Greg Wells is president of AllCall Automotive Contact Center.

Greg Wells is president of AllCall Automotive Contact Center. [email protected]

If you think your CRM has failed you, think again. Expert identifies five common obstacles to success and explains how to knock them down.

Having analyzed countless dealership operations, I have come to the realization that many dealerships face the same barriers to CRM success. The steps you need to take to successfully knock down these obstacles are simple: identify, isolate and eliminate. Or as I like to say, you need to seek and destroy the issues getting in the way of your operation achieving CRM success.

But let’s take a step back, because “success” is such a subjective term. What I mean is you need to define what success is. And to do that, you to answer the following: What are your CRM goals? Did you define your goals before you made the CRM commitment? Does your entire organization know intimately what those goals are?

See, to achieve CRM success, you need to have a vision. If you can’t see it, describe it and explain how it can benefit your customers and the organization, success can’t be achieved. And how can you if no one knows what it looks like, which leads me to the first of five barriers I’d like to cover.


A lack of involvement by top management in the development of the strategy and the onboarding of a CRM or new CRM is definitely a barrier to success. How do you knock it down? Champion the cause and be the expert.

Recently, Brad Lillie, general manager at Gregg Young Chevrolet in Omaha, Neb., asked me to join him at the home office of his new CRM provider. They were in the developmental phase of the CRM and he wanted me there to help map out the processes and calibrate task creation, messages and reporting.

I was only there for a few days, but the training lasted two weeks. Brad was there every day. He was learning, guiding and spreading his enthusiasm to his managers as they came in for their training. I ran into one of their installation facilitators from the CRM provider a few weeks later. He told me the CRM install may have been the smoothest in which he’s ever been involved.


Poor CRM skills by managers and end users can be a major obstacle to overcome. It’s easily the most chronic of the barriers listed here. One general manager told me the biggest issue was his staff’s inability to properly communicate and function.

Knocking it down is tough. It takes training, of course, but accountability is a must. So, how much training are new employees getting before they’re expected to function at a high level?

Let’s play “What if.” What if your controller couldn’t use your dealership management system? What if your techs couldn’t operate diagnostic equipment? What if your payroll person couldn’t cut checks and your service writers couldn’t write service? What if your F&I manager couldn’t print a contract and your parts manager couldn’t count?


Ouch! This one smarts. The wrong CRM is a common barrier to success. Many times I’ve heard dealers lament over displeasure with their CRM. They complain that it won’t perform some task or another. This is a symptom of not having specific goals during the research phase of shopping for a CRM. It can also be caused by relying blindly on the recommendation of another dealer.

The good news is it’s never too late to right the ship. Just sit down with your CRM provider, tell them what you want to accomplish and burden them with the solution. If the CRM solution doesn’t align with your goals, then find one that will. But be diligent and get it right.


Your staff ’s inability to see and understand the benefits of your CRM system is a cultural barrier to success. If employees think of your CRM as just a meaningless requirement imposed on them by their manager, the possibility of success isn’t even in the picture.

The key to knocking this barrier down lies in the hands of your managers. They must lead by example. They should be the CRM experts in the dealership. If you just laughed out loud, maybe you should focus on training your managers. In some cases, I’ve seen managers actually undermine the CRM vision by downplaying its importance to their subordinates. Is that happening at your store?


If you don’t know what to measure to gain success or meet benchmarks, parameters and guidelines of a successful CRM strategy, you're just winging it. It's time to set clear expectations and realistic benchmarks and set a protocol for account- ability.

Performance standards are the easiest way to get on the right track. Think about what you want your employees to achieve. Manage the behavior and you predetermine the results. This contradicts the traditional way of thinking our business, but it is a popular methodology in many organizations operating outside of our industry.

It’s important, however, that you set performance benchmarks based on realistic results. For instance, one salesperson told me his manager required that he make 30 calls a day, but he didn’t really know whom he was supposed to be calling. And if he didn’t complete his calls, it affected him financially, It's clear what management was trying to accomplish. Unfortunately, the manager missed the mark by making the behavior the benchmark, not the result.

So, the salesman made his 30 calls a day. He called his mother, sister and some buddies and asked them to stay on the line with him for a couple of minutes so the system would record a completed call. When I talked to management about this (I didn’t bust the salesperson), they said the point of the 30-call mandate was to encourage their salespeople to develop some business of their own. Well, why not just give them a benchmark of developing two deals a month? Isn’t that a more meaningful goal for both the employee and the dealership?

There are other barriers I see in dealerships. The quality of the data in the CRM is one of them. It can hinder success and can usually be traced back to the legacy system. Other examples include a lack of oversight, assuming the CRM is totally automated, and just plain underutilization of the CRM’s capabilities.

If you can knock down the five barriers I covered, you will be a great CRM dealership, and the other barriers will be much easier to overcome.

About the author
Greg Wells

Greg Wells

Senior Partner

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