Article

Christopher's Dodge World: Changing the Way the World Buys Cars

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Zieglar - Also by this author

Christopher’s Dodge World is becoming one of the largest dealerships in the country by working to constantly improve how they sell and serve their customers. “Our goal is to make it quicker, easier and less expensive for customers to get their next vehicle. We feel that by putting the customers’ needs first, saving them time and giving them what they want we will sell more cars, increase gross and boost customer satisfaction. And you know what, it is working” said Cliff Hall, General Manager.
Christopher’s Dodge World is quickly becoming known for revolutionizing the way cars are bought and sold in America. Like many dealers, Christopher’s Dodge World noticed that more and more customers were using the Internet to start their shopping experience. However, unlike many dealers who struggle to take advantage of this new opportunity, Christopher’s Dodge World rose to the challenge and are now leading the way to success by establishing their own online buying service.
 
In the year since building their online buying service, www.CDodge.com has enabled the dealership to increase sales volume from 20 to 30 vehicles per month to 138 sales on one month. In the past, customers in search of “a good deal” would use a broker or third party lead provider which would then sell the leads to the dealership. Now, those customers are going directly to the www.CDodge.com buying service. Chad Sterling, Internet Director at Christopher’s Dodge World says, “Customers love it because they can build any car they want or view virtually unlimited new and pre-owned inventory with just a couple clicks. They can also take a virtual test drive with 360 degree tours, view product comparisons, get financing, view performance vehicles, check for specials, download coupons, learn about the pre-owned certification process and the 1-hour vehicle purchase and even book a service appointment or schedule parts.”
How did they do it?
 
Sterling attributes their success to the following: Dealer and management support, a great marketing strategy, the right Web site and CRM tools, tight processes, performance measurement tools and automated reports. But they couldn’t make any of this work without a great team. Sterling is enthusiastic about getting the right start, “Once our leadership team established our strategy and marketing plan, we began to leverage trend reports to establish new goals for each month and every quarter. We’ve signed with outside training to make sure that our team is skilled and able to execute the process 100 percent. Low attrition rates are attributed to our staff knowing that we are here for them no matter what the need.”
 
Sterling emphasizes the importance of hiring, training and supporting the right people, “If your sales staff is not firing on all 8 cylinders all the time, you will not get the performance or results you’re looking for. A lot of our success has come from their month in and month out dedication to helping perfect our process. A big thanks to them!” To provide more insight into what it means to give your sales team what they need to success, Chad provides a summary of what it takes to be among the best in the nation:
 
DO’s

1. The Right Vision: Our vision is to give our customers more than what they want and to create a “Wow” experience. Since more than 70 percent of our customers shop online we wanted to create the best online experience possible before they even set foot in our dealership.
 
2. The Right Strategy: We focus on how customers buy rather than how we like to sell. Customers are shopping online so we have shifted our advertising strategy to ensure we have a market presence where the customers are; on the internet. BZ Results has enabled us to take advantage of search engine optimization so that we appear at the top of the most common search phrases in the most popular search engines. Customers click on us first and that generates more traffic to our phones, our website and our showroom.
 
3. The Right Technology: We began with some pretty nice templated Web sites but our customers wanted more and after hitting a plateau, we realized we needed more. Although we had a nice looking Web site, we did not get great results and we quickly learned we needed more than just a Web site. We hired a company to custom build our online buying service and they gave us all the tools and training we needed to promote, manage and measure all our customer activity. We experienced massive growth instantly. After one year we increased our online sales from an average of 20 vehicles a month to 138 vehicles in one month. The reason for the increase was partly due to a better Web site that generated more leads but most of the increase was due to the digital marketing tools we now use. These include search engine marketing, e-mail marketing, online ads, CRM tools, automated follow up and reports.
 
4. The Right Marketing: We worked with our vendor to implement our marketing strategy right from the beginning. They helped us to create a quick start action plan to help us get the most out of our advertising dollars. We’ve seen other dealers sink a lot of time, energy and money into efforts that do not deliver results and we found that in order to avoid that trap it helps to work with an expert and to establish a plan. In addition, we conduct ongoing multimedia e-mail campaigns that educate customers on our great new buying service. We can reach hundreds or thousands of customers with a few clicks, very little effort and no additional cost.

5. The Right Attitude: The goal is to create a lasting personal relationship with our customers and we do this by maintaining focus on what’s important to them. By building relationships with our customers they know who to ask for when they get to the dealership. These relationships have created a terrific repeat and referral customer database and our CRM tool makes it easy to automate much of the follow up which allows our staff to do what they do best: make appointments and sell cars.
 
6. The Right People: We promise a world class experience to our online customers. The only way to deliver this is to staff the department with the right people; otherwise it’s just lip service. Our people are able to provide our customers with all of their options and help them feel more comfortable in making a purchase decision.
 
7. The Right Process: We improve our sales when we improve the buying experience for our customers. Some customers don’t buy for one to four months and today, 75 percent of our follow up process is automated with our customer management system, Buzztrak.
 
8. The Right Results: We have increased our online sales from 25 vehicles to 130 vehicles a month and our cost per sale is dramatically lower than our traditional mass advertising. Most importantly, we have customers who absolutely love buying a car from us and that is our primary mission.
 
Chad cautions that the biggest misconception about the potential of the Internet is that it’s all about the volume of Internet leads and how many people email your dealership. He explains, “The great thing about the Internet is that everything is measurable so we know that we get three times as many phone calls as e-mail leads. For this reason, phones have become the main focus for our dedicated staff. We rely on automation to handle the e-mail follow up so that our people can focus their energies on using the phone to set appointments. We were losing 75 to 100 deals a month due to poor follow up and poor time management. Automation makes it easier for us to manage our time and maintain our focus.” Their appointment setting ratio is now triple the national average and the team is committed to keep that trend on an upward track and to selling more cars.
 
Vol 3, Issue 3

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