Changing DMS or CRM providers is hard enough. Your employees don’t like change and it seems like you never get all your data from your old system into the new system. Two things that you might not have expected during the change is a loss of archived data and customer e-mails.
A dealer friend of mine recently changed DMS providers and was shocked to learn that the CRM portion of his DMS software controlled his e-mail server and his customer e-mails to salespeople were getting bounced instead of forwarded. Before you think of changing providers, take a look at the e-mails that are going out today from your sales force and follow up software. If your e-mails to your customers go through your own dealership e-mail server (firstname.lastname@example.org) then most likely you’re going to be okay if you change DMS or CRM providers. If on the other hand, your e-mails are sam@abcmotors.CRMCompany.com – then they are being routed through your CRM or DMS provider’s e-mail server and when you “disconnect” from their services, most likely they won’t get forwarded to your new provider.
If you’ve spent the past few years building up regular contact with your customers via e-mail, then this might be what I call a “deal breaker” when it comes to considering changing providers. Let’s say a customer got a nice e-mail six months ago from your salesperson about a new model coming out. If she is like me, she put that e-mail into a shopping folder. When the time comes to buy a new car, I’d look for that e-mail and then reply to the salesperson that I’m interested. I’m pretty techno savvy and would probably track Sam down if my e-mail bounced back, but I’m not sure your typical buyer will do that.
How can you prepare for change? First, determine why they use their e-mail server instead of yours. A good reason is that the CRM and lead tracking portion of their software depends on the e-mails coming through their server to tie them to the contract record in the database. Obviously you don’t want all your e-mail to route through the CRM or DMS provider, but another option would be to set up an e-mail address like abcmotors.net that will route through the CRM or DMS provider – but you control the mail server setups. It is easy to delegate this task to your provider, but that means that it is the same as having all your mail delivered to their post office box – and they are the only ones the post office will accept a change of address form from!
Data Archiving is another painful issue when it comes to changing DMS or CRM systems. Some DMS data archiving systems require that you keep your DMS system to be able to retrieve the data from your archiving system. Although the files might be able to be transferred onto another hard drive, the only way to bring them up and view is with the DMS software. If you prepare a few years in advanced, you can wean yourself off of this option. Fortunately, I don’t have any clients in this situation since I never recommended a proprietary data archiving system during my years of computer consulting. If you are in this situation and can’t find anyone to convert the data at a reasonable fee, you might want to analyze what you are trying to convert. If you have scanned copies of repair orders, but still have the actual documents in storage, then you might want to see if you can live without the scans. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring each one up and print to a PDF printer. It is very time-consuming, but that is why you need to start a few years in advance. If you have archived your accounting records, then you can normally “reprint” the journals, schedules, GL, and other reports to a print file that can be read by any software.
The best time to start preparing for change is at least a year before you’re forced into making a decision, or two years before the end of your contract. Although these two issues are the most difficult to overcome, there are actually dozens more that catch you unprepared.