Car sales tend to surge during the tax season in the United States. For dealerships like U.S. Auto Sales, with 17 locations in Georgia and South Carolina, it’s a fantastic time of year. That is, until potential buyers get tired of waiting and walk out the door.
Dealerships survive on slim margins and technology budgets are often kept to a minimum. But that hasn’t stopped Travis McKeone, director of IT and facilities for U.S. Auto, from advancing his company’s technology capabilities.
“Our sales personnel were sharing one or two PCs at each location to close deals, but that created a lot of waiting and frustration,” he explains. “The question became: How do we increase sales efficiency without spending a fortune?”
Cloud to the Rescue
McKeone found the answer in the cloud. With the help of Atlanta-based technology partner BlueWave Computing, U.S. Auto recently virtualized its desktops and put them in a Cisco Powered™ Cirrity cloud. The dealership is also utilizing the cloud for telephony, data backup, and disaster recovery purposes.
“We view the cloud as a productivity engine and insurance policy,” says McKeone. “In many ways, we feel safer in the cloud than we did with our former systems. If our building burned down, we could be up and selling cars somewhere else in 48 hours. All I need is an Internet connection with a firewall and a switch.”
U.S. Auto’s journey to the cloud was not without thorough research and a pilot project.
“My team is used to working with iron and racks, so we spent a lot of time considering traditional IT versus the cloud,” McKeone recalls. “And we had to wrap our heads around the payment model and cost comparison.”
After an intensive hardware evaluation, U.S. Auto tested virtual, thin client desktops and phone systems with its collections staff. The cloud-based systems were a wild success, allowing collections personnel to work from anywhere and saving the company $20,000 a month on long distance calls.
“We handle one to two thousand payments each week via phone,” says McKeone, “so the lack of long distance calling expenses has been huge for us.”
Based on the success of the pilot project, the virtual desktops were rolled out to the dealership’s sales staff, and the results have far exceeded expectations. The total cost of PC ownership has dropped from $1500-$500 on average, IT maintenance headaches are things of the past, and business is booming. In fact, McKeone reports that sales are up 20 percent across all U.S. Auto locations thanks in part to the technology improvements.
With sales staff now working one-on-one with customers to close deals at their desk instead of the extended wait times and back-and-forth to shared PCs, the sales process is faster and more intimate. And it is reflecting on the bottom line.
“We recently opened a new dealership in South Carolina, and our projection was 20 car sales in the first two months. We sold 60,” says McKeone. “We’re breaking every sales record we have ever set, and the productivity gains are a big part of it. We’re running out of cars to sell.”
That’s a new problem, but not one that McKeone needs to solve.