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Business Brisk at Dealers’ Convention; Computers Hottest

February 10, 1988

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Pressure on American auto dealers to improve the service they give their customers made the 71st National Automobile Dealers Association convention a profitable one for exhibitors.

Computers were among the hottest - and most expensive - items on display during the just-completed, four-day convention, which drew about 25,000 dealers from across the nation.

″Our normal policy is not to sell on the show floor, but we almost couldn’t help it,″ said Robin Lissak, whose company developed a voice technology software system that runs on AT&T computer hardware and was introduced at the show.

The Auto Dealer Automated Messaging system, or ADAM, was developed by AT&T and Computer Integration Associates, Inc., a small Lakewood, N.J., company.

The system lets a computer answer as many as 200 incoming calls at a time, give the caller a choice of numbers to push to route the calls to their desired destinations.

″This relieves playing telephone-tag with your customers,″ said Lissak, a CIA vice president.

John Geise, CIA’s sales manager, said voice technology systems, or the marriage of computer and communications technology, was a nearly $450 million industry in 1987 and is expected to grow to $1 billion a year by 1990.

The ADAM system starts at $20,000 for a setup that will answer four calls at a time and $30,000 for eight calls an hour.

Patrick White, a salesman for Hercules Car Wash International, said his company came to sell on the floor and did. By Monday night, he estimated he and his co-workers had sold nearly 80 wash, wax and seal booths at $28,000 each.

″Dealers today are more quality conscious. They’ve got to watch their CSI,″ White said. Automakers use a dealer’s Customer Satisfaction Index, a rating based on surveys of customers, to determine eligibility for new franchises, premium cars and other business essentials.

One way to achieve customer satisfaction is to mail out gifts and questionnaires to new buyers, said Fred Gansky, president of Customer Relations Service.

At a charge of $5.50 to $13 a customer, CRS designs and ships gifts such as candies in jars or canisters bearing a dealership’s insignia. Gansky said he added more than 20 new accounts during the convention.

Another way is to empty the showroom of cars and fill it with animated Christmas displays for two weeks a year, said Howard Math, a salesman for Tri- State Industries Ltd. of Bronx, N.Y.

Math’s wares, such as huge lighted Christmas trees and Santas driving sleighs with leaping reindeer, range from $300 to $3,000. Math said he sells exclusively to dealerships.