Jim Coleman Honda Puts The Customer First

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Terran Lamp - Also by this author

Jim Coleman Honda is the youngest addition to the Coleman family. A part of Jim Coleman Toyota, Cadillac and Infinity, the Honda site has 28 sales people and averages 2500 new car sales and 1000 used car sales a year. In addition, the dealership averages 80 Internet sales per month. Jim Coleman Honda has made an impressive entrance into the Honda Market by claiming the President’s Award during the last four out of five years. So what is the motivating philosophy that helps steer Jim Coleman Honda? Believe it or not, it wasn’t fancy cars or polished showrooms. Instead it is the dedication the dealership has towards their customers, their salespeople and their proactive approach to their Customer Relationship Management Program!

Jim Coleman Honda made a decision to solidify their future with the Honda brand from the moment they opened the doors five years ago. Unlike other corporations and automotive dealerships that wait until there is a problem with their customer management, Jim Coleman began a Customer Relationship Management Program before they had the first customer! “We have a two-pronged approach to attacking our CRM program,” explains Kevin Cohan, Managing Partner of Jim Coleman Honda, “the two pronged approach used by Jim Coleman Honda is aimed at customer and prospecting database management, customer follow-up and after the sale retention.”

The first piece of the puzzle is the use of ProResponse Data Management System. By using the ProResponse system Jim Coleman Honda is able to accomplish two things: Interaction with the Customer and Benefits for the Salesperson. One of the ways customer interaction is accomplished is by the use of a specialized custom letter series. This series of letters contains 10 different customized letters that are assigned and generated for each customer on the basis of their buying preferences and potential. For example, a customer who is very interested in buying a 2006 Red Honda Prelude from Salesperson A will receive a specific letter from Salesperson A following up on their showroom experience and asking for their business. This letter could be sent to a customer once a week or every day depending on the prospect potential. In addition to customer interaction, this letter also serves a role to benefit the salesperson. The letter is initiated by the process of logging the customer, therefore assigning them to a particular salesperson on a specific time and date. Jim Coleman Honda also developed a program called “the split-deal rule”. The split deal rule makes it extremely advantageous for the salesperson to log each of their calls because entering a call protects them from someone else getting all of a customers’ business in the event the salesperson is absent or unavailable. If the person who logged the call does not make the final sale he or she is still entitled a split of the deal as long as the customer was logged accordingly. “The half deal rule makes the salesperson want to log their customers and helps in the battle of knowing how many customers we have”, says Cohan. “We use ProResponse in a couple of different ways”, says Cohan, “as protection for the sales people, as a database and after we sell a car as follow-up interaction with the customer.”

The second way Jim Coleman Honda attacks their Customer Relationship Management is by involving the customer in a VIP Auto Awards Program. With the Auto Awards Program customers are given a VIP card that accumulates points. Every dollar they spend in a store on service or products allows them to accumulate points on the card. As customers accumulate points they are able to redeem these points as dollars towards their next car purchase. Jim Coleman uses special incentives and direct mail advertising to inform customers of promotions taking place in the dealership and to keep customers aware of how many points they have accumulated throughout the year. The VIP card also allows customers to receive discounts at 50 different participating vendors throughout the community. Vendors such as Domino’s Pizza, Gieco Insurance and others in the vendor list offer customers a coupon book that can be used anytime at various locations. Customers can receive a range of 25 “Thank You” points at time of purchase depending on their purchasing options up to 200 points for customer referrals. “We have been doing this for so long that we have customers come in that have accumulated thousands of points on their card in which they receive a dollar-for-point discount on a car purchase”, says Cohan, “The customers love it, people call us from other places wanting to know how they can get on the program!” The use of this two way approach has developed into a huge victory for Jim Coleman Honda. Salespeople love the program and are encouraged to track each customer through the sales process and the customers receive incentives and discounts when they return for service, refer new customers and make new purchases.

Why was it so important to start this CRM program from day one? We all know dealerships (or maybe your dealership is one of them) that try to implement a CRM program after two decades of business. Unfortunately, in these situations change is not always perceived as good; in fact, it is met with much resistance. Jim Coleman Honda was able to have the foresight to start with such a beneficial program that now the sales people would feel at a disadvantage without such a tool. Jim Coleman included the cost of their CRM into their Marketing and Advertising Budget therefore it did not affect compensation or inhibit buy-in.

Not only have the CRM tools made for better customer management, but it also has helped with the strong retention of the sales force Because the sales people fall in love with the program Jim Coleman actually has very little turnover which translates into loyalty and consistency with the customer. “The two most difficult parts to starting any CRM program is Salesperson and Management buy-in”, says Cohan, “if they don’t see a benefit and believe in the program then it will take a while for them to buy-in.”

Jim Coleman Honda has created a culture that is a “Win-Win-Win-Win.” The tools that they have in place have made it a win for the customer, management, the sales people and the dealership. The unique advantage of extremely low turnover in the sales force is fostered by a fair environment in which sales people participate in everything from Customer Relationship Management to compensation and scheduling. Each salesperson understands the message and the product. The unique combination of tools and people make the buying experience pleasant and enjoyable for all involved. “In a volume dealership in a metro market, we don’t turn our sales people over. We find ways to have our sales people stay with us through the high and lows of any market,” says Cohan.

With constant commitment to the salespeople, the customers and the business, Jim Coleman Honda plans to continue to move onward and upward in the Honda marketplace. “We plan to grow at a steady pace and make it a great buying experience for our customers,” says Cohan.

Vol 2, Issue 6

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