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Behind every successful automotive dealership lies a mountain of paperwork. Literally. It seems as though most dealerships have back offices or even warehouses where files that need to be retained after the sale or lease of a vehicle are stored. In many states, these records need to be kept for several years. That can turn a mountain into a mountain range! One solution many dealerships are turning to today is document management.
Document management, sometimes called document imaging, is the practice of digitizing, indexing and archiving both paper and electronic documents for easy storage and retrieval. Many successful dealerships are turning to this technology to keep track of credit applications, contracts, leases, service reports and other legal documents, or the “deal docs” they typically store in file cabinets and banker’s boxes.
Is this something that would work in your dealership?
Let’s look at five reasons why you should consider document management.
1. You can save money. With a document management system, you can reduce the amount of paper you buy and virtually eliminate file cabinets, fax machines and off-site storage. You can also decrease your paper consumption costs because you can directly e-mail or fax documents instead of printing and mailing cumbersome paper files. Using this tool, your employees will quickly become more efficient and productive – giving them more time to focus on other tasks – which will save, if not make you, money.
2. You can save time. With a web-based document management system, your staff has instant access to files. Documents can be scanned or printed into your electronic file cabinet once and never touched again. No filing or searching for folders. View documents without leaving your desk. If you or your key employees travel for business or work from home, you can easily access original files.
And, if you have departments spread across the building or even multiple locations, you won’t need multiple copies of documents. Storing them in a central location will let employees retrieve them from anywhere – even simultaneously. By placing e-mail correspondence in the same electronic filing cabinet as contracts, service paperwork, leases and other documents, it will be faster and easier for your employees to look up customer information. No more putting people on hold. And, if you scan in personnel policies, vacation request forms and other human resource documentation, your employees will have instant access to the most up-to-date information – even if they are at home.
In addition, most document management systems will integrate with your current dealer management system, so you won’t need to store files in both places. A hot-key can link scanned documents to the dealer management system using an index value like customer number. And, if you change dealer management providers, your electronic files will remain intact and available.
3. You can free up space in your dealership (or warehouses) by eliminating old files and filing cabinets. Electronic files are legally accepted as the original. Shred cumbersome paper files, save space and turn filing cabinet areas into productive work areas. “We started looking into document management when we hit 200 file cabinets,” explained Phil Hibbard, Star Toyota of League City, TX. “I knew there had to be a better way to store and manage the paperwork that results from 200 or 300 car sales a month – especially with the record retention requirements set by the State of Texas.”
4. You will be creating a disaster recovery system. Disasters can be natural disasters or man-made disasters – like lawsuits. Floods, fire, hurricanes, earthquakes, vandalism and theft place paper files in jeopardy each day. With a document management system, you can rest assured that your dealership is still in business when disaster strikes. The more you scan, the less you have to lose. Most document management systems will help you meet Federal privacy and security regulation. As a bonus, you’ll meet industry and city, state and Federal rules and regulations regarding record keeping and retention.
5. You’ll increase compliance. As mentioned earlier, most documents at a dealership need to be retained for several years. Consumer credit applications and credit reports, for example, need to be kept for seven years, even if no sale is consummated. Some accounting records, such as general ledger and general journal paperwork, must be kept permanently. The same goes for all paperwork related to the purchase or lease of the dealership space itself and annual inventory reports.
Dealership management and staff will be surprised at how quick and easy it is to learn and implement most document management systems. Many document management providers, like eBridge Solutions of Tampa, Florida, provide training entirely online in just a few hours. “We realize that implementing a document management system in a dealership is a big change,” explained Leslie Haywood, CEO of eBridge Solutions. “We try to do as much as possible online while new users are at their desks. This allows them to put the new technology into practice right away.”
Document management has many benefits for automotive dealerships of any size. Small dealerships can get a handle on files before they get too big and large dealerships will realize time and money savings by eliminating some of the paper files already on hand – effectively turning mountains into molehills…
Stephanie L. Jones, MBA sjones@eBridgeSolutions.com