It’s not an Internet Sales Manager to keep up with the surge in online leads that many dealerships are currently experiencing. It’s not additional service technicians, who are becoming increasingly scarce to hire.

Your most important hire in 2022 is…a Scan Operator. Surprised?

Although banks are more accepting of electronic paperwork and states are modernizing their requirements, the industry is still required to produce a lot of paper. A paperless dealership may be the holy grail, and all signs point that we’re headed that way, but the reality is that a truly paperless business is still in the future.

That’s why this position is so crucial now: As more dealerships increasingly move towards storing documents online, proper scanning of sales and service documents could be the difference between breezing through audits and paying thousands of dollars in fines.

Here’s an example of a multi-store dealer group in California. The group hired an entry-level Scan Operator who mistakenly piggy-backed multiple repair orders and scanned them into one document, and then shredded the originals. When the OEM came calling with a warranty audit, the files where nowhere to be found. The group was fined $50,000 and the Service Manager was fired. The Scan Operator had left the organization well before the audit, but the damage was done.

This example makes it clear that document scanning is not just a clerical task. Proper scanning can have a direct impact on your bottom line and the health of your business. It is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be handed to an entry-level employee. It deserves to be a proper department within your dealership headed-up by a trained professional.

A “paperless” office makes a lot of sense in today’s heavily-regulated retailing environment where maintaining compliance creates huge paper trails. Electronic document management reduces the expense of office supplies and wasted labor costs of employees digging through file boxes to find documents. It also greatly enhances security. It’s estimated that 1 in 20 paper documents end up lost. With the proper paperless system in place, documents can be scanned, filed, and tagged for the ultimate in security and efficiency.

Proper document management isn’t just about passing audits – it affects your entire organization. Consider the F&I manager working with a returning customer who needs to pull the previous deal jacket to review credit score and products purchased. Or the service advisor seeking information on a customer’s previous repairs. Electronic storage means these documents are available within seconds through a simple online document search. This improves customer interactions and speeds up the sales process for a better overall experience.

It takes a professional Scanning Operator to stop the paper chase without pitfalls. That’s why Harry Robinson Automotive Family in Fort Smith, Ark., created a dedicated scanning department over 10 years ago. True to its family-owned roots, the department is led by Sara Robinson, one of the founder’s daughters. She created a process that is organized and methodical.

“Pushing the paper through the scanner is the easy part of the job; it’s the checking of the document that is a little more difficult,” Robinson explains. “If done correctly, all documents should be able to be read and it is important this happens because this is the permanent record of your document and this is the last time some of the documents will ever be touched again. In our service department, rummaging through file cabinets looking for folders full of documents is a thing of the past.”

A great Scanning Operator doesn’t necessarily have to have prior scanning experience. Proper training is a huge part of success. However, any candidate you interview should be:

Organized – A tremendous amount of paperwork will come across this person’s desk every day. If the paper is everywhere, you’re never going to keep it organized.

Methodical – You’re looking for someone who can maintain a repeatable and consistent process.

Accountable – The right candidate will take responsibility for themselves and others. If a document is missing, they will take the initiative to go and find it. They follow the law: “Inspect what You Expect”.

Knowledgeable – This person should have some general understanding of warranty processing, document retention laws, sales deal jacket contents,, and standard accounting practices. This person can be trained, but should show an aptitude for learning and retaining information.

Robinson adds that the job requires “someone with great attention to detail. It takes someone who wants to make sure the job is done correctly, not quickly. This person is the one watching out for you, your company, and in many cases acts a lot like a compliance manager.”

You should be able to lean on your document management provider for help with training. Look for a provider that offers both online and in-person training as well as ongoing on-demand education.

Just as important, your organization needs to emphasize to your Scan Operator that his or her role has a direct impact on your dealership. The job is not simply clerical. They can affect your business positively or negatively, so apply appropriate goals and compensation to keep them committed to success.

Robinson recounts hearing of companies that hire teams to do scanning at night and then get rid of the documents. “The thought of that terrified me!” she says. “All the things that could go wrong if the person doing their job doesn’t value their work, then the documents would be incorrect and they wouldn’t care or be fazed by the results. Would they pay attention to the technician notes on the back of the page? Would they notice two or three pages fed through at once? Would they care?”

As you look ahead to 2022, these are questions to ask yourself. You’ll likely be preparing to bring in plenty of revenue producing employees. But don’t overlook the surprisingly important hire that can save you money in the long run. Take the time to hire and train a professional Scan Operator and ban the paper trail while gaining peace of mind.