Best Practices

Change: The Comfort of Constant

Car Dealership Best Practices
How does your dealerships adapt to change?

Recently, the wife took the kids for a small spring-break vacation before school started back up. Me and the pooch had the house to ourselves for a while.

That Saturday morning, I was inspired: the dog was getting up there in age; she’d been with me a long, long time. She deserved a reward. I decided right then that I was going to upgrade her doghouse – no, build a new doghouse – the best doghouse the world has ever seen!

So I ran to Lowes and loaded-up, and spared no expense. By Sunday afternoon, I had constructed the Mother of All Doghouses: a Skylight, Central Air, Running Water, Carpet so thick the princess would not have felt the pea, and an automatic Treat Dispenser with Unlimited Treats! Robin Leach would have been at a loss for words describing this Ultimate Doghouse.

I was sooooo excited to show man’s best friend! I ran in the house the get her, we strolled out onto the back deck. I proudly surveyed the back yard as she took it all in. She went down the steps, took a good look and…

…went straight into her old doghouse and laid down. She was familiar with her old doghouse; that’s where she was comfortable.

Working with many dealers and a brand new CRM system, I see similar patterns. The paradox is that dealers want something new, something better – something easier to use that will produce improvements and positively affect the bottom line. But as soon as the opportunity is presented, often their efforts center essentially around trying to make their new system into their old system.

It’s human nature: familiarity breeds comfort. As often as we experience “Change” in the automotive landscape, it’s still hard to embrace. So I offer a couple of tips to help ease that transition in your next major process or systems overhaul.

30 Days of Normalization

Set the expectation with the staff that it is absolutely normal and should be expected that any major change will be implemented with a certain level of unease – even fear – but that’s OK. It’s amazing to see how users interact with familiar systems. They can look you in the eye and their hands are moving their mouse to a spot on the screen unconsciously.

With a new system, for a short while, the eyes will need to “search” the screen and your hand/mouse will have to catch-up to your eyes. But with every “click” and every day using the system, familiarity starts to set-in, and comfort will follow. It just takes a little time and practice.

Set the expectation that this “unease” is normal and that it may take up to 30 days for this new system to feel normal, but it absolutely will happen.

New = Fresh Start

You have a new system – explore what it does new and better than your old system! If all of your time is spent looking in the rear-view mirror, trying to make your new gizmo do all the old stuff with which you were familiar, then you might miss the opportunity to do something better.

You made the leap – you signed the contract because you wanted something better – you wanted this change. You now have the perfect opportunity for a Fresh Start. Embrace the change and try something new. Remember the definition of ‘insanity:’ doing the same thing repetitively and expecting a different result.

Expedite Familiarity

One sure-fire way to prolong the unease of a new system or process is to grant access to the old system or process for any length of time. In other words, the longer you let them access the old system, the longer it will take to get familiar and comfortable with the new system. Institute a Clean-Break policy: no longer than 1 week access to the old system. Sooner is even better. Your goal is to be comfortable after 30 days – keep that in-mind if you think restricting access after a day or two sounds like tough-love.

Change is a constant in our business: people, product, technology. Setting the right expectations and properly managing the process of change itself can really help ease frustrations and lead to a better experience in the long run.

Trust me, after I got rid of that old doghouse, my pooch has never been happier.

When was the last time you built a new Dog House for your dealership? 

15+ years front-line, battle-hardened automotive vet, foreshadowing 7 years in automotive software construction, production, training, sales, and supp...
  • W
  • April 12, 2013
Great article and great advice!
  • D
  • April 12, 2013
John,  Nice read.  I hope that you built that dog house large enough for the two of you when the wife gets home.
  • R
  • April 14, 2013
This is so good. 
"often their efforts center essentially around trying to make their new system into their old system" - I like the idea of a 30 Day Normalization agreement with a combative user. Instead we frequently build backward to accommodate clients who get overwhelmed by new stuff. I'm surprised at how often this is required.
I can understand why this is so frustrating to John in particular. I had the pleasure of working with him (in his previous life a few years ago), and he was one of the few dealer leaders who openly welcomed a new vendor with a "show me what ya' got!" attitude.
Great article - thanks for sharing, John!