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CRM Product Review

On the surface, defining CRM – or Customer Relationship Management – should be a simple task. Move beyond the name and it is not that simple. CRM, in its broadest term, means maintaining an ongoing relationship with every individual that your dealership comes in contact with in such a manner that you can anticipate their needs and meet them. Due to the sheer volume of those contacts, a CRM tool (or tools) must be utilized to facilitate that in an efficient organized manner.

The question then becomes what exactly do I need? Is CRM just software? Is it a process? Is it a place to outsource? Or is it just a trained staff? It can be all of these and more.

Why conduct a product review?
With the increased focus by the industry on CRM, Auto Dealer Monthly felt that it would be the ideal subject to conduct its initial product review. In keeping with our mission, this magazine feels that dealers need the ability to gather unbiased and reliable information before making a significant budgetary commitment. As always, we feel the best source of that information is other dealers, who through a detailed process, can provide insightful information about each provider’s various strengths and weaknesses.

more than 10 CRM providers were asked to participate in an open, honest evaluation of their product by their dealers using it daily. Four companies accepted our challenge and guidelines.


Each CRM vendor was asked to provide a list of 15 dealers currently using their product, of which a maximum of five were randomly chosen to participate. Each CRM vendor was also asked to provide a list of questions that they would like to have considered during the review process. Those questions were reviewed when compiling a comprehensive list of questions that covered installation, user friendliness, training, support, functionality, results and cost. That list of questions, along with a dealership profile questionnaire, was sent to each participating dealership. Participating dealers also agreed to a short interview when warranted to clarify their responses.

Additionally, each CRM participant was also given the opportunity to provide a demo of their product or any other informational material regarding their product for our review.

Participating dealers were asked to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of each product, as well as rating them on a scale of one to 10. All dealer comments are presented anonymously to protect the dealers, while allowing them to be as honest about the product as possible. The accumulation of that data is presented here for your interpretation.

Who were our participants?

@utoRevenue was created in August 2001 as the industry’s first fully automated e-mail communication company. Having expanded its services beyond e-mail to voice messaging and direct mail, they allow a dealership to outsource a full CRM solution that is able to choose the least expensive mode of communication for the dealers’ contacts. Dealers can choose to utilize any or all of the forms of communication that they offer.

eLead CRM (Fresh Beginnings) started in 1984 as the cookie company and has evolved to a wide array of products and services. The company can provide a complete fulfillment center for dealers who wish to take advantage of a single provider for all CRM ancillary related services, such as a call center, data mining and direct mail. Dealers are free to mix and match services as their business needs change.

ProResponse has been servicing the automobile dealers since 1998. ProResponse is an outsource solution where a skilled team of professionals actually do the work for you. That follow-up includes targeted marketing, do not call compliance and service reminders. Their program is designed so that in five minutes per day computer savvy salespeople and those who will never turn on one will be successful with a CRM program.

How did they stack up?

With a rating of 1-10 utilized, 10 being the best, all four providers proved that they are doing a great job of meeting the needs of their dealers. All of our participants were well above average; 7.3 was the lowest average score by any company in any single category, proving that they were all important to the overall profitability and operation of the dealership.

The most interesting part of the review was that although they all do a great job, they do have different strengths and weaknesses. Each dealer needs to evaluate which items are most important to their dealership before deciding which provider to engage for their dealership.

@utoRevenue scored an overall rating of 9.1 with their training, support and installation, making the biggest impact with their dealers. Their training took top honors because there is so little required to use their service, and their staff practices what they preach when it comes to follow-up. “Our sales representative comes to the dealership on a regular basis to work with our staff,” stated one dealer who was very pleased with @utoRevenue. Another praised, “We appreciate the proactive recommendations offered by @autoRevenue.”

Their support and installation received high grades based on their speed, accuracy and friendliness of the staff involved. Dealers felt that the @utoRevenue product was an excellent value for the money spent.

The weaknesses that were uncovered during this review process were based on functionality and were very specific items which may not be a concern to all dealers. Participating dealers did not feel that their product does an adequate job of updating against the Do Not Call list. If dealers have another system in place to address this, it would not be a concern. Other comments from dealers include, “Does not read all drivers licenses well,” and “additional searches are needed to find previous customer easily.”

When comments are that specific, it generally means that the product is devoid of major flaws, and dealers are only looking for improvements in what they already love. With @utoRevenue’s focus on their customers, those should be easy items to resolve.

eLead CRM (Fresh Begining)

The number two vendor, eLead CRM, was the number one vendor by a very small margin when it came down to results. eLead was the only participant to achieve a firm 10 when dealers were asked the question, "Have ad costs per unit decreased since implementation?" "Cost effective" and "increased follow-up” were two comments made that “keeps customers coming back."

Functionality also aided their ratings, tying them for second in this category. They rated at the top of the list in three different categories-Updating for Do Not Call compliance, solutions for undeliverable mail and the variety of standard reports available to dealership personnel.

As you move up the list, it becomes harder to identify weaknesses, but even the best products have room for improvement. With eLead CRM, support and training could be improved upon. "We receive no monthly visits from representative at our store for maintenance of our account," stated one dealer. Another said, "We need more training for our salespeople." Based on other dealers’ comments and our research, it is our opinion that the necessary training is available upon request.


How do you get to be number one? Dealers rate you at the top of your game in four of the seven categories reviewed and you tie in a fifth. ProResponse had a powerhouse of excellent ratings. User friendliness and support were both a 9.9. Praise was powerful as evidenced by comments like “Support is always helpful and in a timely manner,” and, “It is an easy to use process”.

Amazing is their install process, every dealer participating stated that installation was on time and fully functional at onset with adequate, knowledgeable personnel fulfilling their needs.

Functionality, again, firm 10’s for their solutions in direct mail and e-mail for all sales and service customers as well as prospects. They also received the highest marks for custom designing direct mail and e-mail campaigns.

Does the number one rated product have any weaknesses? Hear it from the dealers: “The only weakness was in our dealership personnel.” The only other weakness commented on: “You need a CRM person responsible in-house to ensure that information is input timely.” How often do you hear a dealership raise their hand for any perceived shortcomings in a product? If that doesn’t speak volumes about the product, what does?

There were, however, a few specific items that we did find that had room for improvement; namely the variety of useful standard reports, as well as the ability to easily create custom reports. Based on the lower score in these areas, low being relative to their own high scores in other areas, dealers would like some additional options here.

Who do I choose?

Obviously it is nearly impossible to compare apples to apples when it comes to CRM products and services because there is such variety. The first step is to identify your needs. Do you need software? Do you need service? Do you need in-house control or total outsourcing? You have to decide this; don’t let your next provider chose for you. Once you have established what you need, then consider more than just the dealers’ review of the product or service. You will want to know about fee structure, their typical dealer client and the ability to import your data. More than likely, when combining this data with the dealer review, you will be able to eliminate at least one from consideration, making your ultimate decision much easier.

If you prefer to outsource your CRM tasks to someone who can chose the most cost effective method of communication with your customers and prospects, doesn’t tie you to a long-term contract, and provides outstanding training, @utoRevenue probably fits your dealership.

If you want a large variety of products from one vendor that allows you to grow from just CRM software, to data mining, to a call center, to cookie follow-up and more, schedule a meeting with eLead CRM from Fresh Beginnings. You might just get those ad costs down to the next level.

If, on the other hand, you just need someone to handle your CRM solutions with as little effort from your staff as possible, providing excellent service and support, while allowing you maximum flexibility in custom design of communication to your customers, ProResponse deserves a long hard look before you make your decision.

Ultimately, every dealer should make an informed, educated decision on what is best for their dealership. The most important thing a dealer can do is make a committed choice. Not just committed to the purchase of a product or service but committed to the full implementation of that product or service. The same product utilized in the same type of dealership can have varying results based purely on the commitment level of the personnel. Where do you want your dealership to be?

If you have a product or service that you would like to be considered for a future product review, please send the name of the product or service as well as a company contact to [email protected]. We will be happy to contact them and try to arrange a future review.

If you would like to be a participating dealer in an upcoming review, e-mail [email protected] with “Participation” in the subject line, and we will contact you.

Vol 2, Issue 6



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