IDS Year in Review – 2012

It has been an exciting year for our business!  We grew both our customer base as well as revenue in 2012.  Through the first half of 2013, our business is up 11% in comparison to last year, primarily due to the additional customers we have added and the propensity of our dealer base to invest in moving to Astra G2 and CRM.   Our focus is on the future which means we are continuing to invest in improving and growing our capabilities in order to meet your ever-changing needs as a dealer stakeholder.

I want to take this opportunity to share with you some highlights over the last 12 months as well as to provide you with some insight as to what’s to come over the next year, specifically on the following topics:

  1. Mobile CRM.
  2. Maturation of Astra G2.
  3. Operational improvements.


CRM goes Mobile.

Late last year we held a focus group of 12 dealerships representing a cross section of the customer base.  We shared with them the proof of concept we had developed up to that point and asked them what items were most important in terms of product mobility.

We went to beta in this year’s April release with a handful of customers on mobile lead management.  This is now a production product as part of our CRM Professional edition.  If you have not seen our CRM product recently I encourage you to do so.  It has a new streamlined contact screen that is very user friendly for a sales rep, providing the salesperson all the information they need either on the main screen, or within a few simple clicks.   In addition to mobile, CRM has integrated lead management, full contact management and automated marketing capabilities.  All these features are tightly integrated to the rest of the IDS Astra G2 system.    You simply can’t do what IDS CRM does if you are using another product or none at all, for managing your customer relationships.

Our product roadmap is to develop both mobile quoting and mobile service in our April 2014 release.   We will continue to move the product beyond the desktop where it makes sense; developing specific applications that are centric to a mobile form factor.  These are typically applications that require less data entry.

Finally, we have been able to utilize the connection pooling technology in the database to disconnect the licensing model on the CRM product from concurrent usage.   If you would like to find out more about our CRM offering and what is available please go see our newly designed IDS website at


Maturation of Astra G2 leads to improved user experience.

Much of the heavy lifting around the transformation of the legacy Astra product to Astra G2 is behind us.  It has been a challenging and sometimes painful process, but we believe well worth the investment and effort by our dedicated team of professionals.  At this point in time, 83% of our customers are on a G2 release.   Over 50% of our customers are on our latest release that became available this April.

With each incremental release, the user experience improves.  The release loading process, once a painful experience in terms of time spent to load software and then having to deal with post release fallout that caused you to report many issues, has improved significantly.  Our average release load times have improved from 4 hours per load to 90 minutes.  More importantly, the amount of bugs reported are down 68% in 2013 versus last year.  If we look back to 2011, bugs reported by our customers are down more than 80%.

This has freed up our development team to focus on making small incremental improvements to the product to make your life easier that include increasing performance, eliminating nagging record locks, and cleaning up small items.    In the last two releases over the last 12 months, the IDS R&D team has added 330 new features and fixed over 500 issues within the software.    We have also added some major modifications over the last 12 months including:

–          KPI drill down to the supporting data

–          Enhanced credit card integration with electronic signature capture

–          Easy-to-use package modification within a deal (if using Menu Selling in FI)

–          Integrated vehicle images from Astra to our Dealership Unlimited website

–          All new Unit Delivery calendar to be used throughout the dealership

–          Email of service reminders, parts sale invoices and work orders/estimates

–          New functionality for mechanics at the technician kiosk

–          Re-design of the main CRM contact and lead screens

–          Automated alerts to salespeople involving unit availability and customer activity

–          Numerous reporting enhancements

Looking ahead, from an R&D perspective, we will be adding a third release and possibly a fourth to our annual release schedule.   We have been doing two major releases, in April and October.  However, we want to be able to incorporate feedback and get quality improvements or new features out to you faster.  With that in mind, we will have a July release this year.  With this approach, the turnaround on adding features will be faster. As long as we don’t sacrifice the progress we have made in quality, it will be something we continue.

Major things we are working on over the next year in terms of product include:

–          User customizable department manager screens

–          Mobile app for physical inventory counts

–          Mobile CRM, Sales and Service

–          G2 Payroll – beta in July

–          Enhanced reporting by MITS (replacing the need for existing Astra reports)


Operational improvements continue.

We conducted a customer satisfaction survey at the end of 2012 using CSI, Inc. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to CSI and giving us your honest and detailed feedback on how we are doing.  We were very happy to get nearly 90% participation from our dealer base.    Although our overall scores were positive, the purpose of the survey was to learn where we can improve.  We were able to identify some overall themes from the critical feedback we received.

  1. Slow response times and inconsistency of answers from support.
  2. Recurring issues or glitches that are unresolved.
  3. Inadequate or antiquated reporting.
  4. Difficult to use or lacking features.

We have multiple initiatives underway in order to improve our service level, all of which are intended to address the above challenges.

Three of the four items are directly correlated to the product.  Over the last 12 months, we have worked hard to identify elements in the product that cause you issues.  Our R&D and Customer Service teams have been working together to identify what we refer to as “High Impact Support Items”. We have added developers to the team and they are dedicated to fixing these items at the root cause level. These improvements will allow you to run your business without having to call to address some of the nagging issues you have had in the past.  Already we are seeing results from this focus on product quality.   Our call volume per customer is down 9% through June, which means on average, you are having 9% less issues than you had this time last year.  Considering we are still early in the process and only 50% of our customers are on the latest release, which have a lot of bug fixes, we are optimistic about these results.

We believe that taking less calls, as a result of building a better product, will allow our customer service team to do a more effective job of managing the calls that you do identify.  We are also adding additional team members to the customer service department in order to increase our capacity.  Finally, we are focused on training our team to provide answers that are more commensurate with your expectation level on a more consistent basis.

We are continuing to identify ways to utilize the enhanced reporting capabilities of MITS to replace the existing Astra reports.    Enhanced reporting also has very easy to use customization features, which give you the power of making changes or additions to the existing reports without having to use our old custom report generator.  This will give more flexibility for the non-technical user to make changes.

We have made considerable progress in our business but we are not there yet.  We will continue to invest in our business in order to meet or exceed your needs and expectations over the long term.  This includes building a high value, high quality product backed up by our courteous and knowledgeable customer service team.   We appreciate the business and value very much the relationship with you and your dealership.

Best Regards,

Sean Raynor

General Manager

Integrated Dealer Systems

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