Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Finding Success When the Automotive Market Is Down

Hand holding up lightbulb in front of chalkboard reading 'New Mindset, New Results'
Since the Great Recession, the automotive industry has been on the upswing, but the tides are turning. In 2019, unsold vehicles hit a 10-year high, with automakers and dealers holding on to a 78-day supply. This comes amidst other industry challenges: job cuts, a shortage of skilled technicians, the prospect of self-driving vehicles upsetting vehicle ownership, rising interest rates, and more.

In response to this market shift, dealers are feeling pessimistic about what the future holds for the industry. If you’re in that camp, it’s not hard to see why you feel this way. For a successful 2020 — regardless of what the market does — start with the strategies below.

Look for Untapped Opportunities to Save Money

When you’re strapped for cash, even seemingly small costs can mount quickly. Take the time to evaluate what unnecessary costs or inefficiencies are cutting into your profits. One dealership made the decision to simply offer customers paper cups they could fill at the water fountain rather than providing bottled water, saving $6,000 per year.

If there are tools available to help you address inefficiencies, weigh the investment against the money it’ll save you in the long run. For example, having a documented key control process and using an electronic method for tracking keys can help cut down on the cost of replacing lost or stolen key fobs or even vehicles.

In some cases, you might not need to make any changes to your operations to create more room in your budget. Dealer reimbursements are a great way to recoup money for something you’re already doing. Let’s say your service department offers transportation to customers bringing their vehicles in for warranty work. Some manufacturers, such as GM, will reimburse a few dollars each way for shuttle rides. If your manufacturer reimbursed $5 per ride, that’d be $500 for 100 shuttle rides a month, or $6,000 a year.

Whatever changes you make to help your bottom line, be sure they won’t be detrimental to the customer experience.

Address Threats to Your Revenue and Reputation

Don’t let thieves help themselves to your hard-earned profits or hurt your good name. Protect your business from common types of theft. Some examples include the following:

  • The Craigslist scam, which involves a thief posting a vehicle for sale in an online marketplace and then stealing it from a dealership’s lot once the crook finds a buyer for the vehicle.
  • The key-swap scam, where someone swaps a vehicle’s original key fob for a dummy fob, returning later to steal the vehicle.
  • Organized theft rings, which often target dealerships that keep keys in vehicle-mounted lockboxes or other easily accessible places.

Even if you’re never the target of theft, the benefits of investing in prevention measures such as employee training and secure key control far outweigh the consequences of dealing with the aftermath of stolen keys or inventory.

Stay Positive

You can’t control the market, but you have a say in how you respond to it. In fact, it’s imperative that you stay upbeat in less than ideal conditions. Being positive has a neurological impact, which in turn can increase job performance and employee morale.

In a Stanford University study of how being positive affects children, the lead researcher commented that positivity is as important as IQ to academic success. The group of children who participated in the study were better able to answer math problems, retain memories, and solve problems when they practiced being positive.

Only 25 percent of job success is related to IQ, and optimistic employees have clear advantages over cynical ones:

  • They recognize potential even in a less than ideal environment.
  • They’re motivated to work harder to overcome obstacles.
  • Their creativity flourishes, helping them come up with creative ways to reach their goals.
  • They inspire coworkers to be more successful at their jobs.

To encourage a positive culture, start by increasing employee satisfaction by making sure employees have access to the tools they need to do their jobs successfully, celebrating successes, and leading by example.

What changes will you make to increase your dealership’s success?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Don’t Let Employee Turnover Sabotage Your Key Control

Resignation letter in employee's box of belongings
Employee turnover is a topic you’ve likely heard a lot about recently. The total turnover rate — including terminations and voluntary departures — across all industries nationwide has increased each year since 2014. In 2018, the turnover rate reached 19.3 percent — up from 15.7 percent in 2014. In fact, the voluntary turnover rate on its own was at 14.2 percent in 2018.

While it isn’t impossible to reduce turnover in your organization, it can feel like fighting an uphill battle. This isn’t good for businesses, as it costs anywhere between six to nine months’ salary on average to replace a salaried employee.

However, the effects turnover has on businesses is more serious than you may realize. In addition to being expensive, attrition can also create holes in your organization’s key management practices. Here are the three main ways that turnover will sabotage your key control.

Former Employees Retain Key Access

When employees who had access to keys leave the company, failing to revoke access privileges and collect all keys in their possession immediately after they leave is a major risk to your facility. Imagine the damage they could do with a key or two — or even a couple hundred, like a man in North Dakota, who managed to steal 200 apartment keys, as well as 38 garage openers, master keys, and nine vehicle keys from two separate former employers.

While this may be an extreme example, it’s worth mentioning because it illustrates the potential consequences of not having the necessary tools or policies to secure your keys. An electronic key control system would be able to deter ex-employees from stealing your keys, thanks to features like biometric logins and a secure drawer that can only be opened by authorized users.

Once you have a system in place, it’s important to make sure you collect any keys in an employee’s possession when they leave, as well as strip any access they had to the keys on all systems to protect your organization from security risks related to former employees.

Experienced Employees Take Their Knowledge With Them

Another potential problem that turnover causes for key control is when your key control officer/administrator or other experienced employees leave your organization, taking valuable knowledge with them.

Whether an employee had valuable experience and detailed knowledge of key security policies, losing them hurts. But you can do multiple things to help overcome the loss.

One of these things is to document all key control policies, which helps new employees you bring in as replacements (more on that later). To encourage employees to follow policy, you can use an electronic key control system to help enforce your key management protocol. You could start by assigning user access levels for each employee. That way, anyone without access for certain keys won’t be able to sign them out — or steal them.

One final way to ensure you aren’t left out to dry when experienced employees leave is to assign more than one person to be in charge of key control. If possible, you should look at people with more than one year at your company and who are familiar with how things are run.

New Employees Aren’t up to Speed

When you experience turnover and replace the old employees with new ones, the new staff members lack the knowledge about the way your company runs and won’t be familiar with every policy right away. This lack of knowledge may cause them to make mistakes or be slow with decision making. Once again, this is a great example of why you should document all policies and ensure employees are familiar with them.

If you do have an electronic key control system in place already, new employees may experience a learning curve as they familiarize themselves with how your business uses the system. To make this process as smooth as possible, take advantage of all training resources your key control provider offers. These may include best practices guides, live video training, and phone support.

Experienced employees leaving and inexperienced ones coming in make the job of protecting keys a little more difficult, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. If you take the necessary precautions, you can stay on top of the key control game. Just because your employees are leaving doesn’t mean your key control has to go with them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Stop Wasting Time: Simplify Property Management With Key Control Technology

Collection of clocksAccording to the National Apartment Association, property management executives reported that one of their goals for 2019 was to use technology to increase efficiency, allowing employees to spend more time with customers. The year is winding down, but if your properties are still struggling with being bogged down with administrative tasks, it’s not too late to kick off the new decade with a fresh start.

Here are our top tips for using key control technology to put more time back in your on-site personnel’s days.

Manage Keys Electronically

The most obvious application of an electronic key control system is to manage keys. If you’re using an outdated method of managing keys, such as pegboards and manual logbooks, implementing electronic key control systems will save employees as much as two or three minutes to retrieve a key and document the transaction. It might not seem like much, but that time adds up from day to day. That’s not to mention the time they’ll save looking for lost or poorly labeled keys as well.

Collect Prospect Data by Scanning Driver’s Licenses

How much time do leasing agents spend entering prospect data when someone wants to tour a property? Cut down on that time by enabling employees to scan the prospect’s driver’s license to automatically capture a record with their contact information. Agents can then add notes about the floorplans prospects were interested in, which lead sources brought them to your property, and more. When it comes time to follow up, agents can automatically import prospect information into a follow-up message.

Automatically Notify Residents to Pick up Their Packages

Dealing with the sheer volume of packages that land in your leasing offices is a herculean challenge. There are plenty of solutions hitting the market, such as lockers and off-site storage facilities. However, if you’re looking for a time-saving solution that doesn’t involve sacrificing valuable office space, or if you don’t want to force residents to add one more stop in their already busy lives to pick up their packages, there are other options for handling deliveries more efficiently.

For example, a package logging application that uses a handheld barcode scanner and digital signature capture pad allows on-site personnel to scan packages when they’re received and automatically notify recipients by text or email when their packages are ready to be picked up.

Consolidate Applications

Using a single system to combine tasks such as updating employee time clocks, checking out keys, and managing work orders reduces the total number of applications employees have to interact with on a daily basis. This helps with the onboarding process as well. For example, a new employee needing to learn how to check out keys, clock in, and check on a work order would only have to learn their way around one software program rather than three separate ones to complete those tasks.

In addition, you’ll save time by being able to get a high-level view of each property by running reports on key activity, employee work schedules, and work order statuses.

Don’t waste any more time — learn what to look for in an electronic key control system.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Client Spotlight: Hendrick Automotive Group

Robert Taylor, vice president of IT, Hendrick Automotive
Robert Taylor, vice president of IT, Hendrick Automotive Group
When thieves broke into one of Hendrick Automotive Group’s dealerships, they stuffed 200 keys into a pillowcase, then ventured out to the lot and drove off with six or seven cars.

The theft shook up the dealership’s operations. As Robert Taylor, Hendrick’s vice president of IT, explained, “The worst part about it really wasn’t that they took six or seven cars. It was that they took 200 keys.”

As a result, 200 vehicles had to go on stop sale because the OEM didn’t have enough key fobs to replace the stolen ones — nor did it have enough vehicles to replace the unsellable inventory.

To prevent similar scenarios from occurring, Hendrick’s executive team wanted a key control solution that its dealerships could use in sales and service to protect each dealership’s inventory as well as customer vehicles being serviced.

The problem was, the group’s dealerships stored keys in a variety of places, including in boxes, vehicle-mounted lockboxes, offices, and other locations throughout the dealership. That made it difficult to audit key control practices across multiple dealerships.

“We’d have to call a hundred dealerships and pull a hundred different reports,” said Taylor.

The Hendrick team didn’t have to look far for a solution. “We had multiple versions of KeyTrak,” said CEO Ed Brown. “Here we had a great solution that wasn’t being implemented consistently across the company.”

To learn more about how Hendrick Automotive Group worked with KeyTrak to create an enterprise solution to solve its key management and reporting challenges, read the full case study.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

How Secure Are Your Patrol Cars With Shared Keys?

Patrol cars
Without asking your department fleet manager (or checking your records, if you are the fleet manager), do you know how many vehicles in your patrol fleet share the same key? Can officers access and drive multiple vehicles with a single key?

Maybe your cars came with matching keys from the manufacturer or the upfitter. Maybe your department likes having shared keys because it makes it easier for officers to take a car and go when they need one. But is that convenience worth the security risk represented by shared keys?

Maintaining a patrol fleet with keys that match multiple vehicles (or even all of your vehicles) can turn into a far bigger nightmare than your officers being delayed by a few seconds to check out a key. Let’s take a look at some risks you should be aware of when it comes to shared keys.

Ease of Access

The ease of switching from car to car might be one of the biggest benefits of sharing patrol car keys across models. If officers are going out on patrol or need to change cars quickly — especially if they just dealt with a detainee’s mess at 3 a.m. — shared keys make it easy to get going quickly without dealing with a key management officer or a key/vehicle check-out procedure.

However, that ease of access for your officers is also ease of access for anybody who finds a key. If one of those keys lands in the wrong hands, the holder would have access to any number of your cars or even patrol cars in other jurisdictions. The vehicles could be taken and misused, or items inside the cars such as radios, weapons, or computers could also be stolen.

If multiple officers have matching keys with minimal oversight, your department also lacks accountability to manage how the officers are using those keys or if they’re ever returned when they’re no longer needed. Consider the question we started with: Do you know how many shared keys are floating around your department? Do you know where they are?

Rekeying Cars and Replacing Keys

Recall that even one missing key that gives access to multiple vehicles could be a major security risk for your fleet and other department assets. Once you’re aware that a key is missing, what’s going to be your response? Will you simply hope that the key turns up or that it will never be misused by whoever finds it?

You’re more likely to spend a lot of time and money on rekeying portions of your fleet to protect it from theft and misuse. One police department spent $140,000 on rekeying its entire fleet because it thought two sets of keys were unaccounted for — even though the keys were ultimately found. Also consider that you’ll have to replace the keys themselves, and modern key fobs carry a hefty price tag.

So what can be done to protect your department’s fleet?

Use Unique Keys and Fobs for Individual Vehicles

Sure, rekeying your entire fleet to unique keys for each vehicle is going to be a big expense, but it’s the best method for avoiding escalating costs as shared keys go missing over time. For some departments, replacing a single vehicle could represent a large portion of the total budget, and leaving vehicles at risk with shared keys shouldn’t even be an option.

In addition, would you rather scramble to get your fleet rekeyed after a missing key incident, or be able to plan it and work it into your budget over time? Protect your fleet with unique and properly managed keys.

Take Advantage of Key Management Systems

So you've rekeyed your fleet and now you have several unique patrol vehicle keys that need to be managed. It might seem like a headache on the surface, particularly for your key management officer. Somebody has to make sure keys are where they’re supposed to be and that logs are being properly maintained. However, key management doesn’t have to be a nightmare — even for a large fleet.

Consider using an electronic key control system that secures keys in a central location and gives officers a quick and easy way to check out keys without a management officer present. Such a system should track exactly who took keys and when, give administrative staff a verifiable audit trail, and hold officers accountable.

Your patrol vehicles play a critical role in your department operations. Whether you share keys across vehicles or not, it’s important for you to take steps to protect against the loss, theft, or misuse of keys. What have you done to make sure misplaced fleet keys don’t crash your department budget?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Customer Tip: Don’t Forget About Spare Keys

Keys on ringAre there any keys around your facility that you’re not accounting for? You can have all your primary keys securely stored inside your KeyTrak system, but if you have copies of keys floating around your business, you haven’t fully mitigated your key control risk.

Some examples of keys you might not have in your KeyTrak system include:

  • Building keys used for temporary access or in case the primary key is lost
  • Duplicate keys for dealership inventory 
  • Valet keys for fleet vehicles
  • Extra desk drawer or filing cabinet keys

To protect all your keys, follow the steps below:

  • Run a report of all the keys your key control system currently manages.
  • Make a list of which keys have spares and how many. If you’re not sure if spares exist, add those keys to the list anyway and look into whether copies exist.
  • Determine the location of all duplicate keys and add them to your KeyTrak system. Attach each spare key to a separate tag from the primary key.

If your system doesn’t have enough space to accommodate the additional keys, contact our corporate sales team to add additional drawers or key panels.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

What Your Dealership Needs to Know About Modern Vehicle Theft

Vehicle technology has grown leaps and bounds over the past decade. People can make phone calls hands-free, map out trips, effortlessly maneuver into any parking spot, and avoid blind spot collisions — all with the help of their vehicles.

But despite the increasing sophistication of in-vehicle technology — some even say because of it — vehicle thefts have been on the rise since 2014.

Thieves are becoming savvy in their techniques, exploiting vehicle technology vulnerabilities, careless driver mistakes, and dealership process deficiencies. Not only do these thefts cost billions of dollars a year, they waste resources as police spend time and taxpayer dollars investigating incidents and tracking down stolen vehicles.

Doing your part to reduce theft means familiarizing yourself with thieves’ tactics, protecting your dealership’s inventory, and educating your customers on how to protect their property.

Common Vehicle Theft Tactics  

Just as technology is constantly evolving, so too are thieves’ methods. Deterring car thieves begins with familiarizing yourself with modern vehicle theft techniques.

Key Theft
Victims: Dealerships, private owners

Whereas thieves used to need to hotwire a vehicle to steal it, today it’s often as simple as using the key. Getting their hands on a key isn’t always difficult, thanks to people leaving keys in unlocked cars and dealerships storing keys in vehicle-mounted lockboxes.

Key Swapping
Victims: Dealerships

In what’s called the key-swap scam, potential vehicle buyers will visit a dealership asking to test drive a vehicle. After the salesperson hands over the keys, the supposed buyer covertly pockets them and returns a counterfeit pair to the salesperson. The thief later returns to steal the vehicle using the stolen key.

Relay Theft
Victims: Dealerships, private owners

Keyless entry technology makes it easy for thieves to steal vehicles via relay theft, using cheap relay devices they can easily purchase online.

In this two-person job, one thief stands near the vehicle holding one relay device, with the other thief holding another relay device near where the key fob is kept. The signal from the vehicle’s locking system is transmitted through the devices to the fob, which then returns a response through the transmitters back to the vehicle, tricking the vehicle into thinking the fob is nearby.

One of the crooks will then simply climb into the car and drive off. The whole process takes less than a minute, as shown in a video captured by police in the UK.

Identity Fraud
Victims: Dealerships

Some criminals will use the identities of people with good credit to finance vehicles with zero down. Telltale signs of a fraudulent purchase include:

  • One or two people being dropped off at the dealership
  • Knowing the exact car they want to buy
  • Being out of state
  • Rushing the deal
  • Using their phone frequently to communicate with someone throughout the transaction 
  • Wanting to drive the vehicle off the lot the same day

Thieves using this scheme often visit multiple dealerships, using a different identity at each one.

VIN Switching
Victims: Dealerships, private owners

Also called vehicle identification number (VIN) cloning, VIN switching scams involve doctoring a vehicle’s original VIN to conceal the fact that it’s stolen.

This is no amateur scam. In Edmonton, Canada, police busted a VIN cloning operation in which thieves would steal vehicles, change the VINs, and register them as active vehicles — all in an average of four days. The thieves weren’t picky about how they acquired the vehicles, using stolen key fobs to lift half of the vehicles from private owners and half from dealerships.

While the list above describes the methods you’ll hear most about in the news, it’s by no means comprehensive. Stay alert for new methods as they crop up.

Preventing Crime on Your Lot

Once you’re familiar with how thieves operate, be proactive about protecting your business and your inventory by following a few critical guidelines.

Don’t Neglect Basic Security

Deterring theft begins with basic security measures, such as lighting, fencing and gates, surveillance systems, guards, and alarm systems. While these steps alone won’t thwart professional thieves, they’ll make their jobs more difficult.

Secure Your Keys

Since using the keys is one of the easiest ways for thieves to steal a vehicle, store keys in a locked room, preferably away from outside windows and doors to deter relay theft. For added security, keep keys inside an electronic key control system with locking steel drawers and the capability for text alerts and audible alarms in the event of a potential security breach.

Using a system that requires you to attach keys to a tag with a metal ring will also make it harder for thieves to swap the original key for a counterfeit during a test drive.

Heed Warning Signs 

Look out for potential red flags in a sales transaction. If someone is acting nervous or something doesn’t seem right, go with your gut and take the time to double check the buyer’s information. When dealing with used vehicles, always examine the VIN for signs of tampering and verify that the seller’s name and the VIN are consistent across all vehicle documents.

Collaborate With Third Parties 

Seek guidance from third parties such as your security technology partners, local law enforcement, and insurance company. You’ll be able to stay up to date on the latest theft tactics and get tips for protecting your business.

Thieves are smart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outsmart them. By staying vigilant and taking precautions, you can make your dealership a less attractive target.

Educating Customers 

Educating your customers on how to protect their vehicles builds trust and shows that you’re willing to serve them even after they drive their vehicle off the lot. In addition, letting them know that you’ve implemented safeguards within your own dealership to protect vehicles in sales and service makes them more likely to feel comfortable bringing their vehicle to your service drive.

Sharing your knowledge and expertise about preventing theft could be as simple as handing the customer a flyer with helpful tips along with their paperwork when they purchase a vehicle or sending an email with a link to a video.

Here are some steps vehicle owners can take to protect their property:

  • Park your vehicle inside a garage when possible. 
  • Always lock your vehicle and never leave keys inside.
  • Avoid leaving keys outside your home (e.g., under a doormat) or just inside the entryway.
  • Store key fobs inside a Faraday pouch (a bag designed to block various types of signals, preventing hacking).
  • Use locks on your steering wheel and/or wheels. 
  • Don’t leave personal items or valuables inside the vehicle. If it’s unavoidable, lock the items in the trunk. 
  • Don’t keep documents with private information inside your vehicle. 

Taking this extra step to inform your customers doesn’t require a lot of expense or effort, but it’ll pay dividends in customer loyalty.

Vehicle thefts might be increasing, but that doesn’t mean your dealership or your customers are helpless to stop them. Don’t be a part of the trend.