Let’s talk about accountability for making the customer relationship management (CRM) product produce in your dealership’s environment. There are probably a lot of people ready to weigh in, starting with the CRM vendor and running down through the salespeople, with the latter usually getting more than their fair share of the blame for any failure. From the outset, you need to recognize there will be some adjustment with any system. There are too many variables to address, and there will always be minor issues. Think in terms of the frequent updates you get from Microsoft and Apple.

For our purposes, as we approach this discussion, let’s concentrate and reflect on the difference between authority and responsibility. As anyone with management experience knows, you can delegate authority, but you can never delegate responsibility. Ultimately, the responsibility resides with the person who committed the dealership’s funds to purchasing this CRM, or any product, for that matter. Whether it is an active in-house dealer principal or a general manager, whoever signed the contract shoulders the responsibility. In reality, though, they have some assistance from other managers who have been delegated authority to do what needs to be done. But the ultimate responsibility should always be at the top of the food chain.

I am still amazed, as a former general manager in a dealership, that a lot of folks at and above that position seem to think the CRM product comes out of the box, plugs in and, just like the miracle ovens on late night TV infomercials, you can “Set it and forget it!” Technology is meant to help you perform your daily operations more efficiently, with a wider reach, speed and accuracy that enhance the profit opportunity for your dealership. The ability to do all of that is resident in the program when it arrives, but it is purely potential energy. To change that to a kinetic experience, you have to infuse the system with the data that will allow it to perform for you. This is not a one-time event but a continuous process that demands governance by established processes and management supervision.

I recall a symposium in which a manager commented he had a successful salesperson who could sell 20 cars a month for him, but he would not adhere to the dealership’s established processes. This created issues. The moderator told him?and anyone else in attendance with a similar issue?to call home at the first break, fire the person and find two people who would sell 10 cars each, or four who would each sell five, but would do it in accordance with the dealership’s processes. The point of his advice was that you established the processes for a purpose, so why do you let your managers and employees circumvent them? It is absolutely the same with CRM and any other technology product you purchase. If  the database is the heart of your operation, and the processes are designed to feed that engine and let it operate at peak efficiency, then why would you tolerate people who disrupt a system you paid good money for? The problem is never that “the salespeople won’t use the system.” The problem is that you and your managers do not enforce the processes that you established to make your dealership profitable.

The answer is simple. You need to positively adjust some attitudes to get the team and both managers and salespeople back on track. You will always have a right to expect what you inspect. The ultimate responsibility for keeping your ship headed in the right direction is yours alone!

Vol. 9, Issue 9

About the author
Philip Barras

Philip Barras

Vice President of Dealer Services

View Bio