When Tom Waitzman was 14 years old, his older brother came home with a Mustang convertible outfitted with a radio, sub woofers and an amplifier. It was love at first sight.
“I literally knew at that point that that’s what I would do the rest of my life,” Waitzman said.
He’s followed through. Waitzman is now president and CEO of Chicago-based restyling shop, DPS Automotive Group. His Auto Accessory Configurator has also led him to partnering with companies like Trim Illusion to make selling and installing aftermarket accessories easier than ever.
Back in 2016, Waitzman began building a visualizer tool to help customers see what accessories would look like and cost once installed on their vehicle. The Auto Accessory Configurator (AAC) was born.
“There was AddOnAuto out there and one of my dealerships that used it was complaining about the accuracy of it, and the product descriptions and images,” he said. “They’re the ones who pushed me to make it. Initially, I was just making it for them.”
The Auto Accessory Configurator is a sales and software solution that allows shops to increase their accessories sales, promotes long-term service relationships and provides dealership-wide reporting and accountability, according to Waitzman.
“Sales people have so much on their minds already. They have to understand trade-in values and prices and accessories are the last things on their mind. Even though there’s an opportunity to make more money, it’s back of mind,” Waitzman said. “We hear so often from clients, ‘I didn’t know you could do that.’ If you never train your sales people to know and understand this stuff, you can’t get it in front of the retail customer. Accessory sales won’t work unless we get it in front of the consumer like this so they can see how it fits the car, what it costs and add it to their cart so it can be fulfilled.”
Waitzman describes the Auto Accessory Configurator as a presentation tool to make selling, purchasing and installing easy on everyone. All the sales associate needs to do is hand the customer an iPad or other viewing device while they wait for finance.
“Our tool has a presentation module that is very unique to us. At the end of a car sale, usually the sales person would say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a few minutes, let me show you some accessories.’ That’s a difficult transition. The customer is spent. They’ve been negotiating and thinking about finances,” Waitzman explained. “We built a slideshow custom for every dealership. Before going into the configurator there’s a slide that says, ‘Thanks for purchasing from us.’ It shows the dealership hours and website, a customer service slide, a warranty slide and at the end they press a button to go into the configurator. It was designed as a bridge and to bring the customer’s guard down. They’re done with the hard part and now it’s the easy part, to talk about accessories.”
The Auto Accessory Configurator replaces the old process where customers requested items like remote start and the sales staff had to scramble around to find a brochure, then figure out the cost and how and who would install it.
The configurator also allows customers to see what various accessories will look like once they’re installed on their vehicle. As well as what options are available and the price for the accessory, including installation.
Since the configurator has OEM, aftermarket shop and dealership customers, administrators can go into the system and choose which product categories are assigned to which department.
“For example, leather interiors go to Vendor A. Factory truck work goes to the service department. It will send real time orders to vendors with only their specific parts assigned to them. Those vendors are then able to accept it. Once they click accept it goes back to the sales person and administrator showing the order has been accepted and a time is set,” Waitzman said.
Colby McLaughlin, president and COO of Trim Illusion, said before and after photos are a huge selling benefit to what his company does. The Auto Accessory Configurator, he said, allows customers to make a quick decision and capture more point of sale opportunities.
Trim Illusion had utilized some different medias to showcase the before and after photos, but it wasn’t until the configurator came along that they were able to provide a cleaner and more comprehensive image to the customer.
“You are now able to pick your make and model and can get trim level specific, whether that be XLT, SLT, or whatever,” McLaughlin said. “The partnership came naturally. There are some other visualizers out there, but what I like about Auto Accessory Configurator is it’s a restyler’s company. Many other visualizers are software companies. Tom and his team were able to tackle this extremely quick. They’ve been easy and accommodating to work with. They were very attentive. It wasn’t a nine to five thing for him. He is passionate about it.”
McLaughlin said that he’s gotten great feedback from customers so far regarding the configurator. A bonus feature is the intelligent background that lets shops know how much time is spent on a page, allowing them to audit their own processes and sales people.
“Accessories are money for the dealers and a lot of them don’t sell them well,” McLaughlin said. “We want to provide the opportunity because we know after 90 days the customer going to go down the road or to Amazon. This is the way for us to make sure dealerships are capturing that gross.”
Waitzman said there is always room for improvement, and he wants to continue to grow the software to help both dealerships and shop expediters fulfill their orders and make sure once the accessory is fulfilled the customer is happy.
“If there’s one thing I can say about all this, it’s that nothing we’ve done has been my idea,” he said. “It’s all the sales staff, vendors and expediters saying this. I just keep my ears open and if someone says something, we do it.”