is the website provider’s platform responsive? Is it scalable? Is the site capable of receiving updates and will it be able to adapt with the changing online search trends?
  • Usability –Is the website easy to use and are they going to have access to perform updates when necessary?
  • Optimization – Does the website provider use SEO-friendly text, as well as follow best practices for tagging images, writing headings, descriptions and other mark ups?
  • Content –Relevant content is key for your website to rank well in the eyes of Google. How is the content obtained? Can the provider build enough relevant content to educate consumers, moving them closer to making an informed buying decision?
  • Industry knowledge –Is the website provider an expert in the field? Most local builders have plenty of knowledge of what makes a website perform, but do they have a lot of experience in the OPE industry? Local builders who build websites for bakeries and banks will likely not have the resources to provide the necessary content to drive desired results.
  • Dedicated specialists –Choose a website provider that will do more than just build you a website. Choose a provider that offers ongoing support and insight into the changing digital trends that effect your business.

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