I’ve been reporting on V-SEPT (www.v-sept.com) for about five years now. For those of you who don’t know, the company offers an Internet-based CRM (customer relationship management) system built specifically for powersports dealers. Click here for my latest profile on the system, written for our July 2009 issue.
More than one dealer has told me that they have a high regard for V-SEPT, and several current Top 100 dealers have noted it in their contest applications, including Andy’s Cycle Sales of Hazard in Bonnyman, Ky.; Dothan Powersports in Dothan, Ala.; Family PowerSports in Lubbock, Texas; Gieson Motorsports in Rock Falls, Ill.; and Skagit Powersports in Burlington, Wash.
Heartland Honda in Springdale, Ark., is another Top 100 dealer that uses V-SEPT. In an article I wrote for our website last December, store manager Greg Donahoe shared his opinions on several marketing-related vendors. Below is the most relevant portion of the article relating to V-SEPT:
“We’ve got a got a door counter. We’ve got a paper log. We’ve got an electronic log,” Donahoe says. “I use Victory Solutions for our electronic log. I like them. In fact, I was with them four years; then I switched over to V-SEPT because I thought it had a better product.”
But Donahoe claims the V-SEPT marketing system was good on paper only. “It’s a nightmare,” he complains. “The problem with it is they have so many bells and whistles in it that you won’t ever get utilization. It’s hard enough to get a salesperson to log someone and get all the information, let alone use all that. So we dropped them and went back to Victory Solutions.”
Donahoe was able to negotiate with V-SEPT to keep only its loyalty program, which he loves. More on that later.
Donahoe goes on to say that he prefers Victory Solutions’ call center to the one he used while with V-SEPT. As I mentioned in the July 2009 article, V-SEPT dealers who don’t already have an in-house call center or use a third-party one can request a quote from Alliance or Applied Concepts, both of which have integrated with V-SEPT so that data can be sent to them automatically.
As promised, Donahoe also later explains why he loves V-SEPT’s loyalty rewards program. Overall, though, the article was not exactly a V-SEPT testimonial.
A few weeks after the article appeared online, Jim Vaughn, the president and CEO of V-SEPT, sent to me this e-mail:
I would like the opportunity to comment on this article.
Greg was in the process of switching over from Lightspeed UNIX to Lightspeed NXT, which caused a number of problems with the automated integration between V-SEPT and Lightspeed. Over the 2-3 month time frame of the switchover, the automatic letter and e-mail generation was not working properly, and Greg got frustrated. He never did get the full use of our marketing tools (which are completely automated for Major Unit Sales, P&A and Service now). He admitted he should not have launched V-SEPT and done the switchover from Lightspeed UNIX to Lightspeed NXT at the same time. Any dealer that made a switch in their DMS system knows this is a big undertaking, and no other changes should be scheduled at the same time. His move back to Victory and FUSS was a knee-jerk reaction to a series of complex issues, not giving V-SEPT CRM a chance to work in a stable environment.
We have hundreds of dealers across the country that use our marketing tools daily with just a click of the mouse.
While interviewing Donahoe, I failed to bring up V-SEPT’s integration with ADP Lightspeed. I certainly knew about it, and I knew that Donahoe was a Lightspeed user. So I should have asked him something like “But doesn’t V-SEPT’s ability to communicate with your dealer management system count for quite a lot?”
That no doubt would have led to a discussion about the UNIX/NXT transition and the resultant problems. I would have asked more questions and gotten more answers, and V-SEPT would have received a fairer shake in the article.
Alas, all I can do now is insert into the original story a link to this blog posting. I’m glad that Vaughn took the time to inform me.
Here’s another extract, this time from the July 2009 V-SEPT article regarding what Colby Richardson, marketing manager for Family Powersports, had to say about the V-SEPT/Lightspeed integration:
Richardson of Family Powersports says the great thing about the LightspeedNXT integration is that it allows the store to collect customer information from P&A receipts and service repair orders. Service customers automatically receive a survey asking them to rate the department on a scale of 1 to 10. (In addition, the V-Service module allows service writers and managers to schedule service appointments for customers. A reminder text message or e-mail is sent to them.)
I don’t mean to discount too heavily Donahoe’s opinion. When I spoke with him, I’d already heard that other dealers also felt that V-SEPT had too many bells and whistles (even the same expression was used). But I was told this by Harley-Davidson employees associated with the company’s in-house CRM system, Connect. I was interviewing them for their own article.
Again, I know the competition is a highly biased source. I mention this “corroboration” only as the reason why I didn’t perceive Donahoe’s opinion as coming from left field.
Usually I report other people’s opinions on vendors and products, especially those I’ve never used personally, like dealership software. But I have witnessed V-SEPT demos and have learned quite a bit about it. And as I said, most of the dealer comments I’ve heard have been positive. So perhaps most of those “bells and whistles” are things dealers should be using anyway. Even if a dealer thought otherwise, I believe V-SEPT has a modular pricing structure.
Incidentally, Vaughn expressed his own opinion about Connect in the July 2009 V-SEPT profile, saying, “In terms of technology, features and functionality, Harley-Davidson’s Connect product is about three years behind us.”
Finally, a week or two after I posted the Connect article, a rep from the Traffic Log Pro CRM system contacted me asking why I didn’t I include his system in that article. I explained that it was a Connect “profile.” Now I will soon happily begin work on a similar story on Traffic Log Pro. (Starting to see how this all works?)
One last-minute addition: Interestingly, as I was working on this blog posting, word came that V-SEPT, ADP Lightspeed and website provider 50 below have just started a marketing campaign to inform dealers of the integration among their systems. (Click here for that article.)
For me, the most interesting part of this story is that LightspeedNXT can now upload information to a 50 Below website. I assume this means dealers will be able to upload stocking information automatically. Customers will be given more accurate shipping dates. I believe this is the industry’s first two-way integration between DMS and website. Downloading orders, of course, is nothing new or exclusive.
I learned this last tidbit not from the press release, but from the website the companies have set up for the campaign: www.dealersolutionsalliance.com