Article

Increasing The Odds Of CRM Success

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Harlene Doane - Also by this author

It was a busy year in 2005 for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) providers. Emerging technology has pushed this business to new heights. Many providers spent years and countless dollars on developing outstanding technology that would allow the dealership to mine and market to their own database of prospects & customers. But, did CRM providers put the cart before the horse?

Some might have. Many brilliant minds saw the potential of the advancing technology and turned it into robust CRM products. Some even did it several years in advance of the technological learning curve of the average dealership. They then went to market with the product and sold it to dealers who did not have the staff ready to embrace it or failed to experience the success they expected.

In 2005, many providers and dealers alike realized that great products and abundant technology did not ensure a dealer success in their CRM efforts. To remain competitive in this market, providers are now focused on increasing the level of success by spending more energy and resources on training and consulting including cases studies and best practices used by their most successful dealers.
The realization wasn’t as big of a revelation as one might think. If every dealership had the same technology in place and they didn’t all experience the same results, there are really only two conclusions to be drawn to explain it. They have different people and possibly different processes in place.

So what have the CRM providers learned? Just like every new initiative in the dealership, if the commitment of the dealer and the dealership management team is not there, it will not succeed long term. “A dealer can experience initial success with a new CRM program with just a single individual overseeing it,” said Sean Wolfington, president of BZResults, “however without complete dealership commitment and support, they quickly burn out, move on and usually leave the dealership floundering for some time - ultimately failing in their efforts. Many dealers make the mistake of thinking that all you need is a CRM tool or a nice Web site to succeed, when actually, a successful CRM initiative is more complex than just finding the right technology.” One way to address dealership commitment is by requiring all key management personnel to be committed and involved in the CRM process from the beginning. Once you have commitment in place, then you can address the other issues that will ensure success.

Will training fix the problem and allow you to succeed? The term “training” is a little tricky in the auto industry. It seems to mean different things to different providers, and you need to be sure of exactly what they mean when they include training. For most providers, training is defined as the hands-on, day-to-day usage of the system – the technical or procedural side of things. “By putting more emphasis on real-time, in-your-store training, dealerships utilize more of a system’s features, thereby reaping more benefits from it,” states Robert Gruen, president of The Higher Gear Group. So, training can address under-utilization of the system.

Technical training also assists with the education gap created by the ever present employee turnover issue in the dealership. This doesn’t mean every employee must understand how the entire system works, but rather, they must know how to navigate the system to perform their own jobs. How do they input, and how do they generate plans, reports or otherwise manage their prospects and customers on a day to day basis to perform a job to your standards? Training alone will not cause you to succeed, but it is necessary and you won’t succeed without it.

Once you have employees that are trained technically, you still must have the proper processes in place to succeed. Processes fall into a very gray area. Is it really training or rather, consulting? The answer depends on who you speak with. Webster’s definition of training is to undergo instruction; where as the definition of consulting is to provide expert advice. So, it depends on your view. For most providers, process instruction is classified as training. They direct you on the processes that will allow you to maximize their product. Much of this training is derived from observations of their most successful dealers – AKA best practices.

For others, processes are more about consulting. You ask for advice, and they provide it. An example would be that you see the need to entice your sales staff to gather e-mail addresses on all customers and you turn to your provider for recommendations on how to accomplish it. The difference is, do you know all the questions to ask, or would you rather be directed by someone with more experience? Either way you may reach the same end it may just take longer.

Processes also involve allowing those involved to see the value –“what’s in it for me value.” If a sales person cannot see the value in gathering the required data, the odds are they will not gather it. If they see that gathering the data provides them with a game plan and follow-up which then translates to increased sales, especially through repeat or referral business, then you have their attention. There is really little value to the functionality of any system. The value is in how it is used.

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