Finding success in your dealership during these unprecedented times can be challenging. But shifting the focus of your operation to the fixed ops department could be a viable source of revenue.

Join Mike Mallery, a Product Knowledge Expert with Auto/Mate by DealerSocket, as he discusses some great ways to fill up your service lane again. In his 15 years of automotive experience, Mike has helped countless dealerships evaluate and optimize their processes to drive bottom line results.

Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m. EST, Mike will present a free hour-long webinar discussing these key points:

  • Generate the right reports and choosing the proper channels to reach out to the right service customers
  • Create delightful service lane experiences that encourage your customers to return for regular maintenance
  • Leave no stone unturned by examining often overlooked areas of profit for fixed ops departments

Register Now!

October 28, 2020 @ 2PM EST

Register Now

Graham brings 27 years of automotive experience to DealerSocket as executive vice president and general manager of Auto/Mate

DALLAS, September 1, 2020 — DealerSocket, Inc., a leading software provider to the automotive industry, today announced the appointment of Tony T. Graham as executive vice president and general manager of its Auto/Mate business unit. Graham brings a proven track record of success, experience, and leadership working with automotive dealerships to his new role.

Graham served in various leadership roles during his 26 years with CDK Global and ADP Dealer Services, including vice president of sales, multiple regional general manager roles, and chief customer experience officer.

“I am thrilled to welcome Tony to DealerSocket and our executive team,” said DealerSocket CEO and President Sejal Pietrzak. “Tony has a deep understanding of and experience in the automotive retail industry, especially the DMS space, and he shares our commitment to our dealers and team members. Tony will be a tremendous leader of our Auto/Mate business unit.”

Credited with successfully launching CDK’s Minority Dealer Business in 1999 and running the program until last year, Graham also served as executive sponsor of the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. In 2019, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD).

“I’ve known Tony for well over 20 years. He has a tremendous amount of integrity and empathy for his dealership customers and just has a real passion for whatever he’s doing,” said Ernest Hodge, CEO and President of Atlanta-based March/Hodge Automotive Group. “I have been thoroughly impressed with him throughout his entire career. He’s just outstanding.”

Graham now joins DealerSocket as executive vice president and general manager of Auto/Mate, which DealerSocket acquired in February 2020 to offer dealers a comprehensive new choice for an all-in-one, intelligent software platform for their dealerships.

“The two things I’m most proud of are the number of employees I helped develop and grow as their mentor, and that I have been dedicated to supporting automotive dealerships from the smallest to the largest operations. My focus has always been on customer relationships and service, and that matches DealerSocket’s and Auto/Mate’s commitment to customer service for dealers,” Graham said. “These are important times in the industry, and the combination of DealerSocket with Auto/Mate offers dealers a full platform solution with deep focus on customer support and innovative software. I’m excited to get started with DealerSocket.”

A new study reveals a potential starting point for dealers who are just now dipping their toes in the digital waters.

By Gregory Arroyo

I recall a conversation I had with an industry attorney during the early days of digital retailing. Technology vendors believed the Digital Age had arrived, while dealers were saying, “Not so fast.” My question to my attorney friend was, “What’s the holdup.”

He said the problem is dealers aren’t treating digital retailing as an experience — that customers should be rewarded for taking that path to purchase. He suggested that dealerships with separate facilities for fleet sales should consider directing digital buyers there vs. the showroom.

He then relayed his recent experience purchasing his second vehicle from the same dealership. He called the store, explained that he was a willing buyer who simply wanted to update to a newer model, and negotiated the deal over the phone. Expecting the red-carpet treatment for essentially being a rollover, he felt disappointed when he discovered he’d have to wait like the other customers in front of him.

That conversation came to mind when I came across Urban Science’s “Around the Bend: How COVID-19 Impacts the Next Normal for Dealers,” a report based on an online poll of 1,506 adult consumers. It serves as an update to the firm’s August 2019 report, which served as a reality check for digital retailing.

The 2019 study, which included responses from 2,001 consumers, concluded that car buyers weren’t ready to ditch the dealership experience because they still want to kick the tires and take a test-drive. Respondents also said they still needed someone at the dealership to guide them through the process.

I wrote about why I think that represents an opportunity for digital retailing in an April 2020 blog entry, “Digital Retailing’s True Test.” However, I’d like to share an even greater opportunity revealed in this year’s updated study.

See, while the report did show that a majority of consumers still believe buying a car is too big of an investment not to see (81%) or test-drive (79%), it did show that 67% would be more open to buying online if it was a brand or dealership with which they were already familiar.

Again, my convo with my attorney friend came to mind, but so did a discussion I had with a DealerSocket Strategic Growth Manager. He said the main reason some dealers fail to realize the full potential of data mining is because they don’t have a dedicated process. Well, based on that stat from Urban Science, maybe a digital retailing represents a missing link.

Take those data-mining campaigns targeting customers approaching the end of their lease or who qualify for smart payment offers. The emails could contain links to a landing page that explains your offer and a link to a streamlined buying process powered by your digital retail tool.

Back in April, another DealerSocket Strategic Growth Manager told me about a Pennsylvania-based dealer group that was rewarded for having a service-drive sales process when the pandemic forced local officials to limit dealers there to appointment-only sales that concluded with service-drive deliveries.

Before the pandemic, the process delivered 100 units a month behind two dedicated salespeople, a sales manager, and an F&I manager, who actually has a dedicated desk (with enough privacy) in the service area. The reason for that is the group wanted that buying experience to feel different and free of pressure.

The group equips the sales team with its inventory management tool’s mobile app (Inventory+) to feed appraisers with scanned VINs and photos of every car that comes into service. The appraisers then prepare a package that includes a vehicle history report, documentation on the vehicle’s going price in the local market, its fair Kelley Blue Book value, a check voucher for an amount over that value, and the salesperson’s business card.

Signage in the service drive lets customers know they can get a free vehicle evaluation by texting a specific number or talking to their service advisor. All customers get an appraisal, but the hand-raisers represent high-value targets the sales team engages.

However, even customers who don’t bite get the appraisal package. They also get enrolled into a CRM-powered campaign that includes email and a phone call — the latter scheduled for the day after the customer’s service visit to ensure satisfaction and to revisit the offer sheet.

I can see three potential opportunities in that process for digital retailing to have an impact. Maybe it’s a kiosk in the service area loaded with a digital retail tool like DealerSocket’s PrecisePrice; perhaps it’s tablets. Whatever the case, digital retail should be a part of those follow-up efforts, whether it’s a link in an email or guiding customers through the process over the phone and emailing a link to their PrecisePrice deal.

And just maybe that buyer’s journey you create in the service drive serves as the entrance for sales opportunities your data-mining efforts generate.

While 93% of respondents to the Urban Science study expressed some concern with an entirely online purchase process, more than two-thirds said they were comfortable shopping online, signing paperwork digitally, and negotiating price and terms via email, chat, or phone.

Recently, the individual leading the digital drive for one of the largest privately-owned dealer groups in the United States addressed DealerSocket employees over a Zoom call. He talked about COVID-19’s impact, inventory shortages, the group’s efforts to build that clicks-to-bricks experience, and how consumers still need to be educated on what digital retailing is. What caught my attention was his response to whether he believed consumers still want the showroom experience.

“Absolutely … Only a small group of individuals want the Carvana model, and we’re going to be there,” he said. “But most customers want to step foot in a brick-and-mortar shop. If they want to get their payment, we’ll do that and meet them in the showroom.

“So, we believe a critical point in that process is that showroom experience,” he added. “You shouldn’t lose a customer who completed things online because you told them it would take 45 minutes, but it takes us three hours.”

Forced shutdowns due to COVID-19 negatively impacted many dealerships, but for Auffenberg Chevrolet Buick GMC in Farmington, Mo., the pandemic had little impact. In the second quarter of 2020, the dealership posted significant year-over-year increases in unit sales and profit per retail unit — gains General Manager Barry Pannett attributes to a newly streamlined sales process and the solutions provided by DealerSocket CRM and Auto/Mate DMS.


Heading into the second quarter, the general manager thought sales would be terrible. Fortunately, businesses in Missouri were only required to shut down for a short time. "If anything, we were positively affected by COVID," says Pannett, who oversees five salespeople who sell an average of 50-70 vehicles per month.

While traffic remained steady, Auffenberg struggled to obtain enough used inventory to satisfy customer demand. To offset this challenge, Pannett focused on improving the sales process for new vehicles. "I've always preferred new and prided myself on the profitability factor of new," he says. "I believe you can make money on new cars, but you have to ask for the money."

"I like how DealerSocket and Auto/Mate talk, and when we make a deal, DealerSocket pushes it into Auto/Mate in a nice, streamlined process. Things like that make our lives easier."

Barry Pannett, General Manager

Auffenberg Chevrolet Buick GMC


To help streamline the sales process, Pannett turned to DealerSocket's CRM, which his team has been using for a little over a year. Pannett says the group considered three CRM providers before making the switch to DealerSocket in April 2019 — a decision in which every general manager at each location had a voice. As a GM who wears a lot of hats, Pannett says the CRM's ease-of-use is what won him over. DealerSocket's acquisition of Auto/Mate less than a year later increased the value of that decision even more.

"I think the acquisition is a positive change," Pannett says. "I like how DealerSocket and Auto/Mate talk, and when we make a deal, DealerSocket pushes it into Auto/Mate in a nice, streamlined process. Things like that make our lives easier."

"I really like the Desking tool because it allows me to pencil deals the way I've handwritten them for 20 years, but it looks much more professional."

Barry Pannett, General Manager

Auffenberg Chevrolet Buick GMC

To help his team maximize profitability on every deal, Pannett utilized several tools within the CRM:

  • Mobile CRM: The CRM's mobile sales app allows Pannett's sales team to respond to leads from anywhere, anytime. He insists on responding to every lead almost instantly, regardless of when that lead lands in the CRM. "I get all of the leads so I can stop the clock with GM. Then I re-assign those leads," he says. "We don't take days off here. If a customer submits a lead on a Sunday, someone has to respond. So, the mobile app is nice because everyone can use the tool remotely."
  • Email Campaigns: Pannett has tapped into DealerSocket CRM’s automation tools to deliver timely, relevant marketing and lead follow-up activities. He's also customized his campaigns for every vehicle model and all types of general inquiries. For leads, he schedules emails to go out one, three, and five days after initial contact. "The campaigns are personalized, and they really help to get the customers re-engaged. Probably 75% of people actually respond."
  • Home Dashboard: Pannett's favorite tool in DealerSocket's CRM is the customizable dashboard, which he configured to provide quick snapshots of key metrics, appointments, leads, and sales — all on a single homepage. "Since I'm really focused on lead response time, I like to track that," he says. "Today, my lead response time is one minute, but my month-to-date average is 12 minutes, 28 seconds. That's good, but I think it can be better, so that's something to work on." Pannett also relies on the home dashboard to monitor store visits, demos, phone "ups," and completed tasks.
  • Desking: One of Pannett's key strategies to keep profitability high is to work every deal from full sticker price. To desk deals, he relies on DealerSocket’s new Desking tool — a highly customizable feature within the CRM that DealerSocket introduced in 2020. "I really like the Desking tool because it allows me to pencil deals the way I've handwritten them for 20 years, but it looks much more professional," he says. "If I handwrite something, it's coming from me. If it's typed on a worksheet, it is what it is; there's something psychological about it. It's amazing how many customers look at the worksheet and don't even ask for a discount."
  • Reporting: To track his progress against goals, Pannett relies on Auto/Mate's DMS for reporting functions. "I like to print all the recaps through Auto/Mate, so when a deal comes to my desk, I log in all the information and print it off on a nice little deal recap form."

Pannett also likes the way Auto/Mate provides several different ways to look up information in its Sales & Finance module. "I find it easier to look things up in Auto/Mate than in other sources," he says. For example, reports such as how many deals were sold in the second quarter of last year and average grosses. Pannett also uses reports to help his sales team strategize. "When previous customers come in, it's easy to pull up that customer's name and see how we worked the deal the last time. This capability makes it easy to game plan on how to best work the new deal."

"When previous customers come in, it's easy to pull up that customer's name and see how we worked the deal the last time. This capability makes it easy to game plan on how to best work the new deal."

Barry Pannett, General Manager

Auffenberg Chevrolet Buick GMC


In the second quarter of 2020, Auffenberg Chevrolet Buick GMC posted the following:

Despite a temporary shutdown due to COVID-19, Pannett's focus on streamlining his store's sales process delivered significant increases in unit sales and total profits. He attributes his success to time-tested sales techniques and having the right tools and support.

"The DMS is great, and the CRM is great, but it all comes down to the basics," he says. "Garbage in, garbage out, and if you're not using the tools that are in front of you to help produce results, shame on you. At the end of the day, it comes down to my sales manager and me making sure we inspect what we expect."

With DealerSocket's acquisition of Auto/Mate, Pannett looks forward to the new features and improved integrations that will come as a result. "Between the sales floor, the customers, to finance and the actual delivery, I would say that putting these two systems together definitely brings it all together. It's already created a smoother, more professional experience for everyone."

"Between the sales floor, the customers, to finance and the actual delivery, I would say that putting these two systems together definitely brings it all together. It's already created a smoother, more professional experience for everyone."

Barry Pannett, General Manager

Auffenberg Chevrolet Buick GMC

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We continue to think about all of you, our customers and partners, during this difficult time. This pandemic has caused deep challenges across our industry and for all of us, and I hope you know that DealerSocket continues to be here for our dealers. Our goal has been to strike the right balance between being prepared for our dealers and the market when our industry recovers and offering discounts to help our dealers as much as possible during this difficult time. 

We will get through this, and we will get through this together. We are committed to fighting through this with you. We are beginning to see the first signs of positive trends as we climb out of the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has us all hopeful for the future.

In April, we heavily discounted our software for our dealers. In addition to our discounts in April, we have decided to offer the following DealerSocket billing reductions for May for all of our dealers:

We have already sent out our May invoices, so next week you will receive a credit memo for the above discounts. With that said, similar to our discount package last month, there are some basic qualifying terms listed below.

In addition to these discounts in April and May, DealerSocket continues to offer our customers several promotions and free months of certain software products to help you navigate this crisis. Our offers include promotions for:

Since we are adding promotions and various resources for dealers often, please view DealerSocket’s latest information by clicking here, and, as always, please feel free to reach out to your Customer Success Manager with any questions or if we can help in any way:

If you are not yet an Auto/Mate DMS customer, I hope you know that we can reduce your DMS bill significantly during these challenging times as well as into the future by switching to Auto/Mate DMS. We have several bundled packages that include our Auto/Mate DMS product combined with other DealerSocket products to support you.

Thank you for partnering with DealerSocket. I hope you know how much we value and appreciate your loyalty, partnership, and your business.

I wish you, your families, and your team members health in these unprecedented times.

Sejal Pietrzak
CEO and President


Details regarding our COVID-19 relief package:

We’re excited to announce that Steve Zadoorian and Dave Druzynski have both taken on new, expanded roles at DealerSocket! In their new positions, Steve and Dave will ensure that DealerSocket and Auto/Mate customers and employees continue to benefit from an emphasis on customer support and company culture.

Steve Zadoorian

Steve Zadoorian has been named Senior VP Operations and Customer Care at DealerSocket. In his new role, Steve will lead the Installations and Customer Support teams for both DealerSocket and Auto/Mate. Under Steve’s leadership, Auto/Mate achieved a customer retention rate above 95 percent and has received multiple consecutive DrivingSales Dealer Satisfaction awards. Steve’s commitment to customer satisfaction has also helped to build Auto/Mate’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) to +59, a score that’s nearly double the software industry average of +31.

“My first goal is to integrate the support service teams so we have a common process; and also make sure we have a well-integrated and cohesive implementation process for new clients,” said Steve. “I look forward to bringing our teams and best practices together and ensuring that our customers remain highly satisfied.

Dave Druzynski has been named Vice President, People and Culture at DealerSocket.

Dave Druzynski

In his new role, Dave will oversee the development of company culture and employee satisfaction. Under Dave’s leadership, Auto/Mate has received ten consecutive “Best Place to Work” awards by the Albany Business Review, and nine consecutive “Top Workplaces” awards by The Times Union.

“Employee happiness has always been a high priority at Auto/Mate and I am thrilled to work with the DealerSocket team who shares that same belief. Rather than just have one company’s culture consume the other, we plan to identify the best aspects of both cultures and merge them together as one team,” said Dave.

Dave and Steve will continue to operate from DealerSocket’s Albany, NY office.