Article

A Box With No Boundaries Automation & CRM Outsourcing

May 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Zieglar - Also by this author

Many of today’s most prolific dealers have grassroots histories of modest beginnings centered on an old-fashioned foundation of face-to-face customer service.  That was then; this is now.  The history of the automotive industry is becoming one of constant innovation where technologies that offer greatly increased capacity are becoming more widely adopted.  According to statistics published by NADA, dealerships spent nearly $8 billion on marketing last year, a number that has doubled from the previous year.

In today’s increasingly aggressive automotive retail industry, it is more important than ever before for top performing dealers to relentlessly pursue innovative technologies in order to stay competitive.  One avenue through which many dealers are meeting this challenge is automation.  Process automation solutions are a logical step toward positioning dealerships to improve results and customer satisfaction by converting this technology into a competitive advantage.

Automation Benefits

By definition, automation is the technique of making a system or process operate with minimal human labor.  In other words, it simplifies a system or process, which is a good thing.  Automating repetitive tasks removes the difficulty and complexity of completing responsibilities, so dealerships are able to simplify operations and increase results at lower costs.  The primary benefit of automation is in the arena of Customer Relation Management (CRM).  An automated CRM tool will streamline the entire sales process to make a dealership more efficient, improve customer interactions, increase overall customer satisfaction, and save time and money.

Automated CRM solutions can significantly increase results by enhancing processes like responding to Internet leads, sales follow-ups or even service related follow-up.  Although CRM applications can contain a variety of features, most provide standard benefits.  Listed below are some of the fundamental benefits of automation:

  • Increases conversion ratios by ensuring proper execution, preventing the skipping of key steps to setting appointments.
  •  Promotes efficiency by preventing user from omitting necessary data.
  •  Provides 24/7 visibility and connectivity to prospects and existing customers. 
  •  Enables management to track and measure user activity.

Automation allows trained personnel to spend less time on administrative tasks, enabling them to stay focused on what they do best – selling cars.  By moving tasks into software systems, automation can also be classified as a form of outsourcing.   

CRM Outsourcing Benefits

Outsourcing in order to lower overhead has been a viable option for many different industries, but the concept has been virtually unheard of in the automotive retail industry until recently.  With the phenomenon of e-commerce, many dealers are maximizing profitability from outsourcing opportunities and are hiring multiple companies to handle their communication with customers.  Outsourcing customer management enables dealerships to conserve their resources and channel them into their core mission which is to find, sell and keep loyal customers.  Outsourcing enables these dealerships to benefit from the highly trained professionals of service providers. 

Additionally, high turnover of employees and costly training are issues that every dealership faces.  In-house employees must be hired, trained, motivated, scheduled and managed. The cost and control of these functions are removed from dealership management because they are handled by the outsourcing firm.

The Right Touch

While capitalizing on the expertise of outsourcing firms, dealers can often become bogged down with managing and tracking multiple vendors and integrating multiple databases.  In an industry where dealers expect increasing results at decreasing cost, CRM service providers are adjusting service levels to meet demands.  The number of ways that CRM applications are helping dealerships to provide improved customer service at lower costs continues to grow. To maintain a competitive edge, dealers need to remain sharply focused on product development and changing market demands to be able to move quickly to take advantage of them.   Smart dealers are now capitalizing on the resources and expertise of dedicated CRM applications using “one stop shop” solutions to handle all of their customer communications.

After analyzing the market for automated customer communication solutions, Decarie Motors Inc. in Quebec chose ADP CustomerTouch to meet their needs and the growing needs of their customers.  Vice President Bruce Segal explained why Decarie Motors made the move to this CRM outsourcing strategy.  “As a customer satisfaction and internal process tool, the CustomerTouch program has helped us with the challenges we are facing like contacting the clients on a regular basis for their appointments, parts, special orders, vehicle ready after service and follow-up on customer satisfaction.  We believe the ADP CustomerTouch program is the future and can be a tremendous asset in dealership service and parts departments.”  Decarie Motors can now automatically contact the right customer at the right time using five impact communication methods: direct mail, e-mail, automated voice, live voice and text messaging.

This service provides real-time customer communications that are triggered by events stored in their dealer management system allowing customers to automatically be contacted after key events to keep them fully informed.   For example, the “Service Notification” solution provides real-time notification by automated voice and/or e-mail when a special order is received.  The customer is notified immediately with this time-saving feature to improve turnover time and customer satisfaction.  “There is no longer any worry about who is to be calling customers when their parts arrive,” added Tony Shoaf, parts and service director at Don Jackson Motors in Union City, Ga.

Another great benefit is automated scheduled service appointments.  “I really like that our customers are reminded about their service appointment the day before without any effort on our part.  With everyone’s busy schedule, [customers] need the reminder.  It has had a positive effect on our no-show rate as well,” explained Greg Kimmy, director of parts and service at Humber Chrysler in Waterford, Pa.

By streamlining processes, dealers can improve customer satisfaction with consistent, properly timed and coordinated communications strategies.  CustomerTouch is a simple, turn-key, hands-off customer retention solution that is saving costs for dealerships without sacrificing service or compromising innovation.   This automated customer communication solution is delivering time-saving profit solutions which benefit dealerships as well as their customers.

Breaking Barriers

As with the growing and ever-evolving world of technology, it seems the proverbial boundaries of the “box” have evolved into a plane extending infinitely in all directions, without boundaries.  Automation and outsourcing, two options that were previously unheard of in the automotive retail industry, have now become not only viable options, but many times necessary components for dealership positioning in this highly competitive market.  Each dealership will have unique circumstances that affect decisions and strategies involving automation and CRM outsourcing.   The labor and training savings from automation and CRM outsourcing can be substantial, but are small compared to the potential gains in efficiency, quality, productivity and profitability that a dealership can achieve by leveraging the right combination of automation and CRM outsourcing.

Vol 4, Issue 3

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