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BDC Department
December 04, 2001 13:38:09
CRM: Sounds Great, But Can I Dance to It?

Ted Rubin
President of DealerUps, Inc.

Back when I was managing at a dealership, I remember thinking that there had to be a better way to track and manager our customers and their information. Using the traditional desk and phone logs to track customers seemed tedious, but it was what we were all use to. So, we continued to use it. And, it worked!

After a few years, once the Internet became a big deal, and everyone was trying to figure out what it was and how they could profit from it in the automotive industry, companies began to develop ILM's, or Internet Lead Managers. This type of a type of product was revolutionary to the automotive industry. It gave dealerships and Internet Managers the ability to facilitate the reception, response and categorization of e-mails to and from the dealership.

This product still exists today, and has been enhanced greatly over the last few years to help dealers respond faster, and organize their Internet leads better. But, until recently, the utility of the ILM has not been effectively transferred to the sales floor, or to phone ups. And, while Business Developments Centers have become more prevalent, we had seen little software that has really helped to advance their ability to manage the sheer volume of information that is the BDC's responsibility to control.

Then came the CRM. It stands for Customer Relationship Manager. (Please excuse me if you recognize all these acronyms, but we use so many in this industry, I just wanted to make sure everyone is on the same page.) It sounded as though this breakthrough would be more the wonder to the business than that of the ILM. Ah, but there were a few obstacles you see.

To begin with, when you started your Internet department, you hired a person that was desirous of being in that position. Someone that was both willing and capable of learning new modes of communication to be able to interact with customers. This same person was at least familiar with technology. Not, afraid to forge ahead into a new way of doing business. Instituting an ILM was a part of this new way of doing business. It made this person's job easier. And, it was a part of their job right from the beginning. This new way, was the only way that many of these new managers and salespeople had ever done business! There was no “change” required.

Not true when instituting a CRM. This product must be integrated with your current sales departments and sales professionals. Many of these people are set in their ways. They have worked for a long time, and they want to do what works. You are not always met with enthusiasm that you had hoped for, and received when introducing a new product to BDC. Showroom salespeople are not as motivated to learn new ways and new tools your newer, more technologically advanced departments.

So, what do you do? First off, I would say, make your life easy. Don't make big, sweeping changes. Yes, I do believe that a CRM can be a very effective tool for any dealer, but do your research. A good rule of thumb is, "he easiest one to use will probably get the most use!” This holds true especially when dealing with your average sales professional.

In watching many dealers assess which CRM to purchase, I often see them looking for all the nifty bells and whistles that they can get. The question is, what actual value do these bells and whistles bring other than lots of noise? Some features really do bring value. Those that increase speed of input, supply additional customer information or integrate other services that you are currently using not only make life easier, but can increase utilization. But beware of those that may be state-of-the-art, but bring no real merit. These items often only complicate the process to use the system. Programs can get so confusing that no one will use them. Don't loose sight of the fact that ease of use is the key to getting your CRM used.

Second, make sure that there is some true benefit to all those that are using the system, not just to one type of user. Many managers in choosing a CRM, pick one because of what it will do for them. The problem here is that for it to be effective, it must get used by others. If there is no construed benefit to the others using the program, it will not get used. Thereby, there is no benefit to the manager. Be sure that everyone truly gets something from the product.

As many have found, simply giving a salesperson the ability to organize and follow up with their customers is not enough motivation to illicit continual use. Furthermore, offering your managers the ability to login and check on their salespro's activities and effectiveness is also not enough to induce perpetual utilization. While there is great benefit to both of these groups of people to use a system with these abilities, often the value to each is not acknowledged because the reward is neither immediate nor calculable. Therefore, the motivation to use such a tool is deficient. There must be an intrinsic value to utilizing the system that is derived by simply using the tool for a task that is currently required, or that can be identified by computing sales and commissions.

Third, make sure that the CRM you choose has a process that fits your own. The fact is that many CRM's have no process at all. They are simply computer programs created by computer developers for an industry that they really don't understand. These programs need to do more than just capture information. They need to work with you. Learn their processes. Find out if you must accommodate their process for best results, or if their product functions the way your store does. The latter will be much easier to learn and implement in your store. Moreover, make sure that the product was designed with the intended purpose that you wish to use it. Don't try to push a square peg into a round hole.

Finally, make sure that it works. Check references. See that what they offer truly exists. At least make sure they have a good track record. References can tell you a lot. Some products may say that they can do almost anything. And in some instances, that may be mostly true. But, does it really work and does it really get used? That is the questions to ask when checking a reference. Otherwise, you may be buying a product that sounds great, you just can't dance to it.

In closing, many people that I have worked with, and worked for have made the statement, “Garbage in, garbage out.” While this is true, I believe that it would be actually more accurate to say, “Nothing goes in, you'll get nothing out.” That is why it is so important your choice of CRM is:

  1. Easy to use
  2. Brings benefit to those that use it
  3. Works with your stores current processes
  4. Has a successful track record

Without these as your guide, you might as well just pick a number, put your money down, spin the wheel and hope for the best!

Ted Rubin is President of DealerUps, Inc., the creator of DeskLog™, a company dedicated to developing software solutions for dealerships that wish to increase their effectiveness through technology and process improvement. Ted has direct, and extensive experience in all facets of dealership sales and service management.



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