How to transition your reports from measured to meaningful

When I visit dealerships, the general manager wants to hear about the latest product enhancements, extra features, or how to increase productivity. I have never had a dealer approach me with excitement about reporting. I think of it in the same light as my college days when no one was eager to hear all about the math majors’ educational insights. Reporting might not be the sexiest DMS feature, but if you follow these three steps, you can master your dealership reports, while also saving time, cutting costs and boosting your income.

 1.  Invest time upfront to build the reports you need

Good reporting requires upfront thought and planning. It pays to take the time to determine what numbers you need on an ongoing basis, create custom reports, schedule them and then forget them. So many dealerships I visit recreate the wheel every time. That’s a waste of time and money. Instead, create it once and then modify as needed. For example, Parts can create a comprehensive weekly report that shows gross sales, sales by bin number, by supplier, as compared to last month. If you don’t need all those numbers every time, or if there is additional information you want, simply go in and delete, hide or add a field. You’ll get the numbers you need in a fraction of the time.

2.  Determine what you’re measuring against

What you measure is what you get. I talk with a lot of dealers who measure success compared to their numbers last week, last month and last year. Numbers go up and they think they’re doing great, but this could be a myopic view. To ensure you’re not leaving money on the table, you have to track the right data elements over time compared to the industry and your competition. Luckily, NADA makes this easy with guidance metrics. These metrics allow you to compare your performance against dealerships of similar size and type across the country. Once you have this comparison information, you can leverage it into greater profitability by asking self-critical questions about why one area of your dealership is excelling and another is falling short.

3.   Set it and forget it

Once you’ve determined the reports you need and what you’re measuring against, don’t waste time trying to get your hands on the numbers. Schedule the reports to be sent to your inbox when you need them. I work with a dealer principal who has a sales meeting every Thursday at 1 p.m. At 12:30 p.m. on the dot, the sales report he needs for that meeting pops up in his inbox. He doesn’t have to log into the DMS or grind through the data. He sets it, and now he can forget it. Scheduling reports can also help you cut costs because your DMS is doing the work, not an employee.

Your DMS is a treasure-trove of valuable data, but when you constantly reinvent reports, track the wrong data, or spin your wheels trying to get your hands on what you need, you waste time and money. Instead, invest the time to properly set up reporting and then let your DMS do the rest. You’ll save time and cut costs, and by acting on the right numbers, increase your income.

Chris Low is senior director of product management, DMS, for Dealertrack. Over the years, Chris has worked with hundreds of clients to optimize their reporting using Dealertrack’s DMS and gain better insight into their businesses.

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