Tuesday, May 13, 2014

CRM and Your Brand

Why you should focus on your CRM to tell your Brand story. 

A dealership’s reputation is often determined by the customer’s last experience. If they had a positive experience, they will most likely be willing to share it with others. The same is true if they have a negative experience. Thus, it’s important that dealerships strive to create a positive experience for everyone who interacts with their dealership. Any interaction customers have with your dealership is a reflection on 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 give your customers a great experience, but also to help build your brand and customer loyalty. One of the most influential tools dealers can use that affect a customer’s experience and branding is your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.

The days are gone when dealers relied on their CRM to simply manage leads and customers. Today, the most progressive and successful dealers are using their CRM to manage the relationship with their customers. They are using their CRM to tell their “brand” by developing and managing long-lasting positive relationships and creating the ideal customer experience, while making customers for life. This is only accomplished by offering a positive customer experience through marketing, prospecting, the entire sales process, the sales follow up, and service.

Dealers often neglect their customer database and spend too much time, money and effort into acquiring new leads through advertising and third-party lead providers; leads that often have very little information, and do not even have dealership exclusivity. If dealers focus only on attracting new customers and don’t serve their existing clientele, they run a serious risk of losing the loyal customers they previously worked so hard to acquire. The use of CRM allows a dealer to capture a valuable database of information that it can use to better the way it interacts with its customers, and increase customer retention. Today, we know more about a customer than ever before. We know every call, email, letter, and text that has been sent. We know where they live, their phone numbers, their email addresses. We know every lead they have submitted, 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 who your customers are? Dealerships need to access this data to cater marketing and follow-up to their customers with relevant and timely messages, through the customers preferred method 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?

Customers are loyal to a company or a business because of the quality of their 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 it comes to purchasing a new vehicle. With multiple dealerships selling the same cars, the distinguishing characteristic is often how you treat your customers. It’s not so much what you are selling, but how you are selling it. CRM technologies allow dealers to distinguish themselves by the service they provide. Dealers often talk about how they are dedicated to customer service, but applying it is an entirely different matter. As mentioned before, your brand is determined from the relationship between the dealership and its customers. This evolves from hundreds of small interactions (leads, phone calls, emails, visits, service). These interactions add up to build or destroy the dealership’s brand. Since a majority of these interactions originate in the CRM, it is important that the CRM matches the brand or image you are trying to portray. A positive customer service experience must be applied to every customer touch point. To your customers, branding is largely about faith; believing in something they can’t see, and trusting you when the dealership says, “We care.” Ultimately, people don’t trust companies, they trust people, making it critical to build this trust. When a salesperson says they are going to call the customer back tomorrow, the CRM needs to prompt the salesperson to call them. If a customer says they don’t want to receive any calls at home, that should be respected. They expect when you email or send in a lead that the dealership will be quick to respond. They trust that when they give you their email address that you are not just going to spam it, but give them something of value.

Today’s customers do not want to be “sold.” Most often, by the time they’ve contacted a dealer, customers have done their due diligence. They just want someone to engage with, to help them, and to celebrate with them when they make their decision. Customers are more likely to do research on the company’s brand, such as looking at online reviews or social media posts regarding past customer experiences. Apart from price, why should customers buy from you? It should be all about the experience. With the use of CRM technologies, dealers can better serve their customers, speed up the sales process, and create a positive experience.

Use CRM Desking multi-payments to present numbers and allow customers to choose their payment versus being pushed into a payment. This speeds up the negotiation process, improves CSI, and helps you hold gross. When someone comes in looking for a used car you don’t have, instead of letting them leave, search your CRM with your prospect for customers you sold that vehicle to 3-4 years ago. Offer the owner of the possible trade a free car wash or oil change for bringing their car in. Create customized business campaigns designed to send the right message, to the right person at the right time. Integrate sales and service by introducing recently sold customers to the service department and to your website to set their first oil change. Then meet them in the service drive when they come in to follow up with the sale and ask for a referral. Use the CRM’s data-mining tool to find specific customers in an equity position that could qualify for a lower payment by getting them into a new vehicle. Incorporate a mobile CRM to allow your salespeople to be 24-hour salespeople, where they can enter and follow up with customers wherever they may be.

We can’t control every interaction, and negative experiences are bound to happen. But you can control how you react to negative experiences. You should make sure you have a way to uncover negative experiences through surveys. If you receive a negative survey you should quickly enroll those customers into a campaign where it notifies those that can correct the problem, and immediately reach out to resolve the customer’s issue. Communication is key to great customer service. Surprisingly, these customers become some of your best customers after you have spent time listening to them and resolving their issues. Learning from your mistakes is also an important aspect of good customer service. Documenting heated issues into the notes in your CRM helps to ensure you don’t make those same mistakes again.

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

Using a CRM will help you stay on top of your customers and ensure you’re being proactive in maintaining positive relationships, not just responding when something goes awry. Your CRM will be taken to the next level when combined with marketing, branding, and customer satisfaction. Dealers will be much more efficient when they use their CRM for more than just a storage bin for contacts. Fully utilizing your CRM to manage the relationship with your customers will help create a better overall experience for your customers, increase your CSI, and ultimately grow your brand. 

About Hunter Swift
Hunter Swift is the Director of Sales Development at DealerSocket and has been with the company since 2005. In addition to his current role, he has fulfilled the responsibilities of customer support, consulting, training, and sales. Hunter specializes in helping dealerships improve sales and follow-up processes through the use of CRM technology. He is known for his ability to connect with people and demonstrate his knowledge to help others solve their problems. Hunter honed his dealership skills as a salesperson prior to joining DealerSocket. He has earned a Business Degree from Pepperdine University. Hunter can be reached at hswift@dealersocket.com and on social media at @HunterSwift.

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