The most important technology at any dealership is the one that promotes process: the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software.
In the days before the Internet and CRM software, a dealer’s only CRM process was what to do when a customer was physically present. How to actually get a customer to the dealer in the first place was just something for a sales manager to talk about in those early-Saturday-morning meetings. But it was rare he ever followed up on that kind of thing. The service department might have sent out some snail mail as a form of follow-up, but other than that, for the majority of dealerships, that was the end of the story.
Today we have CRM systems to instruct us on whom we should be following up with and when we should do it.
Back when I was a salesperson, I hated CRM system. I thought it was stupid. It never told me the right time to call someone, and it never told me what to say when I did call. I felt like I was cold-calling even though these were people with whom I had already worked. I mean, if the guy couldn’t buy six months ago, what’s the point of continuing to call him? On top of that, my monthly sales gross and volume were definitely above average, so the boss left me alone most of the time. Frankly, I didn’t see the point of CRM software, and I would bet some people still feel that way.
When I finally started looking at things from the perspective of a career-minded professional—someone who saw the interests of the entire company as something personal—my CRM views shifted. In my new role as the Internet director, I was being paid based on the entire organization’s Internet closing ratios. I had to make sure contacts and follow-ups were happening among the Internet staff, and I had to track all of it at month’s end, which was always the worst part of my job.
Despite that, I was completely focused on the Internet department and would scream about how the sales floor was just a CRM black hole, a place where customer information was entered and left to die. It was up to the Internet department to tackle the follow-up. That’s how we began creating BDCs (business development centers). Unfortunately, you have to overstaff a BDC to compensate for a lack of a consistent effort on the sales floor, and that’s not cheap. Also, a BDC does nothing to help build rapport or any of the other things a salesperson or service writer works so hard to do while the customer is at the dealership.
CRM systems and software have been around for more than a decade now, and while there have been ups and downs, I now believe the technology has gotten to a point where we can truly rely on it to give us good data and take care of the most important part of the process: follow-up.
Today, we’ve finally acknowledged that every customer is an Internet customer and that we need to concentrate on making the entire company better from the ground up. With a weak economy, the days of compensating for inconsistencies by adding more staff are over.
The CRM system, love it or hate it, is the heart of a dealership. The dealer management system, or DMS, is the backbone. Executive staff is the brain, and other employees are the arms, legs, fingers, mouth, eyes and ears. Technology, through the Internet, crept in the back door and kicked us right in the rear. We’re all facing the need to become “born-again” as we reassemble our businesses to meet today’s standards.
The individual who understands and embraces changes in technology is going to make the biggest impact on a dealership. Just like the Internet snuck in through the back door, your “Internet person” has probably become your savior.
I wanted to tell my story to show how a job that might be thought of as extraneous and temporary can come back around to be something very necessary. Don’t be so quick to dismiss new technologies, and try to keep an eye on the back door … you never know who or what could slip in.
Vol 9, Issue 8