Article

Increase Traffic, Sales And Satisfaction With CRC

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Sean Wolfington - Also by this author

Why is it that some dealers are winning the volume game, while others are sitting on the sidelines? Some dealers use their Customer Relationship Center (CRC) to sell an extra 100 to 700 cars a month. Are you among them? If so, congratulations. If not, read on to learn what you can do to become one.

Successful dealers do not dwell on factors beyond their control. Instead, they are always seeking new ways to grow and improve their business. Dealers who fail to grow find themselves wasting time and energy on issues they can do little about. These can include:
  • Increasing competition
  • Rising costs of traditional advertising
  • Slow economy – local or national
  • Seasonal market conditions
  • “Nothing fresh and new” from the manufacturer
  • Increasing costs of doing business

While there is no doubt that these factors (and more) make it tough to succeed in the auto industry today, the most successful dealers find ways to turn challenges into opportunities to find, sell and keep more customers profitably. The top eCRM dealers in the nation are among our clients and have agreed to share some of the keys to tapping into their current customer base to increase sales and volume. For example, they are using the service lane and their CRC to gain a competitive edge, despite today’s challenges.

WHY A CRC?

Courtesy Chevrolet boasts the largest single point CRC in the nation. They sold 384 extra cars in one month through their CRC, which pushed their dealership into the number two spot for volume in the United States. Scott Gruwell, sales manager, Courtesy Chevrolet explains, “Our CRC creates more traffic than anything else we do, and the closing ratios are much higher.”

Paragon Honda and Acura share similar success. They sold 214 extra cars in one month out of their CRC to grab the title of Honda’s number one eDealer. Brian Benstock, vice president, explains why they set it up, “We were embarrassed when we mystery shopped our dealership over the web and the phone, so Paul Singer and I decided we needed to do something. By establishing a team of people who are fully dedicated to handling all inbound and outbound calls and Internet leads, we are able to better manage and measure our success. Today our CRC is our primary source of business.” Paragon is spending less money on advertising and in their first year of operation, they sold 198 percent more than they did over the previous year!”

WHAT IS A CRC?

The purpose and mission of a CRC is to increase traffic, sales and customer satisfaction (for sales and service) at a lower cost per sale. Most CRCs accomplish this by handling all inbound and outbound customer activity including phone calls, Internet leads, follow up of unsold and sold customers, service contacts, renewals, prospecting and more. The most successful CRCs take a holistic approach and do a great deal of planning to establish the right marketing strategy, the right team of people, along with an effective process and the tools needed to get results.

THE PLACE

Dealerships like Paragon Honda and Acura often begin by setting up a physical location for the department. Benstock explains, “We have a separate room where our specialists focus 100 percent of their time on contacting customers and selling appointments. The CRC is a great place to work with everything you need to spend lots of time on the phone. Obviously there are desks, computers, phones, head sets, scripts, appointment boards and easy access to product and pricing information the specialists need. Basically, we create a comfortable environment with everything they need to succeed.”

THE MARKETING

Courtesy Chevrolet views its CRC as a marketing hub. Gruwell said, “It generates more traffic than all the ads we run. It also helps us get a better return on our advertising. When I spend our ad budget today, I make sure that every ad promotes our phone number and our website because I have the reports to show that our CRC will set appointments with 50 percent of the leads, 50 percent will show and over half will buy. We also follow up with these customers to ensure we sell a higher percentage of our unsold prospects long after the sales team has forgotten about them.” Both Courtesy and Paragon rely on their service departments to gather e-mail addresses. By gathering this information, they can use their lead management tool to automate phone and e-mail campaigns that allow them to market to their own customer base at virtually no additional cost.

THE PEOPLE

Staffing needs depend on the size of the dealership. In dealerships that sell over 100 cars a month, the customer relationship manager is the most important person in the department. This person recruits, hires, trains and develops the team. In smaller stores, the CRC may be staffed by CRC specialists who report to the sales manager. In this scenario, the sales manager typically is accountable for running the operation without the additional overhead of a dedicated CRC manager. Most dealerships find that they are capable of producing the traffic and sales to justify additional personnel for this department.

In either case, the CRC specialist is responsible for handling all inbound/outbound customer contacts in order to set more quality appointments that show – for sales and for service. In many dealerships, CRC specialists simply sell the appointment and turn the customers over to the sales person or service team to complete the transaction. In smaller stores, the CRC specialist may handle the entire sale, not just the appointment and then follows up from beginning to end.

Successful dealers find that it is important to train the team on all of the processes that make the CRC successful. Effective training is designed to build expertise in handling all inbound phone and Web inquiries, unsold follow up, sold follow up, service reminders, service follow up, renewals and other prospecting activities. According to Gruwell, “The most important people in the CRC are not actually in the CRC – they are the dealer, the GM and the GSM. Leadership involvement from day one has been critical to our success.”

THE PROCESS

Dealers improve their profits by improving their customer processes. It is important to define every step of each process in great detail to ensure your customers experience a “WOW” at every touch-point in your dealership. Most dealers implement the inbound phone and Internet lead processes first. Once the department is successfully implementing these two processes through the CRC, they can use the momentum of success to build their outbound follow up process and pro-active marketing to the dealer’s customer base and beyond.

The most successful dealers find they get their best return on investment by automating as many of their follow up tasks as possible. This enables the CRC staff to focus their time and energy on the phone - selling appointments. Benstock explains, “With automation, we’re able to get more done with fewer people. Right now we have more than 80,000 E-mail addresses which would be impossible to leverage effectively if we weren’t able to rely on automation for many of our follow up activities.”

THE TOOLS

Successful use of automation requires a dealer to find the right tools for the CRC. “We use our CRM tool to manage and measure all of our processes so that we can make adjustments that will help us set more appointments and sell more cars,” said Bob Tasca III, vice president of the Tasca Automotive Group. Some tools will automate a lot of activities which allows you to do more with less people.

Benstock explained, “Automation allowed us to increase our sales from 20-214 without having to hire too many extra people and it ensures the process is done right. I even get automated reports E-mailed to me every morning with all of the previous day’s activities, results and recommendations. It’s a lot better than the old paper logs!”

THE HIDDEN DANGERS

The most common and expensive mistake dealers make is failing to plan. Dealers who fail to invest their time and energy in the planning phase prior to launching a CRC often close it down after 6 to 12 months. Here are some other hidden dangers you may want to avoid:

  • Deficiencies in planning and training - Investing up front to see a return on your investment.
  • Appointing the wrong person to be the CRC manager - Spend as much time as necessary to find the right person..
  • Hiring the wrong specialists - Conduct initial interviews over the phone. If they are not good on the phone they’re not cut out for the CRC.
  • Failing to clearly define all CRC processes - Document each process and incorporate best practices for lead management.
  • Relying on ineffective scripts or failing to use scripts - Hire the right vendor who can provide the right skills, scripts and training.
  • Lacking the tools to do the job - Give the CRC the tools they need to get results and you’ll spend less to get more.
  • Failing to track performance results - Don’t rely on your team to manually track and measure their activity. Instead, be sure you’re using a CRM tool that can automatically track daily activities and send you automated reports – daily, weekly and monthly.

If the dealer, GM and management team are not committed and enthusiastically involved, a CRC won’t work. The leaders need to get involved upfront and stay involved to ensure ongoing growth and improvement. As always, execution is the key. All the knowledge in the world is worth nothing without action.

The best dealers continue to find new ways to grow and improve their business. A CRC is one proven strategy that is helping dealers find, serve and keep more customers profitably..

Vol 3, Issue 6

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