Fiat Auto UK is in the process of introducing an innovative, integrated sales, service and maintenance system called Fiat Link, which is currently being installed throughout its dealer network. The aim is to introduce the most advanced IT resources to the sales and service field, assisting dealers in boosting sales and customer loyalty.
The pan-European Link project, which represents an investment by the company of some €20 million, was first introduced in Spain in 2002, and was extended last year to Italy and Belgium. By 2005 it will have been taken up by the entire Fiat Auto European dealer network, i.e. 17 countries, some 1800 dealers and 4000 authorised workshops. The system will serve some 18,000 users on the sales side (eSales) and 24,000 on the workshop side (eServices).
Fiat Link, which aims to get close to a seamless integrated operation linking sales, service and maintenance centres, promises to revolutionise operations. Sales outlets have real-time access to product and marketing information, and dealers are able to check stock availability and calculate instant finance options. The theory is that customers will effectively ‘build’ a car to their specifications by researching all the available models, parts, colours, and so on. In the future, it will also be capable of letting dealers show comparisons with other competitive brands.
The way Link works is as follows: in the dealer showroom, a sales executive and a potential customer sit at a computer station. Once the relevant vehicle range has been entered, together with a few personal details, a model search is undertaken from a pre-established, regularly updated list of vehicles of the specific type required. Once selected, the required version and options are defined. Link offers certain innovative features to help the dealer through this process. For example, it shows the customer a technical specification sheet for the vehicle and version chosen, and gives access to articles and editorials on the models that have recently appeared in the press. It can also perform a technical and commercial comparison with other vehicles.
"The more we find out, the more we can ensure that the customer gets exactly the right car," says Massimo Toso, managing director, Fiat Auto UK. "The reaction of those dealers who have already operated Link is very positive, because the system acts both as a sales and training tool for their sales staff."
Once the correct version and appropriate options have been established, the customer can choose accessories, body colour and interior shades and fabrics. With the vehicle thus configured, the sales executive can then determine its availability, on line, within that particular dealership, or within other network dealers, so that an accurate delivery time can be given.
The Fiat Link stock locator function also provides information on specification and financial differences between the selected vehicle (complete with options and accessories) and vehicles available in stock. It also supports the appraisal and valuation of a customer’s part-exchange, and any promotions that may be applicable to the customer’s chosen model.
If the customer is interested in finance, the system can also formulate a finance package. It then goes to the final step: the drawing up of an exact quote with information on payment terms. The system also offers the dealer a chance to select any specific product discounts or promotions. Fiat Link also allows the salesperson to book another meeting with the customer, e.g. for a test drive, or follow-up, in a computerised diary.
"Customer service is our top priority," says Massimo Toso. "We are starting to see some encouraging signs, such as our recent very positive results in the latest RMI and Sewells Dealer Attitude Surveys, but we still have a great deal of work to do. With the roll-out of Link, we shall have another system in place which can only be of great benefit to our customers and dealers."
Fiat Link has already been introduced at over 70 per cent of Fiat Auto’s 160-strong UK dealer network, and plans are in hand to roll it out to the entire network by the end of the year.
Advantages of Fiat Link
The most immediate advantage of Fiat Link lies in revenue growth for dealers by reducing the costs associated with back-office management. For the company itself, returns are primarily linked to the opportunity of offering high quality services to customers and dealers alike.Published 11 September 2004