Why All the Confusion?

Imagine that your dealership was sectioned off into little rooms. When a customer approached your dealership with a need to purchase something, they would be escorted to one of the rooms based on something arbitrary, for example, hair color, zip code or communication style. Each room would have assigned salespeople and each room would have a computer with customer information separate from every other computer. None of the rooms would interact or know what was happening next door. The customers would enter and leave through separate hallways, making sure that they were kept within the room of their assigned category. When a sale was made, that customer would be on their merry way, and your dealership would hope to see them again someday.

Okay, that example is a bit over the top, but it illustrates how many dealers think when sorting inbound leads. If a customer sends an e-mail about a car in your inventory, why should that customer have a completely different buying experience from someone who calls in? A lead is a lead. We know that just about every customer goes to the Web, calls and eventually will come into a store. Every prospect is a Web customer, a phone up and a showroom lead – all at the same time – whether we know it or not!

To make matters worse, if you add the customer’s service experience, you most likely have segmented them yet again! In order to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself to your dealership, it is time to think differently. It is time to understand that Internet lead management (ILM) is not customer relationship management (CRM) and that there is a real and pressing need for your dealership to have a total view of all customers. Let’s explore some of the key differences between ILM and CRM.

ILM does not track the total lifecycle of the customer. When a lead comes into your Internet department, what happens to that lead after they have come in for a test drive? Does the system you use follow that customer through to sale, and more notably these days, through to service? CRM is designed specifically to be able to track a customer from first interaction to sale, and most importantly, it is used to communicate with them over time in a way that drives future and frequent purchases.

ILM does not increase your service revenue. Where would your dealership be in today’s economy without the revenue generated by your fixed ops department? Why then would you settle for only knowing that a customer has purchased from you and not knowing when that customer has been in for service? Or, if a lead comes in that for some reason does not result in a purchase, what is the communications plan with that customer to get them to bring their current vehicle in for service? Without a way to market back to your recently-sold customers and prospects, you are missing out on a huge revenue generating opportunity. CRM bridges the gap between service and sales by allowing you to develop highly targeted campaigns geared to bring new or unsold customers back in for service.

ILM is great for tracking Internet leads, but what about buyers who walk through your doors or phone-ups? So you do a great job with your Internet leads. They come into your Internet department and are followed up on by a BDC or Internet sales department to get the customer to come in for a test drive, but what is your process for tracking be-backs, walk-ins and phone-ups? Does the process or technology used for follow-up differ depending on how the lead came into your dealership? It shouldn’t. If you have more than one process (which can be caused by not using the same technology or using a tool that is deficient in one of the areas of your dealership), you are missing out on critical data points about your customers. You wouldn’t use two different DMS systems to track blue cars versus red cars, so why should you utilize different systems to track your customers—your most valuable asset?

Internet lead management is an important component of running a dealership in today’s ever-growing online world; however, it needs to be a part of something larger to be truly effective. In order to fully understand your customers, their buying habits and their lifetime value to your dealership, CRM and ILM must both be in place. I challenge you to begin to remove the “little rooms” in your dealership. Stop categorizing customers as Internet, walk-in or phone-up, and develop ways to think of your customers as customers, plain and simple.

Vol. 6, Issue 5