Standard Processes Are Works in Progress

February 2009, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Phil Dupree - Also by this author

You often hear the term “standard process” when it comes to lead management. It usually refers to an organized and consistent method of responding to leads received by a dealership. Standard processes can include the designation of specific individuals within the dealership receive the leads, the method for responding to the lead (i.e., by phone, e-mail, fax or mail), what the communication to the customer will be, when the response will be sent, and what type of follow-up actions will be conducted.

Standard processes have been touted as a “must-have” for dealerships that want to ensure all leads are properly – and optimally – worked. The belief is that if everyone in the dealership follows the same response formula, more leads will turn into sales.

These processes also make it possible for dealerships to lay down a specific set of actions to be carried out by individuals that can be monitored over time for results and can be changed where needed.

The idea of a standard process is based, in part, on the premise that any system is better than no system at all. And yes, having procedures in place that give direction on what to do with a lead, when to do it and how to do it is an improvement over letting employees flounder around trying to implement (or not) their own methods.

The downside to a standard process, however, is that not all customers are alike. In other words, as David Kain of Kain Automotive often says, “No customer is a standard customer.”

Where this comes into play most noticeably is in what you say to potential buyers and how you say it—specifically, the initial and follow-up communications you send out in response to a lead.

According to Kain, “Each customer decided it was time to start shopping for a vehicle in their own unique manner, and it is important, when you first respond, that you respond out of courtesy with the customer’s needs in mind.”

What does this mean in terms of the e-mail templates a standard process often requires? To begin with, make sure the templates are tailored for your particular dealership and that the language is natural. Your response back to the customer is supposed to be a personal response, not an obvious form letter.

If you received the template from a vendor, find out if it has been used by other dealerships and how successful it was. You can also pilot the use of the template internally and evaluate the results before implementing it throughout the dealership.

Templates should primarily be used, as Kain tells his clients, as “thought starters” that can be modified based on the customer. “Focus on serving the customer and adjust [templates] over time. Once you find an e-mail that is working, you can create it as a template for others to use.”

The key is effective communication—answering questions, providing the information that has been requested, engaging the customer in a way that generates interest. Templates are the springboard to achieving these goals and should be used as such—not as rote, inflexible communications that end up being ignored in favor of your competition.

So, the next time someone mentions “standard processes,” remember that it’s a foundation that you can always build upon and tailor to the specific needs of your dealership and customers to achieve the maximum benefits.

Vol 5, Issue 12

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