Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Podcast: What Dealerships Do with Customer Data to Provide Better Customer Experience.

I was a guest on Dennis Wisco's Wisco Weekly Podcast, where I discussed how car dealers use data to provide a better customer experience (at 10:30 mark). I hope you listen.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How Focusing On Your CRM Tells Your Brand Story

A dealership’s reputation is often determined by the customer’s last experience. If the customer had a positive experience, he or she most likely will be willing to share it with others. The same is true if the experience was negative. Thus, it’s important a dealership creates a positive experience for everyone who interacts with it. Any interaction customers have with your dealership is a reflection of your brand. Branding is not just a marketing responsibility, but also something that everyone at the dealership needs to be part of. That’s why hiring the right person, training them the right way, and having the right tools available are essential to not only giving your customers a great experience, but also helping build your brand and customer loyalty. One of the most influential tools dealers can use to affect customer experience and branding is customer relationship management (CRM) software.


The days are gone when dealers relied on CRM only to manage leads and customers. Today, the most progressive and successful dealers use CRM to manage their customer relationships. They use CRM to sell their “brand” by developing and managing long-lasting positive relationships and creating the ideal customer experience. This can only be accomplished by offering a positive customer experience through marketing, prospecting, the entire sales process, the sales follow-up, and service.

Data Vs. Leads

Dealers often neglect their customer database and spend too much time, money, and effort acquiring new leads through advertising and third-party lead providers. These leads usually offer very little information and are not dealer-exclusive. If dealers focus solely on attracting new customers and neglect their existing clientele, they run the serious risk of losing the loyal customers they worked so hard to acquire. A CRM captures a valuable database of information that a dealer can use to improve its customer interactions and increase retention.

Today, we know more about a customer than ever before. We know every call, email, letter, and text that we send them. We know where they live, their phone numbers, and their email addresses. We know every lead they have submitted and every vehicle they have ever looked at. We also know what vehicles they own or have previously owned. We know their service history and average repair order cost. We know the estimated mileage, trade value, and if the customer is in an equity position. We have all of this data, but are you using it? Do you have processes in place to know and understand your customers? A dealership needs to access this data to customize customer marketing and follow-up with relevant and timely messages through their preferred methods of communication. Are your marketing efforts aimed at the 2 percent of people who are in the market for a new car or the 98 percent that are not?

CRM and Your Brand

Customers are loyal to a company because of the quality of its product and/or the excellent customer service they receive. Because dealers do not have exclusivity on the products they sell, customers have many options when purchasing a new vehicle. With multiple dealerships selling the same cars, the distinguishing characteristic is how you treat your customers. CRM allows a dealer to distinguish itself by the service it provides. 

Dealers talk about how dedicated they are to customer service, but delivering on it is an entirely different matter. As mentioned before, your brand is determined by your relationship with customers, which evolves from hundreds of small interactions (leads, phone calls, emails, visits, service). These interactions add up to build or destroy a brand. Since a majority of these interactions originate from CRM, it is important that it matches the image you want to portray. 

A positive customer service experience should occur at every touch-point. To them, branding is about faith and trusting you when you say, “We care.” Ultimately, people don’t trust companies, they trust people. It is critical to build this trust. When a salesperson says he or she will call tomorrow, the CRM must prompt that salesperson to call. If a customer says he or she doesn’t want to receive calls at home, that should be respected. The customer expects the dealership to respond quickly when a lead is submitted. The customer expects to receive something of value in return for his or her email address, not a bunch of spam.

Today’s Customers

Today’s customers do not want to be sold to. By the time they contact a dealer, they have already done their due diligence. They need someone to engage with, to facilitate the sale, and to celebrate with when they make their decision. Customers are more likely to research the company’s brand, such as looking at online reviews or social media posts regarding past customer experiences. 

Besides price, why should customers buy from you? It should be all about experience. With CRM, dealers can better serve their customers, speed up the sales process, and create a positive experience.

CRM Examples That Drive Positive Experiences

CRM desking multipayments allows you to present customers with numbers, allowing them to choose their payment versus being pushed into a payment. This speeds up the negotiation process, improves CSI, and helps you hold gross. 

When a customer comes looking for a used car you don’t have, instead of allowing them to leave, search your CRM with them for customers you sold that vehicle to three to four years ago. Offer the owner of the possible trade a free car wash or oil change for bringing his or her car in. 

Create customized business campaigns to send the right message to the right person at the right time. 

Introduce recently sold customers to the service department and your website to set their first oil change. Meet them in the service drive when they come in to follow up on the sale and ask for a referral. 

Use the CRM data-mining tool to find customers in an equity position that qualify for a lower payment by getting a new vehicle. 

Make your salespeople 24-hour salespeople with a mobile CRM. They’ll be able to enter and follow up with customers from anywhere at any time.

Negative Experiences

We can’t control every interaction, and they’re bound to happen. You can, however, control how you react to negative experiences. Make sure you uncover negative experiences through surveys. If you receive a negative survey result, quickly enroll that customer into a campaign that notifies those that can correct it to immediately reach out to resolve the issue. 

Communication is key to great customer service. Surprisingly, these customers often become your best customers after you have spent time listening to them and resolving their issues. Learning from your mistakes is another important aspect of good customer service. Document heated issues into your CRM notes to ensure the same mistakes aren’t repeated.

Reward Loyal Customers

Do you know your most loyal and long-standing customers, those who have bought more than four vehicles or spent over $100,000 at your dealership? Your CRM can identify and segment these customers to notify you when they visit your store. Create a customer appreciation campaign to thank and reward them for their repeat business. Offer sales and service discounts to incentivize them to continue doing business with you. Offer them rewards for their referrals. Invite them to special VIP events, such as new model introductions or a customer appreciation party.

A CRM can keep you proactively maintaining positive relationships, not just responding when something goes awry. Your CRM is even more effective when combined with marketing, branding, and customer satisfaction. Your dealers will become much more efficient when they use CRM for more than just contact information. Manage customer relationships, create better customer experiences, increase your CSI, and grow your brand today by fully utilizing your CRM. 

Hunter Swift is the Director of Sales Training at DealerSocket. He specializes in helping dealerships improve sales and follow-up processes with CRM. Reach out to Hunter with your CRM questions at or on social media at @HunterSwift.

Friday, April 28, 2017

What To Do When Dealership Sales Are Slow.

I recently visited a dealership and I talked to the general manager and asked how the store was doing. He mentioned that their sales weren't where he wanted them to be. As I discussed with him more he was given me his reasons that leads and traffic were down, and that they weren't selling as much. As I listened to him, it didn't sound like he had a defined solution yet. I felt more that he was just planning to wait till things change. This got me thinking about what I would recommend and this is what I came up with.

1. Get better pre-owned inventory. 
If you dont have the right inventory it will not bring people into the dealership and it will sit on your lot. Don’t wait for people to trade their vehicles in, find what vehicle you have had success selling in the past (High Gross + Low Days to Sell), and get more of those. Look to people you sold those vehicles new, and get those owners in to get their trade you know you can sell. Those people will need to vehicles too. This increases your serviceable customers as well. If someone comes in looking for a car you don't have, don't tell them you will call them if you get one and let them leave. Look through your sold database and try and find someone you sold that car new and get them to come in because you have a buyer.

2. Reach out to anyone who is in equity position. 
Find people who own the previous body style, and getting toward the end of their warranty that you can get into a new car for $0 down and keep their payment relatively the same payment. Look at your service drive. If anyone is bringing a car in that is out of warranty they will most likely have a costly customer pay RO. Let them keep that money and use their car as a trade to get into a new one. Call people who are in an equity position on their birthday and offer them a Birthday Special. This will also help you get more inventory.

3. Stop focusing on getting new business. 
Your dealership doesn't really need more customers. Your DMS and CRM are loaded with them. Quit focusing on trying to compete for those new customers that are in the market to buy a car. Use you own data and proactively reach out to people before they start shopping. If they have submitted a lead, they have probably submitted leads to other dealers as well and the only way to win that deal is by lowering the price and your gross.

4. Lower your web lead response time. 
Make sure that you are quick to respond. Customers are still experiencing 45 min to 2 hour response times at some dealerships because the lead goes to the wrong person. Make sure the leads are going to the right people who are working and available. Try and respond while they are still on your website. If a lead goes untouched for 15 minutes, every rep and manager should be notified and someone should jump on it. If you have to call the customer back after you talk to them make sure you tell them how long it will take and call them back as they are waiting for your call.

5. Incorporate texting. 
Make sure your customers know they can communicate with you via text. They might be in a meeting when you call them back and more likely to respond. Make sure you are using a compliant opt-in and opt-out texting tool. Otherwise you are putting your dealership at risk of a costly lawsuit. Using a texting tool allows you to track what is being communicated to the customer.

6. Make sure you are keeping your salespeople accountable
Make sure people who are visiting the store get put into the CRM. Have the receptionist keep track how many people they see pull up, walk the lot, walkthrough showroom, and even come over from service. Often salespeople only put customers into the CRM when they think there is a chance to sell them. But they came in, there is a chance. Make sure you are capture that data so that your reporting will be more accurate to tell you what is bringing people in. If there is something that is working but they are being put into the CRM you may stop doing it. Also make sure that your reps ask, “what brought you in?” or “how did you hear about us?”. You want to do more of what is working and you need to know so make sure they are asking. Make sure they are making their calls. Listen to their calls. They should be asking for an appointment and not just to come by whenever. If they are not with a customer they should be trying to get people to come in. Salespeople love the easy walk in versus working to get someone in.

7. Get managers more involved. 
Have them call and confirm appointments. This makes sure the salespeople are setting quality appointments and introduces them to the manager earlier vs at the end when tensions are high and patience is low and they come in to close the deal. Hold your manager accountable that they are managing their employees, talk to every customer, doing their one-on-ones.

8. Speed up the sales process. 
The biggest frustration consumers have with the car buying process is it takes too much time. Look for areas you can shorten the time the customer is at the dealership, it takes to desk a deal. Also keep the time away from the customer to a minimum, when the salesperson goes to the desk this is when they either start talking themselves out of the deal or shop your competitors.

9. Create the ideal customer experience. 
With so many dealers nearby that sell the same vehicle for the same price, why should someone buy from your dealership? It should be about the experience. What are you doing to make it the experience the customer wants? What do they want? Something quick, easy, transparent, helpful, and without stress. For most, buying car is the 2nd most expensive thing they will ever buy and comes with a lot of emotions. Understand their concerns and issues and deal with them before they come up. Bad reviews and surveys are OK. They tell you what you need to fix. Often dealers are more concerned with the manufacture CSI survey then they are of actual customer satisfaction. Reach out to customers who give positive feedback and surveys to go rate you on google, yelp and Facebook. Don’t ask everyone, just your happy customers.

10. Reduce employee turnover. 
Our industry has always been plagued with turnover. Most people leave because they are not happy and successful. Often, we hire anyone, even someone with no experience and have them watch some trainings and then throw them on the floor to sink or swim. Have your managers take time to train them on how to be successful. Give them tools that will help them to do their job. Managers need to make sure they are setting goals with the salespeople, going over their metrics, coaching them, and helping them realize the tools management has in please is not be “big brother” but to help them be successful.

11. Automate as much as you can.
Let your software do as much work for you as possible. Most processes you set up and forget and let it keep you organized, in contact with everyone and that nothing falls through the cracks. Run lots of campaigns that are very targeted and specific with both the audience and the message.

12. Reward loyal customers. 
Do you know your most loyal and long-standing customers? Use your CRM to identify and segment these customers to receive notifications when they call or visit your business. Create a customer appreciation campaign to thank your loyal customers and reward them for their repeat business. Offer discounts to entice them to continue to do business with you. Offer incentives for their referrals. Invite them to special VIP events, such as new product introductions or a customer appreciation party.

Thoughts? Do you agree? What else would you suggest?

Hunter Swift

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dealers, You've Got Options: Alternatives to 3rd Party Leads

Why do we pay for third-party leads? For years, dealerships have complained about the high cost, low closing percentage, and negative profit of third-party leads. Dealers also see that leads from their own website close at a far higher percentage, for more money, and far less cost.

Why not pull the plug on these disappointing third-party leads that we compete with other dealerships to win?
The most common answer I hear is that dealers can’t get the same quantity of leads anywhere else. But, that isn’t true — besides, quality is more important than quantity anyway.

Search Engine Optimization

There are several proven and effective ways to drive in more leads without paying tens of thousands of dollars on third-party leads. The first is search engine optimization. Buyers start car searches online — not in the store. When they begin to look for local dealerships selling Hondas or BMWs, your website better be at the top of the search results. Customers always start their searches at the top. The further down your dealership is in the results, the less chance you have of winning their business, opting instead for a competitor. Make sure your website is SEO-rich, that you have blog posts driving up your rank, and that you are active on social media.

Social Media

Social media is still one of the tools most underutilized by dealerships. It gives dealers a place to interact with both past and future customers. The best way to get a lead is through referral, and there is no better way to get referrals than social media. Encourage customers to post about their new car. Cultivate an online community their feedback is welcomed. Put on contests, post customer shout-outs, hold community events … you name it. The more you interact, the better off you will be.

Blog Posts

Blogs are another great way to engage people. Customers often take their questions to the internet for answers. Whether they want info on local community events, where to get winter tires, great new vehicle accessories for Christmas, or the optimal amount of time between services, your blog can be the one with the answers. When you blog, you are seen as the expert, and customers want to do business with the experts.

A Unique Website

After engaging customers, you need to keep their attention and get them to submit leads. This is what makes a custom website so important. People are attracted to something that sticks out from the crowd, yet is easy to use with familiar layouts. They want pictures, pricing, and descriptions on each car. There are great inventory tools available with easy-to-use apps that give you access to as many pictures as you want seamlessly integration onto your website. They also allow you to upload descriptions and pricing in bulk. When you have a beautiful website that stands out from the competition with easy-to-use functionality and individual vehicle listings with pictures and descriptions, leads will follow.

Equity Mining

Besides driving people to your website, there are other ways to garner leads. Equity mining has proven to bring in customers who don’t even realize they should be in the market. Equity-mining customers yield higher grosses and increased satisfaction because they are loyal and trust you. Smart technologies use equity information, bank programs, and incentives to find customers who are prime candidates to get into better payments or APR situations on newer models. These tools also help optimize another area where most dealerships fall short: lease and finance term ending campaigns. Pulling our own customers back into the market gives us more leads, more happy customers, less customers shopping our competitors, and more referrals.

Once we get leads, we need good people, good strategies, and good processes to get them into the store and buying a car. But, that is an entirely different topic for another time.

What success have you seen making the switch from third-party to first-party leads?

Written by Hunter Swift via DealerSocket:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I was going through some old stuff and found my High School Transcript...

1.58 GPA and ranked 182 out of 184!!!

Those were some bad times. I had no motivation or goals in my life and only cared about the present. I ended up getting my GED and was more concerned about me and about partying more than anything else. 

17 years ago this month, I quit drinking, stop doing drugs, turned my life around. In 2005, I started working at DealerSocket in an entry level position making $13/hr. I met a beautiful and amazing girl who became my wife. She saw my potential even when I barely had the means to support her... we will be celebrating over 10 years. 

At 26 I started college and ended up getting two associates degrees and my bachelors in Business, all while working full time. I have been blessed with 3 beautiful kids. I have progressed to a many roles at my company and now hold a Director position. I work hard now to support my family. My wife and I bought a nice home with a big backyard. 

I really have been so blessed and content with my life. I have learned that life is more enjoyable when you care more about others than yourself.

Looking back it has been quite the journey. It is crazy to think of my young, immature me. I really am so grateful that I was able to change and given a chance to move on from my past. I am thankful for God, my wife, my family, friends and those that gave me a chance and believed in me. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The "Who's Your Danny" Show with CRM Expert HunterSwift

Monday, February 8, 2016

Friday, June 26, 2015

"CRM: The 'R' Stands For Retention" Presentation by Hunter Swift