I’ve worked with automotive manufacturers and dealers for more than 20 years, and the same challenges surface over and over again. Corporate teams struggle to successfully roll out new programs and initiatives across their network of highly dispersed dealerships. Dealers feel inundated with information from the corporate office, and lack the support and tools needed to succeed. And the field gets to play mediator, stuck in the middle of that strained OEM/dealer relationship.
Last October, we stepped in to help one national auto brand solve these challenges when they rolled out a new customer-loyalty program. By leveraging technology to roll out and monitor program performance, the client saw positive changes across the organization in three key areas.
1. Improving Transparency and Alignment Across the Organization
One department within this automotive company was focused on driving customer satisfaction and retention. It wanted the entire organization to rally around that goal, and set out to launch a loyalty program that would reward dealers with strong performance and encourage weaker dealers to improve performance. But to make it work, the deapartment needed a way to align communications in order to ensure that all parties—from the individual dealerships all the way up to the corporate office—were actively doing their part to deliver on that brand promise.
By tracking key performance indicators in one consistent tool, the department was able to get all levels of management on the same page in terms of program priorities and metrics. What used to be 10 disparate data feeds were consolidated into one tool, providing more transparency across the business. Instead of having to manually collect information, run simulations, and disseminate findings through the field to the dealers, the program manager was able to implement a large number of tasks, reducing her weekly workload by upward of 40%.
2. Empowering the Field to Serve as Consultants
Now that the entire organization was aligned around these goals and priorities, the field was able to better serve both the dealers and the corporate office.
Traditionally, field managers would spend full days preparing for store visits each week. By consolidating all of the relevant resources and information needed in one place, field managers were able to start spending less time compiling and researching information and more time with dealers, digging into performance updates and ways to drive improvements.
With one concise dashboard, field managers were able to quickly review and understand performance, with the ability to view and drill down on metrics at the company, district, and store levels. Time that used to be spent relaying information down from corporate was now spent serving as strategic consultants to the dealers. With the detailed metrics breakdown, they were able to talk to dealers about how their performance compared to others in their district, uncover areas of opportunity and key challenges, and discuss tools and best practices to help them improve.
3. Engaging Dealers to Drive Performance
As with other programs, dealerships were rewarded for hitting goals, but a primary motivator for success was the fear of corporate action should performance slip. At the launch of the program rollout, the company did an analysis of how much compensation was left on the table by dealers not hitting their numbers. With the new tool, field managers were able to better frame discussions around positive motivators, and give dealers a detailed view of how they were tracking against compensation targets.
With previous program rollouts, the field and dealers also lacked insight into how their performance was tracking against other dealers. The new tool provided higher levels of visibility and encouraged dealers to ask and answer questions among their peers, helping the organization uncover best practices of high-performing dealerships. These insights were then used as a valuable toolset for driving improvements among weaker performers.
So, what’s the real impact of aligning, empowering, and engaging your organization with the help of data-driven technology? For the auto brand in this scenario, dealerships that took advantage of the tool were regularly twice as likely to hit their quarterly targets. That’s good for customer loyalty and the bottom line.
Chris Taylor is founder and CEO of Square Root, an Austin, Texas–based SaaS company whose store performance management platform, CoEFFICIENT, helps leading auto and retail enterprises align their organizations, increase transparency, encourage collaboration, and improve store performance.