As consumers shy away from purchasing new and pre-owned vehicles during this difficult economic cycle, customer relationship management efforts should be solidly focused on service opportunities. From any 100 customers who purchased a vehicle, from a retail dealer, data base management system information indicates about 30 of those customers are currently active. One of today’s profit opportunities lies in the 70 missing customers.

Many dealerships are making improvements in one area of fixed operations, and that is customer pay repair order counts.
Increase in Customer Pay Repair Orders
Highline    5.3%
Import        3.5%
Domestic    .02%
All Dealers    2.8%

What this increase doesn’t tell us is whether line items per repair order increased or if the gross profit increased at the same percentage as customer repair orders. This is where dealers need to do some additional analysis of their operations. Certain ecomonomic segments show that customers are repairing vehicles, but they aren’t necessarily maintaining their vehicles today. Smart dealers are focusing their CRM efforts on driving more of the 70 missing customers back to the dealership.

For many, CRM efforts are regularly concentrated on driving traffic for vehicle sales and these efforts are not consistent from one dealership to the next. The person responsible for those efforts seems to be changing. For some stores that have closed their BDCs (because they don’t feel they can justify the expense at this time) those duties have been turned back over the sales staff. This may be where a vicious circle is forming.

Some of these dealerships are turning the former BDC manager into a sales manager and making the sales staff pick up the slack in customer contact. This may be shortsighted and counterproductive if the dealer is not spending a tremendous amount of time training the sales staff. Most dealerships just don’t spend enough time or resources on this type of training anyway.

Originally, BDCs were created specifically to manage the dealership leads because dealers did not feel their sales people could do an adequate job of handling them. Now they are turning the leads back over to the sales staff again. See the circle forming? Did the sales staff get sufficient training along the way to now assume those duties and fulfill them to everyone’s expectations?

Regardless of whether a BDC is in place or the dealership is utilizing their entire staff for CRM efforts, e-mail, text messages or direct mail campaigns are no substitute for speaking with customers. The sooner a professionally trained salesperson and a customer can talk, the better the chances of selling a vehicle. Talking doesn’t mean e-mail, text or voice mail. It literally means speaking with the customer. Mind you, in today’s technology-driven, fast-paced lifestyle, e-mail, text and direct mail certainly may be the easiest way to stay in contact with your customer after the sale, but they don’t make a sale. Sales have always been and will always be about building a relationship with someone, and that works best when both parties can hear the words spoken. Emotion, tone or inflection can not be transmitted in text.

If you want to create excitement that sells products, you have to talk to customers.

Vol. 6, Issue 3