P&A Magazine had the chance to speak with Brent Allen, president of StoneEagle, to discuss the company’s role in the F&I industry and how they contribute to making the lives of providers and administrators easier. The following interview examines StoneEagle and all of the technology programs they have to offer clients.
StoneEagle (SE) was founded in 1987 as an “enterprise systems” software development company under the name StoneEagle Insurance Systems. The SE founders developed systems for insurance companies, banks, and third-party administrators as far back as the 70’s. SE developed its first warranty administration system in 1989. That system was converted to more modern standards in 1992 and was made year 2000 compliant. This compliance caused rapid growth for the company through the 90’s.
StoneEagle.com Inc. (SE.com) was incorporated in the 90’s for the purpose of creating web-based solutions to integrate with its already successful administration systems. With the merger of a small data acquisition company in the mid 90’s, SE.com began to re-invent itself as a dealer-centric solutions provider with industry standard reporting tools, rating and integration services. Today’s offerings include: SEcureMetrics reporting, SEcureSalesTool for service-drive aftermarket product sales, SEcureTransmit for submitting sold products back to administrators and will soon release SEcureMetricsService for parts and service analytics.
In 2004 StoneEagle Services (SES), which was once an administration company, was resurrected to launch a new payment processing solution. This payment solution, invented by StoneEagle, includes paying any provider of parts or services with a virtually loaded credit card. This process applies a fixed value to a credit card transaction which helps eliminate fraud and create a simple reconciliation process for administrators and insurance companies.Please expand on the products and services you offer, and specifically, how they can add value to/for the Providers and Administrators?
It is important to note that StoneEagle isn’t just a product provider, we are a solutions provider. It is probably safe to say that few, if any, other companies in the industry have as broad of a range of products and services.
- SEcureARCH is the latest aftermarket product administration and is based on over 20 years of success. It is the only system on the market to boast an open architecture, which makes it ideal for plugging in external tools and processes. For the auto dealer environment this may include an administrator’s own web portal, menus, or other integration points. For the admin company, plugging into parts sources, inspectors, or pricing engines becomes quick and more simplified.
- SEcureMetrics is the original fully DMS integrated analytics tool in the industry. Agents and administrators can help their dealer clients create higher product penetration numbers by showing the effectiveness of sales tools and process with numeric or graphical representations. Dealers can focus on their internal numbers, and dealer groups can compare the performance of their dealers side by side across different manufacturers, regions and DMS providers.
- SEcureMetrics Service will allow the dealer to optimize his parts and service department. He will be able to isolate the most profitable parts, services, vehicles and customers. He will also be able to track the effectiveness of various marketing campaigns and how they have helped increase business in other areas of the department.
- SEcureSales Tool (SST) was originally designed for the sale of insurance products through direct marketing. SST quickly became adapted to the service drive. It will allow a dealer to pre-qualify customers with appointments for applicable products. The service writer can print quote sheets for customer presentations, take credit card payments and capture multiple installment payment information for submission to premium finance companies.
- SEcureTransmit is a natural bolt-on to SEcureMetrics and SEcureSalesTool. This tool allows the dealer to look at a list of sold aftermarket products and select those for which he wishes to create a remittance register. This register simplifies the accounting process by letting them print the register and include it with his batch of business. Once the business is batched, the dealer can simply select to transmit the data electronically to the administrator of the business. In many cases the dealer allows the agent or administrator to initiate the data transmission themselves.
Over the past few years we have seen changes to almost all of our products.
- SEcureMetrics reporting has seen a complete change to the user interface. It will now allow for several user controlled configurations including moving, or removing, individual columns, column-level data selection and user controlled versioning of report views.
- SEcureMetrics Service was started from scratch in 2011. It will mimic SEcureMetrics in look and feel but focus on the service end of the business.
- SEcureSalesTool has been completely re-written to allow easy addition of several different sales “flows.” This means you can sell different products with different methods. The tool allows the user to pick the method and then the screens change based on the sales process.
- Our aftermarket product admin system, SEcureARCH, has been completely re-engineered. We have combined our years of experience and intellectual property with cutting edge programming techniques, hardware, and software to create a completely service-oriented system that we believe will appeal to most administration companies, both large and small.
We consider this one of the most important issues facing the industry today.
Concerning DMS connectivity, StoneEagle has always been on the leading edge. Our reporting tools and sales tools have been integrated since their inception. We have come to believe that having our products certified or use methods not considered “Hostile” by DMS providers as the best way to insure consistent, reliable integration.
For our administration system, connectivity was one of the highest considerations. The basic architecture means that we can efficiently connect to any relevant product or service via web services. This includes but is not limited to, agent portals, parts databases, inspection companies, NADA auto values, menus and StoneEagle’s own DMS integration portals.In the near future, do you have any plans to add additional features in the area of connectivity?
One area of future focus, in relation to connectivity will revolve around “Single Sign On (SSO)” and “Seamless Integration.” More and more we hear clients asking to sign on once, and be able to transition from one application to the next. This request transcends all of our products from reporting to our admin system. We want to be able to allow our clients to “plug in” to other software offerings easily. Security is a major hurdle here. There are many ideas, and a few published standards. Our goal, as always, will be to keep our clients' data safe while creating technology that makes his experience quick, easy and intuitive.As a true veteran, I am sure you have your finger on the pulse of the F&I industry. What do you see F&I product providers and administrators looking for?
I’m not sure I can claim to be a true veteran in the F&I space, but at the end of the day, we are all dependent on the customer in the F&I office. That means there are two people we need to make happy: the customer and the F&I staff. There have been many improvements around the customer: menu sales processes, tablet apps, educational tools and others. I think the tablet applications, whether they are browser based or true “apps,” will be huge. Placing control with the customer in an environment in which they are comfortable, will hopefully help gain their confidence in the products placed before them.
On the other side of the desk, The F&I manager finds himself with 10 various windows open on his computer: a CRM, a menu, his DMS, his reports and more. As our technology gets better, I think we need to look at giving him a single place to land and run the business efficiently, a “dashboard” where he can launch his favorite tools, one that will allow any product provider with the ability to integrate, the option to plug in, where he can pull a deal, rates, and forms once, and review all related information. There are at least three companies working on this idea today. I believe this will be the next advancement for the dealer.Looking to the future, what are some of the major hurdles our industry will need to overcome?
DMS integration is a huge hurdle today and in the near future. As the DMS providers take stronger stances on ownership of data, security protocol, integration automation and competing product offerings, independent product providers are faced with the expensive prospect of certifying with the DMS providers. There are several questions all providers are asking: will the integration be sufficient? Will pricing be equal among all providers? Should I have to absorb the cost or can I raise my price? Will added cost take my product out of competition? Are dealers willing to pay the extra money for my product? Will the industry simply adapt to the extra cost? And many others.
Another interesting future hurdle will be internet auto sales. Just a few years ago, this was very difficult to accomplish with OFAC checks, credit scores, financing options and other road blocks. As technology increases, we are seeing this type of sales process happen more often. Dealers and product providers are trying to figure out how to make F&I offerings to the on-line customer. Many have the strategy of pulling the customer into the store for the close, but customers are becoming increasingly motivated to complete the sale from home.
Industry conferences, including panel discussions and audience participation, are a great place for us to discuss these issues and work together to get over these hurdles.