An Interview with Shawn McCool
An Interview with Shawn McCool

When it comes to technology, Shawn McCool, original designer and co-founder, iTapMenu, is on top of the game. His company defines what it means to be “cutting edge” in the automotive F&I technology space. It started out with a single product, iTapMenu, and he noted they are adding more – Sell More and Survey are both tools the company introduced recently, with a desktop version of its iTapMenu on track for release later this year.

A former F&I manager himself, McCool wanted to create technology that would push the industry forward. He noted that, in his mind, one of the biggest challenges facing the industry today is customer perception, and that’s exactly what he’s set out to change. “The customer just simply doesn't trust us,” McCool noted. “And that's unfortunate. I know a lot of dealership owners, employees and vendors, and they are great, honest, ethical people. However, this is the state of the industry. We can complain about it, or we can do something about it. I think that's one of the reasons iTapMenu has been so successful at a lot of our dealerships - the software changes the customer's perception.”

His first product is what McCool terms a true “mobile menu” product, not just a paper menu that has been converted to an electronic format. He noted that features like drag-and-drop are key. In iTapMenu, an F&I manager can drag products in and out of the menu, and the consumer can see the changes to their pricing immediately. “As you drag-and-drop products into a column, the re-payment options update in real-time,” said McCool. “Therefore, the customer has a better experience as they feel more in control and less threatened. Using a product like iTapMenu can change the negative perceptions because the software displays the new payments instantly, creating a higher level of trust, and therefore the customer purchases more products.”

His two new products aim to take that one step further. Sell More tracks which products the customer opted not to buy – and then allows the dealership to follow up with them on those products at a later time. He noted, “Think of it this way: an average sized dealerships sells 100 cars per month. Let's say the dealership offers six products per customer, and they average two products per delivery. That means they sold 200 products in that month, but didn't sell 400. With Sell More, the dealership can send an email to all 100 customers with a single click of the mouse and every customer receives a custom e-mail reviewing the products they didn't buy during the menu presentation. The e-mail includes the dealership's own product descriptions and videos.”

The other problem McCool wanted to tackle with technology was the rise of the Internet review. He noted that, often, a dealership won’t even be aware that a customer is unhappy with the service they’re receiving. The customer doesn’t feel comfortable telling the sales person to their face that they aren’t happy, but they will go online later and tell the rest of their network about it. So McCool created Survey, a tool to help dealers bridge that gap.

“Let's face it, today's customer will go home and post something negative on Facebook or Twitter and there's not much we can do about it,” McCool said. “And, the message is permanently on the Internet. Plus, they may fill out the manufacturer's survey using poor grades, which could result in a loss of incentive dollars and a reduction in inventory allocation because of the CSI issue. We recognized that customers might not tell dealership personnel about their perceived poor experience because they do not want confrontation. However, they may tell an iPad. So, we added a completely customizable survey. The difference though, in our survey, is if the customer selects a poor response to one of the questions, a text message and/or e-mail is immediately sent to any dealership personnel they choose. So, imagine the sales manager at the dealership is in his/her office and receives a text message that a customer graded the dealership poorly. Now, the sales manager can locate that customer and prevent them from leaving upset, instead of reacting to it when it may be too late or, never knowing about it until the manufacturer's survey results come back.”

And McCool’s vision for the future isn’t just more of the same – he sees a day when technology can help to combat not only customer perception issues, but fragmentation as well. “The industry is really fragmented from a technology, paperwork and regulation standpoint,” noted McCool. “A dealership should have to enter information one time and there should be seamless interaction with DealerTrack/Route One, the DMS, menu providers, compliance regulators, states, banks, product providers, the customer, everyone. We have ideas that would be considered ‘revolutionary.’ Imagine never needing to actually key in a single number or letter into a computer! It's happening today in other industries, but, there are simply too many roadblocks right now. There are too many providers that don't or won't allow other providers to integrate. The state and bank regulations are outdated and there's no technology behind them. From our standpoint, the customer is always right. They complain about the experience we are providing as an industry. So, let's do something about it. The solution is unification. But it's like turning a yacht, and right now, no one is trying.”

He knows that the industry has changed at a rapid pace in the last five years from a technology standpoint, and he doesn’t see that changing any time soon. But he sees F&I as being a place in the dealership that can embrace the changes, and challenges, and lead the automotive industry as a whole into this new era. He wants to find ways to connect consumers more directly with dealerships, and make the whole process more seamless and painless than it is today. He has a vision for the future of F&I, and he’s not afraid to think big.