A glance into any dealership accounting office reveals a lot of paper. That’s because selling cars creates a LOT of paperwork. Although a “paperless” office may be the holy grail, we’re not there yet.

States require certain paperwork, and they insist you keep it. Retention periods vary by state, but the result is paper deal jackets crammed into filing cabinets, stored in piles of teetering cardboard boxes in unlocked offices, or jammed into storage facilities.

What you end up with is a lot of paper with sensitive customer information that is not secure, is not easy to search or retrieve, and is costing you money – whether via outside storage fees, lost employee productivity searching through boxes, or wasted office space taken over by documents.

However, we are seeing progress. States are revising regulations and reducing onsite retention periods. Most importantly, many are giving the green light to scanning deal jackets, storing them in electronic document storage platforms, and then shredding the originals.

California is the most recent state to revise its regulations. It reduced its onsite document retention period from 18 months to 90 days. This applies to documents related to vehicle purchase, sale, rental, and lease. Paperwork can be shredded after 90 days as long as a dealership has a document scanning solution for digital document storage.

The fact that deals can be scanned and then shredded is huge in terms of cost savings, employee time savings, and efficiency. Deals stored electronically can be sourced, reviewed, and even printed with a few keystrokes. Proper scanning and electronic storage also minimizes the risk of lost paperwork.

Dealerships don’t have to pay for offsite physical storage, or take up valuable office space with filing cabinets and document boxes. That office space can instead be used to centralize accounting teams or for additional employee desks. Wasted space becomes usable space.

It’s also a win for customers. Sensitive information is electronically secure and less likely to be stolen. According to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research, nearly 1 in 15 people were victims of identify fraud last year. Dealerships that can promote secure online data storage have an advantage over the competition.

Are you ready to implement document scanning in your sales department? It’s important to do your due diligence before hiring a document management platform. Make sure to ask these questions:

  1. Is data storage onsite or cloud-based? Cloud-based storage is generally preferred for several reasons. Data is stored electronically on a server which provides data access controls not available when physically storing files. Cloud-based solutions generally have store-level, user-level, and folder-level permissions to minimize the accessibility of data to only the right people. The cloud also offers better resiliency against natural disasters.
  2. What is your data security policy? Ensure a provider adheres to the highest standards of data security. Look for SOC certified providers, which is a standard developed by the American Institute of CPAs to define criteria for managing customer data based on security, among other service principles. All data transfers should be encrypted and databases should be backed up redundantly to multiple data centers to ensure business continuity and data integrity.
  3. Are there safeguards to prevent missing documents? Scanning documents is simple, but it requires meticulous attention to detail. For example, a hidden staple can cause documents to be scanned together as one. Or a page of the deal may be missed altogether. Top providers have built in safeguards to catch these mistakes before documents are shredded. Ask about tools that ensure all deal documents are accounted for and legible before being placed in the permanent electronic deal jacket.
  4. Who owns the data if I decide to end the relationship? It’s long been an issue in our industry that some DMS providers require you to pay hefty fees to retrieve your own data if you decide to sever the partnership. This should never happen with a document management company. The data is yours and should always remain yours.
  5. What training do you offer? There’s a misconception that scanning documents is a simple clerical task. In reality, the person scanning deals is acting as a compliance manager to make sure every deal is complete and legible before it becomes a permanent record. Look for a provider that offers onsite and virtual training to take the fear out of scanning and ensure the job is done correctly, every time.

Free your dealership from the tyranny of too much paper. Take advantage of changing regulations to explore electronic document storage. Scanning and electronically storing deals increases security, frees up office space, and eliminates the cost of offsite storage facilities.