CommentaryMay 26th, 2022

Communication Has Changed: A Conversation with Joe Shaker


How do you interview someone who is truly an industry heavyweight, a Massachusetts Dealer of the Year, the CEO of a Tech Company, and who has been interviewed so many times before? You prepare. And then you scrap your prep notes and questions and you allow magic to happen. 

“I think the first-mover advantage is the first person to learn, right? Whoever learns first, has the advantage, and we've learned a lot.”

Meet Joe Shaker, owner of the Shaker Auto Group and the CEO of TruVideo. Someone who is “trying not to be famous,” doesn’t exist on LinkedIn and openly shares his story with honest excitement, energy and a formidable presence that, honestly, left us invigorated. 

Below is his story, in preparation for CXAUTO2022.

When I tell the story, I tell it from a point of: these are the real problems, this is what we've learned and this is what we did when we learned it. And then guess what? We learned something else. So when I say it's genuine, it's actually true. I wanted customers to see what they're paying for.

What is being disrupted, what is changing?

Communication is changing. 

I think one of the key things that I like to remind people, and what I've learned myself, is that we forget about the big picture. Sometimes when we're talking about service or sales we get focussed on details that don’t matter. I tell Dealers: don’t change the way you do business, change the way you communicate.  

Overall, 95% of customer experience is largely embedded in how well or how poorly you communicate. So we need to really focus on how we communicate and what it is that we are communicating. I like to joke around with the OEMs. I love it when I go to the meetings and people talk about trust and transparency or when the marketing team talks about meeting people on “their terms”: Yeah, just a quick question. How do you deliver on that? How would I execute that? Oh, you don't know. You're just saying that. Okay, great. Thanks for the punchline. So what we end up doing is going back to the theory without an execution model, but we can solve these problems!

The stars have aligned for TruVideo and the reason I say that is because texting is the most used function on a phone and 10 billion videos are being watched daily on Facebook alone. Customer behavior has fallen inline for us, and with phones now taking high quality video, there has been an alignment between consumer behavior and technology. Asynchronous communication is how customers want to communicate. They love it, they click on it, they open it and, if you want to do business with a customer, it's the best way to maintain a relationship based on all the data and stats. Also, because of where we are in this journey, we can now also see how customers are interacting with the communication. 

If we take it a step further, focussing on the customer experience, CX personalisation is probably the strongest underpinning right now. Video has provided this personalization which has allowed these communications to explode on the customer experience front as well as dealer revenue. Simultaneously, you get to take two bites out of the same apple.

“TruVideo really took off within the sales department of forward thinking Dealers”

We have a case study that analyzed 16 stores, within a large group, during December of 2020. The case study showed that when you sent the video to a customer that personalized their experience, the appointment set rate and show rate, both increased. We all know that when we are talking about leads and customers, we are looking at how many leads were generated, how many appointments were made, how many were confirmed and how many customers showed up to those appointments. The next layer, percentage wise, is how many vehicles were sold after this whole process. Any change on any level, with any of those factors, makes the number at the bottom go nuts because it’s a multiplier. 

Well, with the case study group, they sent out just under 7000 videos and sold around 560 more cars during COVID than they did prior to the pandemic in December 2019.

We started to realize that so many people were watching the videos over and over again and sharing them, we realized this data is actually more valuable than the website data. We can send videos, we can scrape words and phrases, we can really grab all this rich analytics and data and reach customers. 

How are you able to manage your duties within Shaker Auto Group as well as deliver on your goals as CEO of TruVideo?

One of my favorite quotes is: “Commit to the process, and surrender to the result.” Our Business, the car business, has been largely built around processes. When we hire, we share our process, our system, which we are willing to hire into. It is not a blank slate. We are willing to hire you to work within this ecosystem and we have spent a lot of time creating a systems and process driven environment. This means that hiring correctly and training people to thrive within our environment, really is our big picture. 

We do behavioral profiling so that we get the right fit within the environment and we also have a different way of paying our people versus other Dealers. The reality is that someone like me is usually buying more stores to grow further. I have chosen to diversify what I do and how I do things through software and technology. I have a great management team that we have cultivated in order to run the process environment and this allows me to grow in different ways typical to the industry. 

In an environment where everybody is focussed on training, how do you truly integrate training into your environment?

Theory without execution is hallucination, and I don’t like to hallucinate. People do and say things, buzzwords, but don’t execute on them. When people say they do training, I want to know what that means. Usually, theoretically they are right but I want to understand how they execute on these things. And I think that's really the secret; we won't sign up with vendors if we don't believe we, as the dealership, can execute on it. There is a difference between those who flippantly use training as a component of their operations and ourselves. It’s part of our system, our process, it’s a religion with us.

What can we expect at CXAUTO2022

TruVideo has really been an incredible experience for us and some of what I'll be talking about at the Event is conversational commerce; what it is and how we found ourselves there. We knew we were doing something different but found out that the concept existed, we were just executing it in a very unique way.

When we started learning about the communication chain, we realized everyone was getting the same message. We had to fix that and, then, that’s when we really started learning. We spent the first few years really focussed on solving the customer problem. The word engagement slips in all the time but when we really think about it, has the message been delivered and not just the text lines? Maybe we know the open rate of an email, but do we really know anything else?

“I want to talk to the Doctor, not to the Receptionist”

In 2021 we released the ROVI Report; We wanted to share data from our first 7 million videos. One OEM partner that shared data with us showed us  a 1.1 million repair order sample. The ROs that had video were $55 more, and, simultaneously increased CX scores. Customer “Intent to Return”, went up 4 points on the Net Promoter Score and “Value for Service” went up 3 points on NPS. Some of our OEM partners have exploded on the JD Power Service Index; so we are truly seeing the impact on the customer. 

Following the data has shown us that we can not only eradicate doubt, but fix the communication chain. We realised we had data when we saw 35% of videos being shared in service. The inspection from the technician was no longer diluted by going through various people. The same transparent message was now going to the advisor, customer and any friend or confidant. 

What matters about data and analytics is: how do we make it actionable? How many times are people watching, sharing, what is the real time data?

We can show that through our dashboard, allowing managers to know what they need and allowing the Dealer to control the communication. 

Our high-energy conversation ended with us sharing our personal views on how the world needs more. More communication, more technicians, more perspective, more creativity and more acceptance of differing skills. Especially when it comes to breaking negative cycles through inclusive thinking. 

See Joe live at the CXAUTO2022 in Marina Del-Rey next month!

We would highly recommend it!

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