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Five ways to help your automotive retail business embrace technology change

Having supported a huge number of technology, process and software change projects across our 15-year history we understand the correlation between project success rates and effective change management – and have five things you can do to help ensure successful implementation.
Things are constantly changing in automotive. There are new models, new regulations, new communication tools and new sales channels - to name but a few.

But change is never easy.

Reflecting at an individual level, how easy do you find it to navigate your way around a new mobile phone operating system or a new email interface?

The buttons you’d typically press have moved, your instinctive approach doesn’t necessarily get you to the same place and frustration can build.

There’s often a yearning to stick with or bring back the old version – surely that was much better?

And if it’s difficult for one person to change, the challenge is amplified when the process involves a large number of people, often spread across multiple sites or regions.

Better or worse?

When a leadership team decides to invest in new software or technology, there is often an assumption that teams will completely buy into the change. After all, it’s been identified as a better, more efficient way of doing things so what’s the issue?

However, this assumption is misplaced.

Quite often, the biggest challenge we see in supporting businesses through change is that people want to instinctively hold on to what they know – even if it’s not actually working very well.

That’s why we’ve made change management a fundamental part of our approach.

Without fail, we know that for an automotive business to enjoy a successful transition to new software or technology, they need to put change management and employee communication at the top of the list.

But how does this work in reality?

1. Start with communication– and keep talking

At the outset of the transition, it’s important to start by providing an overview of the project – explaining how it has come about, what the benefits are and what problems it will solve. Staff are more likely to be prepared to embrace change if they know the thinking behind it and have a clear understanding of why what they are doing now won’t work any longer.

But don’t stop there. Projects can take weeks and months to come to fruition so be sure to take every opportunity you can to communicate with teams – in person, on video calls or via company-wide updates for example.

It’s best to avoid thinking that just because you know what’s happening that your people will too. When there is an information void, people will fill it with negatives and fear can start to build.

So stay on the front foot, keep your people informed and keep the fear at bay.

2. Involve your people –at every level and every stage

Before the project starts, take time to identify who the key stakeholders will be – working from the leadership team at head office to regional support and then right down to individual site level.

Bring them together at the start to discuss what is about to happen and create an opportunity for each group to provide their perspectives on what the project needs to achieve. By involving people in the design and setup stage you are giving them ownership of the project and a personal investment in future plans.

If you can, highlight some quick wins that people want to see and work hard to make sure that the project achieves them quickly. This will help build excitement and momentum.

3. Find your project champions

However smoothly you think a project is going to go and however hard you work to ensure buy-in at the start, it is likely that there will be some dissenting voices along the way.

A leadership team can keep explaining why the change is necessary but hearing other team members echoing these messages can be a hugely influential factor in people across the business accepting what they are seeing happening in front of them.

So, try and identify some project champions at all levels and give them a role to play within the process – whether it’s initially testing a system, taking decisions about ongoing design or leading training programmes as the project evolves.

4. Take it steady

Technology and software change projects don’t happen overnight and can often be highly complex. So it’s important to make the process more manageable – breaking the implementation down into phased stages. During each phase there are likely to be a lot of questions so be ready with effective support too.

It might be a good idea to introduce a new solution with just one brand or in one location first. This will give you an opportunity to work through any questions, stumbling blocks or issues with a small group to optimise implementation.

Once that’s done you will find you’ll be able to make changes across your business much quicker – and that the initial group will be ready to support you positively thanks to the investment you have put into getting it right for them at the outset.

5. Listen, learn and refine

You can’t underestimate the power of listening to people when it comes to building trust within your organisation. By giving everyone a voice – that they feel is truly heard – you help foster a sense of belonging and ownership.

So identify ways to gather feedback as you move through the project – via surveys, personal conversations, group reviews and so on.

Whichever mode you choose, it’s important to genuinely listen. Review the comments, measure progress or feedback and keep an open mind about refining your approach along the way. Crucially, be sure to let everyone know what you are doing in response to any concerns that may have been raised.

As you build trust, you build belief, and you increase the likelihood of successful transition.

Trust the automotive change experts

As stated at the outset, change is never easy but effective strategy and engaging behaviours will go a long way to helping people understand, own and enjoy the change.

Crucially, talking to people using language that proves you understand their world and the challenges they face can accelerate their belief in you and your change project.

At KCS, we’ve lived and breathed automotive technology for more than 15 years – with experience at all levels and an understanding of what’s important for manufacturers, retailers and the people working with customers every day.

So, if you’re making a plan for change, we are ready to support you at every stage – from scoping and shaping through to successful implementation.

To find out more about KCS’s consultancy services, contact us today on +44 (0) 1635 905 985 or drop us a line on enquiries@kcslimited.co.uk

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