New technology allows auto dealers to reduce deal time by collecting customer information once and streaming it to various staffers involved in a car sale.

“It’s a matter of information flowing efficiency, seamlessly and quickly to all the places it has to go” says Stephanie Wilkes, product manager for front-end applications at ADP, an information-technology provider.

In addition to the inherent efficiencies, such a system can boost customer satisfaction and give dealership staffers more time to focus on salesmanship rather than repetitive formalities.

“Customer information is not repeatedly collected through each step of the deal,” Wilkes says. “You do it once and do it for everybody.”

The feature is an integrated enhancement to customer-relationship management software that, among other things, allows dealerships to systematically track sales leads and communicate with customers.

“But now, CRM really is much more than that,” Wilkes says. “It’s the starting place for the deal.”

Screen buttons allow dealership personnel to begin the credit process, see quotes and save financing data, says ADP spokesman Andy Tippet. “Many of the deal elements are at your fingertips.”

Wilkes offers a scenario of how it CRM can move a car deal along. The dealership initially collects customer data including credit-application information and vehicle interest. That can be done either at the dealership or its website.

That information then steams out to various staffers involved in a deal, from the desk manager who reviews price quotes to the finance and insurance manager who arranges credit.

“F&I managers not only can look up all that customer information, but they can use it to take care of the compliance issues,” Wilkes says. Some dealerships assign floor sales people to submit credit applications. Other stores want the F&I office to do that.

The CRM system accommodates either way, Wilkes says. “CRM should adapt to the dealer, not the other way around.”

The new application is on the latest 4.5 version of ADP’s CRM offering, recently released after a period of “robust field testing,” Tippet says.

Dealers participating in the pilot project say they particularly “like being able to start credit applications using CRM,” Tippet says.

In the works are applications for mobile devices and electronic tablets such as the iPad.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com