louwman fallstudie

Interview with Ronald Danse, Business Controller at Louwman Dealer Group

S4Dunning enforces better data registration and gives insight into the process, which allows us to work more efficiently and effectively. This also produces concrete results: we see a drop in the average number of days that accounts remain unpaid.”

The name “Louwman” has been linked to the car industry in the Netherlands for almost a century. It started with Louwman & Parqui in 1923 – a name that is still being used for the part of the company that imports Toyota and Lexus. The Louwman Group has, however, become far more comprehensive in the field of (auto)mobility. The most eye-catching part thereof – in addition to the Louwman Museum in Wassenaar, of course – is the Louwman Dealer Group. This dealer network comprises some 70 branches, from which approximately 1800 employees sell, repair and maintain a number of makes and types of vehicles. The Louwman Dealer Group has been making use of S4Dunning, the debt management software used by Collenda for debtor control, for some time now.

Ronald Danse, business controller at the Louwman Dealer Group, was responsible for the acquisition and implementation of S4Dunning within his organisation. The decision was linked to developments within the dealer network. “Some years ago,” says Danse, “it became clear to us that growth is essential for those who wish to survive in the automotive industry. Autonomous growth, but particularly growth by takeover. Until that time, we only sold Toyota, Lexus and Suzuki. In the meantime, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Mitsubishi and Peugeot have been added to that.”

Continuous process

The concentration trend is set to continue, as Louwman recently took over a few Mercedes and Peugeot dealers in the south. And there are more to come. The number of branches fluctuates around 70, as Louwman also tends to close and combine existing and new branches. Danse: “Even the newly acquired dealer organisations will be making use of S4Dunning for debtor control and following up with customers. This is a continuous process.”

Passion for cars

fallstudie louman open credit dunning

Ronald Danse, Business Controller Louwman Dealer Group

With the exception of his first job at Van Rietschoten & Houwens, which was later acquired by Internatio-Müller, Danse has spent his entire working life in the automotive industry. He worked for various companies in the Louwman Group, with two excursions to work for BOVAG. Danse feels at home in this sector: “This is a sector in which something is always happening – never a dull day. The product is of course manifestly present, just like the customer, but there are continuous changes in legislation and things never actually stand still. I ended up in it by chance, but have never regretted it. Louwman is a great company with many facets and opportunities. It is also a family-owned company, which is very important. A family-owned company means short lines and a friendly atmosphere. If you want to know what kind of company it is, you just have to visit the Louwman Museum. There, you will see the entire history of the sector and the passion that the Louwman family has for cars. It is impressive.”

The more growth, the more pressing the problem becomes

As business controller, Danse is responsible for optimising diverging processes within the organisation. “This is the best job there is, as all aspects of a company come together in Controlling. The challenge is to improve everything all the time, in terms of the processes as well as the organisation and administration. This applies to the various parts of the company and to the company as a whole. It is often the case that the more you immerse yourself in a branch, the more you realise that things work differently from what you saw at a distance. This is just the same when it comes to debt management. We had been doing that in a reasonably decentralised manner, but this did not always work out well. We were working with a number of software programs that offered debtor control options, but this was sub-optimal. Moreover, there was no general overview. We tried to get to grips with the problem using Excel spreadsheets, but this became increasingly difficult in the long term. The more we grow, the more pressing the problem becomes. Our central financial software is linked to our dealer management system, but each takeover brings another software and another system. That makes transfers difficult. In addition, car manufacturers also set their own conditions for how dealers handle their data. In short, we had a strong need for a separate software solution for debtor control that would allow us to make appointments with debtors, to monitor these appointments and to gain a central overview. Despite the diversity of systems from which all of the datasets originate. Despite the wide range of business and individual customers with a motley collection of risk profiles.

A long-term choice

When selecting new software, the Louwman Dealer Group did not take any chances. Danse: “You do not choose such a software package for a year, just to switch to something else. No, this is a long-term choice. We looked at what was available on the market, the condition being that it should be software that offered the functions we needed, was reasonably priced and could be rapidly and easily linked to various financial software solutions via our data warehouse.

A few suppliers were left from the initial shortlist, including Collenda. Before we said yes, we first visited a reference customer. That was Bochane, a major Renault dealer, with more branches in the east of the country. I wanted to see it work in practice at a company in the same sector. This made up our mind. The software did what we wanted it to, Bochane was satisfied and our own end users gained trust in it. There is also the matter of user-friendliness. What is important is that the easier you make it, the more useful it becomes and the lower the chance of errors. Of course, we also scrutinised the technical foundation of S4Dunning. The software operates in the Cloud and this is why we wanted (and obtained) certainty that safety and privacy are well monitored. We then settled the matter by concluding a transparent contract.”

Manner of implementation

S4Dunning was implemented in phases by the various administrations of the Louwman Dealer Group. The first was the Amsterdam region. This was followed by the other regions one by one, with Amsterdam on stand-by to help. “The implementation went well,” said Danse. “As I speak, we are still busy, because the administration of newly acquired branches is also included in S4Dunning. The transition went well, thanks to a sound approach and well coordinated, harmonious cooperation, based on a good blueprint. This type of implementation requires a lot from both sides – the customer and the supplier – and we therefore approached it as a project. But people also make a difference, and one of these was certainly Jeroen Jansen from S4Dunning. He made a difference by always attending appointments, responding quickly to unexpected developments and always being one for thinking on his feet. The same cannot be said about the ICT aspects.”

Use in practice

At the moment, there are about 20 users at the Louwman Dealer Group who use S4Dunning on a daily basis for debtor control, together with the associated warnings, reminders and phone contacts. At a central level, business controllers make use of the software to create reports. “That is another advantage,” says Danse. “In S4Dunning, you can easily compile reports about debtor status. You choose the fields you wish to incorporate, the type of report you are looking for, and it is compiled on the spot. If you are moderately clever and have a bit of experience, this is quite simple and quick. Thanks to this approach, we can also identify patterns at a central level more rapidly. For example, payment problems may arise because something has been set up incorrectly in our processes. This type of issue is always best resolved sooner rather than later. And there is more to come. Therefore, we will soon automatically send our reminders with a link to iDEAL included, allowing customers to pay more rapidly and easily. We are now shifting our data over to S4Dunning, where they are enhanced.”

“We want to link the enhanced data back to the regions within a dashboard environment as soon as possible. This will enable a regional manager, for example, to see which accounts are still open and what their status is at any moment, with updates every minute. S4Dunning enforces better data registration and gives insight into the process, which allows us to work more efficiently and effectively. This also produces concrete results: we see a drop in the average number of days that accounts remain unpaid.”

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Market changes

Danse expects that changes in the automotive industry will continue in the years to come. A lot will happen, especially in the field of automation. “This is why it is crucial that we use our customer data in a more targeted way, for debtor control purposes, but also for marketing and sales. This is how you can make a difference. Of course, the product is of great importance in the automotive industry, but the way in which we deliver quality and how we treat and control our customers are of equal or greater importance. We want to provide relief for our customers, irrespective of the channel via which the customer gets to us. Car buyers may be looking for a private lease, or customers might be searching for a car-sharing solution. You need to be prepared for this.”