The hidden software that makes a car dealership run



drive happy borneo motors

Though the “hardware” element of an authorised distributor’s buildings is important, it takes the right “software” to give the business a personal touch.

SINGAPORE — A team of greeters or a friendly sales executive might be your first point of contact when you buy a new car, but a full authorised distributorship employs a large team of experts to make sure you have the best possible experience along your journey of owning a car.

Most of them toil away behind the scenes, doing important work that benefits customers even before they step into the showroom.

It’s all part of the “software” that goes into running a successful dealership. Though the “hardware” element of a 3S facility is vital, it takes human beings to animate a business with warmth and a personal touch.

Together, this combination of software and hardware makes all the difference between simply buying a car, and becoming a valued patron who is looked after. Get it right, and a kind of magic happens.

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In fact, we’ve found that the bigger the business, the more vital it is to have the right team in place.

Take Borneo Motors as an example — the Toyota distributor has 30,000 square feet of showroom space, 78,000 square feet of parts storage, 133 workshop bays and 73 bodycare centre bays, but these would all be useless without the best personnel to make all the relevant operations run smoothly, and deliver the DriveHappy experience that it strives to give every customer.

READ MORE > What exactly does 3S mean, and why is it so important?

But who are the people who make up this software that runs the hardware of a dealership? Meet the key personnel you never knew about…

Product specialist/product planner
Which engine and transmission should a given model come with for Singapore? What features should be fitted that strike the best balance between value-for-money and convenience or comfort? These are things the Product specialist helps to decide, taking in the needs of motorists here and often after gathering feedback on what’s important to the Singapore driver.

Having the car with the ideal specifications not only means you don’t end up paying for features or frills that you won’t use, it also ensures that when it’s time to sell your car, it will still be desirable in the second-hand market.

Technical team
Cars have to be suitable for use on Singapore roads, and the process that ensures they are approved for sale is called “homologation”. A technical team deals directly with the Land Transport Authority on this, supplying all necessary documentation to prove that a given car meets local standards.

How does this help the customer? In cases where there are recalls, the technical team works with both the LTA and factory representatives to ensure that any necessary rectification work is carried out smoothly and comprehensively.

Sales training department
When a sales executive explains a new car to you, he should know it well inside-out and back-to-front. Only then can he or she ensure that you’re getting a car that meets your needs.

The knowledge for this is passed along by the sales training department, with input from the technical team as well as the marketing arm of a dealership. Notice how a good salesmen can answer your questions about a new car in a straightforward way and never resorts to waffling his way along? It’s thanks to the tripartite effort put in by the team above.

Marketing department
How do you receive information about a potential car purchase? That job falls to the marketing team, which is responsible for (among other things) producing sales brochures that lay out crucial information for your perusal. That helps you to make comparisons as you shortlist different cars, and ensures that you know what you’re getting — always a good way to avoid disappointment!

In some cases the marketing team works to create events for customers; they can be anything from concert evenings to driveaway holidays. Essentially, marketing’s job is to ensure you fall in love with your car, and stay in love.

Finance and insurance
Most car buyers need some of vehicle loan, and all will need insurance coverage. The managers at the finance and insurance department work with banks and insurers to ensure that buyers get a favourable deal from partners, along with service that meets a high standard.

Service advisor
When you take your car in for servicing or repair, the service advisor is the person who facilitates the process. He’s not a mechanic himself (though he’s usually trained with mechanical knowledge) but is essentially your point of contact with the guys who sweat it out in the workshop.

You can count on him to relay any instructions or concerns you have about your car to the technicians in the workshop, and vice versa, to explain or run through all the work that should be done during servicing. He will also explain the servicing bill, item-by-item.

Workshop manager
A workshop’s daily volume is called the “throughput”, and it’s the workshop manager’s job to ensure that all the resources from the parts and servicing departments are put to good use to ensure the smoothest possible throughput. This means no delays for customers — maximal throughput leads to minimal downtime.

Customer relations manager
Have a complaint? The customer relations manager will do his or her best to ensure that it’s resolved to your satisfaction. Dealing with potentially disgruntled customers can be a demanding job, but the best authorised distributors recognise the importance of tackling any dissastisfaction head-on

Call centre staff
Tying it all together for a large, well set-up authorised distributor is the call centre. Through a hotline, it handles customer enquiries, whether they have to do with buying a new car or taking care of an existing one. Because the authorised distributor has so many pieces in the machinery of customer satisfaction, the call centre’s task is to connect a caller with the right party.

Of course, like any business, a large dealership has its management team, Human Resources department and so on, but overall, the car business does have its specialised staffing needs.

A business like Borneo Motors would not be able to deliver the DriveHappy experience without the right team.

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That would be like having the most powerful computer without the programming to make it work. And just like the code in any software, everyone has to do his bit.

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