Courtesy of Dealer Marketing Magazine
The auto dealership industry is changing and evolving all the
time. Technology has brought a lot of changes to the way we
interact with customers. From online reviews and social media to
text messages and email, the way we communicate with customers has
changed significantly from just 10 years ago.
Some things never change, however, and as the famous writer,
management consultant and self described "social ecologist"
PeterDrucker said fifty years ago, "The
true business of every company is to make and keep customers." As
dealers we can never forget that.
Fortunately for us, while the customer still remains central to
our business, the days of notepads and rolodexes are long gone. Today's
dealerships have advanced CRM technology to help them connect with
the right customers at the right time to make the sale. The
question is: What are the latest advances in CRM technology and how
can dealers take advantage of them?
In order to help sort that out, we spoke with a broad range of
experts in the automotive CRM field: Jonathan Ord, CEO and
president ofDealerSocket, Bill Wittenmyer,
vice president of eLEAD CRM, David Metter, president
of Automotive HookLogic, and Patrick Kelly,
president and COO of CAR-Research XRM. They
gave us their opinions on how dealers can best use current CRM
technology and the future of the industry.
CRM and social media
Social media is becoming increasingly important to auto
dealerships' internet marketing, so we wanted to know how a CRM
system can improve and integrate with dealerships' social media
Jonathan Ord of DealerSocket reminded us that even
with all of the technology available to dealerships, "The best way
to ensure that great things are being said about you is to make
sure you are doing great things for your customers."
"Secondarily," he added, "CRM can manage those conversations
that we know about and drive positive feedback from your best
customers to balance any negative. Also, any negative feedback can
be understood and a resolution process can be enacted. Immediacy of
attention is key and CRM helps gather, catalog, and drive
resolution of these issues immediately."
Patrick Kelly of CAR-Research XRM told us that, "Social media has
significant relevance and it's very powerful and it's not going
away." He agreed however, that "unless we do the basics of
prospecting the household; whether you're
doing Google reviews
or Facebook or 'follow us
on Twitter,' whatever you're doing; none of that
really matters if you're not doing the basics: the road to the
sale, follow up, sending out letters, prospecting the
household-that's the basics of the whole process and if you aren't
doing that, then what good is the rest of it?"
Facebook is a big topic in auto dealership marketing right now,
but David Metter of Automotive HookLogic - AutoHook pointed out that, "People
believe that social equals Facebook, but it is so much more. People
spend more time online watching videos than any other activity. If
you can differentiate yourself with video responses integrated into
your CRM, then you win with the customer."
The way that your CRM interacts with social media is essential,
according to Bill Wittenmyer of eLEAD CRM.
"Good CRMs should be able to push out to
your social services, real-time updates, and even help generate and
manage reviews," he told us. "Reputation management is such a
critical factor today in decision making from the consumer end, a
good CRM should be able to not only manage that and help you
communicate reviews, but actually help generate new ones and focus
on positive contributions."
Lessons from the downturn
The Great Recession was particularly tough on the auto industry.
Along with all the pain, however, there came a few lessons.
Dealerships streamlined their operations and found ways to increase
their sales with better lead management and grow their business
through improved use of internet marketing and CRM. These
improvements, coupled with a renewed focus on long-term growth, are
part of the reason the auto industry is a leading part of the
"For long-term success the dealer has to base their business
values, technology, people and process around solving a problem or
satisfying a need of every individual customer," advised
Jonathan Ord. "It is an individual game at its
simplest form and CRM should allow you to make sure very little
slips through the cracks -- and when we make mistakes there is
technology that helps identify and drive the resolution. I think
the downturn has helped many dealers understand that…They have also
found out that it is less expensive and more profitable, as
Patrick Kelly told us that, "Technology is always moving
[forward]...but as far as the basic tenets of CRM methodology, it's
still the same."Hewarned however, that "We can
Facebook them all day long and spend millions of dollars on
advertising and have ups lined up two miles long outside our
dealership, but if we don't do the basics on the road to the sale
-- courteous, great follow-up with great verbiage and then prospect
the household and find out how many drivers [and] how many vehicles
in the family, then the CRM is never going to be successful for the
Bill Wittenmyer noted that, "As floor
traffic became less plentiful, and as more consumers have shifted
to digital shopping, the importance of tracking, follow up, and
quick, concise and timely communication, has become the standard
practice versus a luxury. Before, it was a tool that dealers felt
they needed; now they know they need it, and furthermore, they need
to ensure that it gets executed. You have seen a trend of dealer
usage shift from just basic follow up on clients and leads to
proactive use of data base marketing and communication.
Improving how your dealership uses CRM
Modern CRM systems can do things that dealers never would have
imagined a decade ago, but they can only take advantage of them if
they are using their CRM properly.
"The most basic part they're [dealers] missing is logging ups
and having accountability," Patrick Kelly told us. "Radio Shack is
better at it than we are. Try to buy a five-dollar pack of
batteries and they'll ask you, 'Can I get your email address? Can I
get a phone number?' And we've got people trying to buy $50,000
ticket items that our sales- people aren't logging."
"Most dealers know the importance of getting the info into a
system," offered Bill Wittenmyer, "but we still see a lack of
execution on (by?) the salesperson, day to day. There are great
examples of BDC usage and marketing, but the
great tools that are available, such as electronic brochures and
daily marketing plans and even equity predictors as examples, still
don't get daily and widespread use at the salesperson level."
In addition to the importance of adding information, Patrick
Kelly continued, "The second area we are missing is that dealers
have hundreds of thousands, even millions, of orphan owners.
Customers who bought a car, the salesperson no longer works at the
dealership, and the other salespeople are not working the orphan
database...The third area that's missed is the opportunity to sell
cars to service and parts customers. These are people that own our
product. They're servicing with us but never bought a car. Buying
parts from us, but never bought a car from us. To actually get our
salespeople engaged in calling service and parts and body shop
customers that have never bought a car [is essential]."
Jonathan Ord advised that dealerships should
use their CRM to improve both their strengths and their weaknesses.
"Every dealership has types of customers that they always handle
correctly and without problems," he explained. "If a dealer is
really good at quick lube in service, and economy cars in sales,
then focus on that. Make that the marketing message and your social
media, your employees and your customers will be in alignment in
saying that you are great. If you are not good at something-get
good at it first, before you start attracting the masses, because
your customers do talk and so do your employees."
CRM systems, as with any technology, is only effective if it is
used properly and effectively. As Patrick Kelly reminded us, the
most important part of any CRM is the people who use it. "The
people factor is the most important part of CRM. I've said for
years that you can have a terrible CRM tool, but actually use it
and have commitment and you'll sell more cars. Whereas you can have
the best CRM tool in the world, and not be committed, and not have
leadership and discipline and processes in place, and CRM will not
sell you another car."
If you would like to learn more about how to take full advantage
of your CRM, visit www.dealermarketing.com.