|Contemporary Chrysler Dodge General Manager David Hammer likes talking sports. He’s a big personality with an even bigger edge when it comes to making his dealership work. According to David, success hinges on training. Using training programs and a solid “playbook” for his dealership, he’s whipped his staff into shape with the tenacity of a college football coach and is on track to see increased profits and high CSI scores this next year. What’s interesting is that while David attributes much of his current success to process improvement made possible by a combination of internal and outside training, he originally started his journey to increased success by looking for a new Web site provider. What he found was more than a Web site; he found a total digital marketing system and ongoing training partner that would help make a positive impact in all of the dealership’s profit centers. We caught up with Dave to find out just how a new Web site can spark process improvement on the showroom floor and in other areas of the dealership.|
Q. What made you believe it was time to look into a new technology vendor for your dealership?
Benjamin Franklin said the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, but expect different results. Based on my market area and the store’s history and potential, I know where we should be with sales and we’re not reaching those numbers. The only way to ramp up our efficiency was to find a better way to market ourselves, stay in touch with our customers and employ the same habits across every department of our dealership. Since many people look online before buying a car, we needed to focus more energy on our Web site and on the latest technology for communicating with the customer. Our old site wasn’t generating leads, whereas the new site encourages customers to contact the dealership at every click. They can search inventory, take a virtual test drive, run product comparisons, research availability, product and price information, download coupons, schedule service appointments, etc. If you can do it in the dealership, you can do it online. For example, if you visit www.contemporarycd.com you can get general car buying tips; enter to win a Chrysler 300C giveaway; apply for financing; learn how trades are appraised and get a car fax report. Of course, every feature of the site is specifically designed to get the customer to contact the dealership either by picking up the phone, submitting a form online or driving to the dealership. It was a total shift in how we viewed the Internet and our Web site’s potential to impact the rest of the dealership, but it’s not as simple as flipping the switch on new technology – which is where training comes in.
Q: What kind of role has training played in the launch of your new technology?
As I mentioned, I was originally looking for a Web site and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system; however, I soon realized that buying technology without knowing how to use it effectively is a waste of time. That led to a training conversation with BZ Results. They said they could provide all types of innovative technology, but unless I get my house in order, have my processes down cold and have everyone on the same page, the technology would not work.
I considered doing the training myself, but in the end, I chose an outside company to facilitate the conversation, share some best practices from other dealers and customize our system.
Q. How did you get buy-in from your entire team to ensure the training not only happened, but stuck?
I made them part of the decision. I didn’t say, ‘I made this decision and you’re going to like it or leave it.’ I said, ‘I think this is what we need to accomplish to reach a certain level of production at our store and in our market with the product we have to sell.’ Everyone agreed part of the problem was we weren’t acting consistently as a team. We agreed we needed to get our house in order so we could do business with each and every customer who walked through the front door.
Q. After staff buy-in you created a playbook for your dealership; can you describe what that is and how you use it?
We like to model our training process after Vince Lombardi’s coaching process. Lombardi won nine championships while with the Green Bay Packers. You know how he did it? He had a playbook and one fundamental play – the Packer Sweep. His entire team knew the play. Taking that idea, we identified the plays we needed to build our own dealership playbook and win business.
We have Vince Lombardi on the cover and we have everything from a 20 yard check to a 50 yard check to the end zone. We’ve designed our plays and the tools to reach our goals and it is all contained in our playbook. Every sales person will be certified in that playbook, whether they’re a rookie or they’ve been with us five years.
Q. What are some examples of “plays” in your playbook and how do you ensure that you staff continues to follow them?
We’ve established 12 principles around the way we like to conduct our business. One principle is “100 percent.” We want everyone to be 100 percent focused on our business and customers first during the time they’re in our store. Another principle is “ES+CS=Success” with a big dollar sign. It stands for Employee Satisfaction plus Customer Satisfaction Equals Success. Our training company helped us put the principles together, build them into each step of our process and lay it all out in our playbook.
We developed a certification program to help our employees learn and implement the principles in the playbook. It’s an ongoing process for new hires and current employees alike. The Certification books ask questions like, ‘How do you welcome a customer to our dealership?’ and, ‘Give me three names of people in our Service Department?’ We have questions about the history of the dealership and questions that test how familiar they are with our promotions.
Q. What are the advantages of a Certification Process?
By certifying our entire staff in the playbook, I know when my sales people talk to customers they know how to present themselves, the vehicle and the value of doing business with Contemporary and gets them off price. If we give people respect, show them value and treat them with integrity and honesty, they’ll let us make a fair profit. You don’t do that by coming in, saying ‘Here’s a piece of metal and I’ll charge you $17,232 for it.’
We also train the staff to get an e-mail address when the customer walks in the door. I don’t want to chase that down all over the place. It’s got to be part of our HR check-in process. When we get efficient, we can focus on our customers and eliminate frustration for them.
Q. How do you ensure these principles stay in focus after your staff becomes certified?
Continuous training. We have an in-house guy who is scheduled twice a week with half the sales force in one session and half the sales force is in another as well as an outside consultant. Training is key. That’s one of the reasons we chose BZ as our technology and training partner, they back the hottest technology with trainers who get results. Everyone will need to become certified, including the salesman who has been with us for five years and sells 20 cars a month.
Q. Speaking of increasing profits, you’re training your Service Department to help bring in additional sales. Tell me a bit about that program.
We have 50 to 60 people walk in our door every day, but not all of them walk into the show room. Eighty percent of our traffic walks into the Service Department. Half of the people are current customers who bought the car from us and they’re bringing it back in for service. The other half have never been in the dealership before nor have they bought the vehicle from us. They’re just coming in to get their service work done here.
We try to let the new people know who we are and identify those who represent a realistic chance of selling a new vehicle. For example, we know that most customers like to trade about every 27 months, so when someone comes into the Service Department who has been in their car for two or three years, they might be ready. Without a sales process in place in the Service Department, we would lose the opportunity to trade this customer into a newer vehicle.
Q. Lets move away from the process and training side for a moment and focus on a unique marketing campaign you are currently running. Tell us a bit about it.
We have a fast growing regional airport 15 miles away from our store with 14 or 15 airlines flying out of it daily. One of the advertising opportunities at the airport is the ability to put a vehicle and the name of your dealership on display. I liked the idea, but thought it was pretty boring to just place a car out there with a sign on it. I need a way to ensure people see the car, think of my dealership and come here first when they need a vehicle. I also have this great, interactive Website with fast loading multi-media features and a strong CRM tool backing that up. We’re capable of sending bulk Buzzmail campaigns that generate lots of phone and floor traffic. I needed to find a way to get people’s e-mail addresses and then use the tools I have to increase my marketing effectiveness without spending money on print advertising. Plus, my Web site is the best marketing tool out there because it’s capable of promoting all my profit centers 24/7 whereas newspaper doesn’t.
Taking all of this into account, we picked the hottest car to put on display at the airport. However, rather than just have it sit there, we came up with a contest and offered the display vehicle as the prize. Here’s how it works: Anyone who supplies their e-mail address during the time of the contest will be invited to our dealership on a chosen day for an opportunity to open the vault. They make up their own code, try it out on the vault and if it matches the vault code, they win the car. But there won’t be only one winner. We’re also giving away other prizes, such as coupons for oil changes and service visits to further enforce our brand. The goal is to collect e-mail addresses, drive traffic, gain name recognition, create an event in our own store in the middle of May, have a little fun and sell some extra cars at the same time.
Q. Between the marketing programs, training sessions and new processes, you’ve got a lot happening at your dealership. What, to you, determines success this next year?
Success would be achievement of monetary goals in an efficient way. If the process and training we’re developing now are working like a fine watch by the end of this year, we’ll be on track to achieve our monetary goals and we’ll sell more cars than last year, make more money doing it and keep our customers and our employees happy.
“We realized that buying technology without knowing how to use it effectively is a waste of time.”
Vol 2, Issue 6
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