Every dealer should be implementing new growth strategies as the market finally picks up steam. Your CRM system can be a valuable asset if utilized properly. On the other hand, it can be a growth deterrent if mismanaged. Simply put, your CRM system should acquire, grow, and retain profitable customer relationships in order to create a sustainable competitive advantage.
Without a doubt, customer loyalty is a major ingredient of profitability. Creating customer loyalty needs to be an integral part of your dealerships strategy, particularly in a time of dealer consolidation. Understanding your customers’ basic requirements is fundamental to ongoing business success. You must put your customer at the center of your business and direct your CRM system to manage your customer communications at a very tactical level. It will ultimately help you build value and keep the communication channels open.
Unfortunately, CRM use is too often clumsy and costly for the dealership. In most cases it has become an email machine that only generates spam while providing little incentive for customers to react to the messaging.
Consider the following when evaluating your present CRM initiative:
1. Have a plan: A clear cut, defined strategy is a must. The CRM plan you create must focus on the long term picture—improving customer retention. If you’re CRM-generated mailings, emails, calls, and follow-up don’t build on customer trust, relationship, and increase customer value, you missed the target.
2. Don’t neglect training: Get provider training on both tactical and strategic use of the CRM system for users and managers. You need to know what this investment should do for you and hold staff accountable for those results. Don’t let a rookie steer the boat.
3. Communication relevance: Cross-reference your database with DMV records frequently; you’re sloppy when you send a service reminder for a vehicle sold three years ago.
4. It’s not a one-way street: Expecting customers to call you as the only offered reply format from one of your communications is naive. Rather, enable them to click into your automated appointment scheduler directly from your email and book the service. Let them touch “0” on their keypad to respond to a voicemail message. Give them a special text code for replying to an offer or communication. Track that code throughout the customer interaction.
5. Email blasts: One-time email blasts don’t encourage repeat business or build retention. They only alienate your customer base. Consumer spending, even on sale items, will continue to be replaced by a reason-to-buy at all. Ensure that your communications all have a targeted, pertinent reason.
6. Personalize: Addressing a letter or email using last name first such as Jones, Bill or some other awkward salutation tells the customer the message is computer generated. You’ve lost the customer right there. Ask customers how they want to hear from you and then be sure you set the CRM to communicate with customers in that format, whether mail, email, text, phone, or print.
7. Accountability: Even a basic desktop contact management system when used and used regularly will market your business to customers, but only if you use it! Hold your team accountable, and hold the CRM manufacturer responsible for providing campaign result accountability.
Like the romance of dating, the pursuing, wooing, and winning of customers for life is a long-term strategy. The CRM is an ideal tool for supporting this profitable goal. When you use your CRM to make it easy for customers to do business with you, you’ll not only win their business, you will earn it repeatedly.
Michael Gorun is the managing partner of MediaTrac, a technology based owner retention company he started in 2003 after nearly 25 years in operational service management positions for Ford, Nissan, and General Motors.
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