How dealerships can succeed in the new ‘age of collaboration’

Earlier this year, Real Time Communications (RTC) announced that its software has been integrated with Keyloop’s flagship Dealer Management System (DMS). Our mutual customers are now enjoying the benefits of the two software suites sharing data automatically, including time-savings for dealership staff and a more robust digital journey for customers.

This development is a result of RTC becoming a fully accredited member of the Keyloop International Partner Programme, and a comprehensive process to ensure functionality, reliability and security. In other words, it’s not just a software update – it’s the result of close, whole-organisation collaboration between the two businesses. With a full commitment on both sides, we were able to steadily scale up our joint activities, progressing from a simple point-to-point interface to something far more powerful.

Our learnings from that process extend beyond the technical aspects of integration; they also give us an insight into how automotive businesses are evolving on a wider scale, and how cross-industry collaboration will come to the fore in powering their success. Increasingly, I’m convinced that we’re entering the ‘age of collaboration’, one in which we discard silo mentalities and scale up our collective offering by sharing resources and insights.

Why it’s the right time to embrace collaboration

It’s not controversial to say that our industry is undergoing transformation. One of the biggest themes of that transformation is customer-centricity – and this isn’t something you can achieve easily on your own. Collaborating with the right suppliers and partners will allow you to rethink the old ways of doing things and identify disruptive innovations far more quickly.

When working towards Keyloop accreditation, for example, we didn’t start from a product functionality standpoint. Instead, we thought first about user needs, then established how we could upgrade our offering to meet them. Today’s customer expects a convenient, transparent, and worry-free experience; aftermarket professionals need ways to deliver this experience without adding enormously to their workloads. This is where digital solutions offer real value: saving staff time by automating processes such as booking alterations and invoicing, while identifying additional opportunities and strengthening the customer’s digital journey.

To connect all the stages of that journey requires more than just an internal reshuffle: it involves working with other organisations in a dedicated, sustained manner. Identifying the right partnership, even if it crosses traditional commercial or geographical boundaries, can provide the missing software solution, business model or insight that you weren’t otherwise able to pinpoint.

How to collaborative effectively

Keyloop’s Partner Programme, originally launched in 2018 to connect specialist technical companies in the automotive market, is an example of how collaboration works at scale, enabling a range of providers to supply their digitalisation benefits to a wider customer base. It’s not a traditional commercial relationship where one party supplies a product and the other one pays them; it’s a deeper relationship based on sharing platforms, networks and insights. Ultimately, it’s about accelerating the industry’s digital journey, and delivering enhanced benefits for retailers and end-users as a result.

Accredited partners can connect their software to Keyloop’s DMS, allowing enhanced product functionality, new revenue streams, and seamless combination of shared and managed data. This has the potential to streamline operations not just in the showroom, but inside the workshop, parts departments, and back-office systems too. It’s no surprise that it has become so popular.

That is an example of collaboration between suppliers – but at RTC, we’re increasingly convinced that stronger collaboration has value across the entire industry. So how can dealerships get involved?

Start where we started: with a need. Ask yourself if your dealership is doing enough to bring its systems and processes together. Alternatively, consider if there is something new you can add to your offering or business purpose. For example, tackling major issues such as sustainability is becoming an expected part of every business’s role, and they will find this easier within a partnership.

You can also look within your business, through inter-team collaboration such as ensuring data and useful knowledge are being effectively shared. Digital solutions can help here, connecting departments more closely and creating a ‘single source of truth’ for business information rather than using separate systems, which force re-keying and incur greater error risk.

Whether you look outwards or inwards, working out what’s missing – and finding the most appropriate provider of this service – is a great place to start. Don’t be afraid to seek out new contacts. Prevailing attitudes shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic as businesses and individuals alike realised the importance of mutual support; as a result, appetite for collaboration is higher than ever.

By contrast, the worst thing you can do is stick to a silo mentality, guarding your resources and insights for fear of letting other companies into your ‘inner circle’. Doing this might give you a perceived advantage in the short term, but in reality you’re leaving yourself exposed to uncertainty – as COVID-19 lockdowns demonstrated all too well. If, as an industry, we act in a coherent and aligned manner, that puts us in a better position to weather whatever storms the future holds – even if that means taking an unfamiliar first step and opening yourself up to collaborations that would never have previously happened.

Looking forward, not backwards, is something we strive for at RTC. Collaborations make the impossible look possible and we’re looking forward to seeing what innovations our collaborations, not least the one with Keyloop, produce next.