5 Critical CRM Tasks

Dealer software expert lists five ways your customer relationship management system can drive new sales and service visits.

May 2014, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Brian Skutta

Tracking customers on your CRM can create new opportunities for used-car sales. If a sold customer is trading in a vehicle that a new customer is searching for, you can move the unit before it spends a day on your lot. 
Tracking customers on your CRM can create new opportunities for used-car sales. If a sold customer is trading in a vehicle that a new customer is searching for, you can move the unit before it spends a day on your lot. 
When I talk to dealers about how business is going, they typically mention several common challenges. Their customers are changing constantly. They’re missing too many sales opportunities. They’re not seeing enough return on their sales and marketing spend.

My first question to them is, “How do you use your customer relationship management system?” Many will say it serves as their customer database, some use it for lead management and others consider it a tool for their sales teams. They are all correct, but today’s systems can do much more. In fact, by using your CRM to its full potential, you can find solutions to all of the challenges listed above.

Your CRM should be your dealership’s MVP. It should be driving value from every customer in your database, as well as every system and staff member across your business. The data it contains is your strongest connection to your customer base and the best way to tie all your operations together. You want it at the center of the action. You want it to capture all the activity that goes into every sale.

Let’s explore five critical tasks your CRM could — and should — be performing for your dealership today.

1. Keep Track of Your Customers
Many dealers are struggling to keep up with today’s car buyers. They are online 24/7, searching for vehicles and being exposed to all kinds of advertising. They’re also visiting your service center, calling your sales team and stopping by your showroom. You can’t possibly keep your eyes and ears on all your customers all the time, but your CRM can.

Your system should tell you who is visiting your website, exactly what they’re looking for and what kind of communication they’re most likely to respond to. It should also tell you who is coming in for a service appointment, who called to schedule a test drive and —most importantly — how ready they really are for a purchase. In today’s blink-and-you-miss-it marketplace, that level of visibility can be a game-changer.

2. Create Accountability
While your CRM is on the lookout for sales opportunities, it should also gauge how prepared your dealership is to seize them. You need your CRM to track, in real time, how your staff is responding to all the customer activity it logs. It should then report what is and isn’t getting results. Remember, your CRM is the center of all the activity that leads to sales, so it’s the quickest way to identify process breakdown and departmental inefficiencies. Once you have established a system of accountability, you can focus personnel training and system improvements where they’re needed most.

Today’s CRM systems can display your most critical action items and give you an up-to-the-minute look at your progress with current customers.
Today’s CRM systems can display your most critical action items and give you an up-to-the-minute look at your progress with current customers.
3. Drive Efficiency in Your Processes
How many sales opportunities have you missed due to a disconnect between departments? If your CRM is seamlessly connected to all your processes storewide, it can drive efficiency in every department and minimize missed opportunities.

Your CRM should provide every department with direct access to a single view of the customer, so they can see what each person is currently shopping for, how they like to communicate with your dealership, what vehicles they’ve previously purchased from you and what features they care about most. This level of insight leads to more effective conversations with customers and helps avoid redundant efforts.

Don’t assume your CRM can’t bring more efficiency to your dealership’s own unique processes. No two dealerships run exactly alike, but your most important tool should support your strategies and people wherever and however you need it to.

4. Maximize Marketing Opportunities
You want to save time. You want to save effort. What you don’t want is to give up being effective, and that’s particularly true in your customer outreach. Let’s say one of your customers is still driving the vehicle you sold them several years ago. They’re approaching the 100,000-mile mark. You don’t want to miss out on their service business. You do want to sell them their next vehicle. Your CRM can help.

Your CRM should give you a heads-up so you can create a custom offer before your customer takes their vehicle to another dealership or mechanic. Their service visit is the perfect opportunity for someone on your sales team to introduce themselves and ask what type of vehicle they’re thinking of buying next.

The opportunities don’t end there. Say a new customer is trading in the exact make and model another one of your customers is searching for on your website. If the salesperson doing the appraisal has access to that information, he can pick up the phone right away and let that customer know he has the exact vehicle they’re looking for.

This is the level of customer care all dealers want to provide, but can’t possibly live up to without the right support from their CRM. After all, it’s your eyes and ears on all your customers, through the entire lifecycle. Let it tell you what they want and when it’s time to reach out.

5. Keep You Ahead of the Curve
Customers won’t stop changing. In fact, that’s the only thing that hasn’t changed about this business. But they’ll always be critical to your success. The dealers seeing big success today — and planning for success in the future — are leveraging technology to stay ahead of every wave of change.

Your CRM is absolutely the most critical piece of technology at your disposal. All the integration, automation, reporting and round-the-clock monitoring is designed to do what you and your team can’t do alone. It’s time you use it to its full potential.

Brian Skutta is vice president and general manager of VinSolutions and a dealership management software expert.

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