September 16th, 2010
In today’s world, a great deal of attention is being paid to the more complex forms of communication such as communication via social network or the web. However, no matter how much we communicate on our computers, we still all carry a telephone (and many of us now communicate electronically using our phone as our computer) and when we finally and really want to make a serious decision; nothing replaces the comforting sound of another human voice.
This is true in everyday life as well as in business world and especially true when a person is trying to buy a car. There are a number of studies that show that people want to build trust with the person with whom they are planning any kind of interaction. They want to know that they can trust that salesman or the car dealership they are contemplating to buy a vehicle from. The human voice conveys warmth and nuanced meaning, in a way that is impossible for text and pictures. It’s very hard to get the warm and fuzzy from behind the screen of the computer! For that matter, everything is pre-packaged there so that we see and get just what the company on the other side wants us to see. So, when the customer has done all his searches, received all the templates and emails, has walked into multiple dealerships and finally thinks he knows which car it is that he “must” have, he then calls the dealerships on the list to try and gauge one last time, what kind of cloth are these people made of. That last call is the most “dangerous” contact with the customer as the dealership can be dropped from the list if the experience of the customer on that last contact is negative. You can do all forms of work to gain and bring this customer to that final point and that last contact can destroy the hard work of many people in your dealership. So, does it pay to get to know what your people in your dealership are telling your constituents? The answer to this question is a resounding YES!
Also, in today’s world the technology of collecting information from calls is so advanced and low cost that making the decision to launch a telephony system that also provides a means of recording calls becomes easy. It is to address this very important need that iCRM has developed the Teletrak system. Teletrak is easy to implement, low cost, and enables you to find out what happened on that last crucial call to your dealership. Logging calls by hand is very difficult to do as by the time the person responding to calls tries to log a call another call might be coming in, and if they are supposed to answer the second call, then how are they supposed to log the first and after two who is to really remember what was discussed on each call? You see your employees are not necessarily trying to hide information from you, but sometimes depending on the volumes of calls your dealership receives, the job might be daunting. Remember that as a rule your dealership receives one and one half phone calls for every vehicle you sell. So, if you sell 100 cars and do not see at least 150 phone calls logged, then it’s time to install Teletrak and rest assured that your hard earned customers are being treated properly on their contact to your dealership.
August 23rd, 2010
In the automotive business, a good CRM product can significantly improve sales results, provided the dealership tightly and clearly links it’s road-to-the-sale process to the product. The ability to automate emails and reminders while tracking the complete history of customer contacts allows dealers to take a comprehensive and consistent approach as they compete for the customer’s business.
And it’s not just the sales side that benefits. A product, such as izmo’s iCRM, which also tracks customer service, provides a complete picture of the customer relationship and enables the dealer to push the service side of the business as well. By sharing information across the two sides of the dealership, both sides win.
But this doesn’t happen automatically with the purchase of a good CRM product. Dealers must invest time and thought into their business processes and consider how best to adapt them to leverage the advantages a CRM provides. Where exactly are the CRM’s touch-points that connect with the business process, and who will be using it? How does a dealer enforce effective usage so it achieves consistent results? At izmoCRM, we help you determine the right approach to leverage iCRM so that your employees understand the underlying business processes as well as the tool itself. A good CRM provider trains the business process, not just the tool.
The following steps will ensure that your investment in CRM pays off at the bottom line:
* Develop / revise the underlying business processes to properly integrate CRM into the sales cycle
* Utilize the CRM provider’s expertise to help define the integrated processes
* Champion the process and sell it to the team; point out the successes so the team can see the results
* Train the team and mandate use of CRM as part of the business process
* Develop mechanisms, including use of CRM’s management features, to monitor and enforce use of the process
July 16th, 2010
Over 250 million people are using one of the big 4 (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Linked-In) Social Networking Platforms. However, tapping into the Social Networking arena can be a little overwhelming and tricky. iCRM and iLM can help eliminate the confusion and create a straight forward strategy.
Using the optional Social Networking plug-in, dealerships can see which customers are active among the big 4 sites. Using either iCRM or iLM, we will take your existing database of Email addresses and determine which sites that email address is registered on. Next, as new leads / customers are added into the system in real-time, we can display the sites that are active. However this is only a fraction of our social networking integration.
Knowing whether or not a customer belongs to a Social Site is one thing. Seeing how many friends or contacts the person has on each site is quite another, and way more powerful. Based on the user privacy settings, we can actually take you to the customer’s page so that you can gain even more information about that customer.
Imagine the selling opportunity where you have a customer that has over 200 contacts on Facebook alone. This ‘influencer’ then has a good experience at your dealership and recommends your dealership to his friends via a post on his wall. Those 200 contacts have their own friend counts, and the customer’s experience becomes viral amongst all of those contacts. Your marketing efforts turn exponential by targeting just one prospect and then spreading the possitive message by word of mouth, or in this case “text of mouth”!
With our Social Networking Upgrade, we can help simplify a confusing marketing channel and help you create a clear and successful strategy.
April 4th, 2010
I had the high honor of participating in the Women’s Automotive Association International annual breakfast meeting at the premiere of the New York Auto Show on Friday, the 1st of April. During this meeting, the WAAI assembled a group of women from different aspects of the auto industry to discuss state of this business vertical and the position women hold and how these opportunities could be improved for them. The discussion topic was “Transitions” in the automotive industry and its effect on the women in general. The panel discussion members, comprised of Judith Schumacher, an automobile dealer from eastern region, Melissa Newell of MBUSA digital marketing department, Erin Touponse, Director of Communications and General Manger of Harte Group, Alexi Venneri, CFO of Digital Air Strike an automotive service marketing company, Denise Petitta, Marketing Executive of Chase Auto Finance, and yours truly, VP of izmoCRM!
There was general consensus that the automotive retail space, of which two of the panelists were members, is not extremely open to women in executive positions. The long hours of operations and the fact that these establishments are mostly privately owned mostly by men make it very difficult for women to penetrate the executive suite. Also, in the retail space, there is no more room for growth beyond dealership management and this seemed to be a source of concern for the ladies.
The women who were not from retail automotive space had a much different view of the business environment. Ms. Petitta of Chase, Ms. Newell of MBUSA (and me) indicated that in their work environment there was no indication of prejudice between the sexes and that usually the opinion is that “may the best man or woman win”. However, when asked whether the panel believed that the future held opportunities in the Auto Industry for women, all the panelists concurred that for bright imaginative women sky is the limit, but that proper preparation both educationally and experience wise is highly recommended if one is to survive the “New World”.
The women were also asked about how a successful woman balances family and work in order to be successful in both. The answers here included, have time to yourself, limit time on digital devices once with family, and learn to separate one from the other. These comments are forwarded to young women who receive scholarship funds from this organization in order to promote women. The very interesting aspect of the breakfast was that there were just as many male members of audience as female and many people present were OEM employees involved with diversity and how to best manage that aspect of business.
In all; this was a great experience for everyone, both for the members of the panel to share their life time experience hoping that their learning and mistakes can be a guide for younger generations following and for the audience who got an opportunity to see how different aspects of this vast business vertical can affect women differently.
Hats are off to the executive committee of this organization for planning this event.
March 24th, 2010
In the last discussion, we spoke of the evolution of CRM, and how it has morphed and matured into a tool with far more functionality than ever before. CRM has grown to add new features and functionality, taking on new tasks and tasks that previously were provided by stand alone tools.
In today’s discussion, we will dissect the tool to its most important functions, those which are sometimes masked by the “fluff”. Any CRM system that lacks these features is incomplete and will only come to haunt the user once they really get to know their CRM. In a “functionally successful” CRM the devil is in the detail. The reason these products exist is to handle large data bases and provide the user an easy avenue to important but detailed information about their customer. The most important aspects of this information is detailed as general information is usually available on the Internet. A dealership of today which is attempting to choose a CRM, must be bale to separate fluff from core functionality.
The primary core functionality is how easily and how quickly, the user can access the most important information they seek about their client and once at hand how complete and how accurate is that information. Other core functionalities are, once the user gets “to know” this customer, how easily and how quickly, the user can communicate and address the needs of this customer without overwhelming him or the user himself.
As is obvious, the larger the company, and hence the data and the more information there is about a customer, the more complex these core functionalities become. But, if a CRM is not designed with these core functionalities in mind, no matter how much fluff is offered along with the tool, the user will either have to compensate by devising some highly convoluted processes to address his needs or become frustrated and walk.
This is why many dealerships are literally petrified of changing CRM. They envision yet another “incomplete” tool that they have to learn some complex processes to get where they want to go. If the CRM of choice has been designed at the onset properly with data base capabilities that truly address the complexities of the data these fears are not well based.
A solid CRM tool should perform all the complex tasks behind the scene and make the life of user easy. Also, another sign of a “deficient” CRM is need for too much training. Most employees of the dealership are used to working on the web and handling basic software tools. A core functionality of the CRM must be self training and ease of use.
In the next week’s blog, we will further examine these core functionalities and actually tie them to specific information at the dealership level.
March 11th, 2010
In the early 90’s, the auto industry suddenly became aware that in order to survive, they needed to change their focus from inward to out. Specifically the industry has moved from the question of “How can I make more money by getting new customers?” to the more profound question of “How can I make the life of my customer easier in order to retain them?” But before you can communicate and work with a client; you must first “get to know them”. The questions, “who is my customer” and “what does he want?” became the primary reason for the birth of CRM.
The CRM of today, just as any species that survives eons, has gone through some serious evolutionary processes. Are all the new “fingers and toes” necessary for the auto dealer of the 21st century? This blog will attempt to shed some light on that.
Just as the auto industry has gone from single franchise unit dealerships to multi franchise conglomerates, the CRM which serves them has gone from simple local network-based tools that only worked with sales customers to complex web-based tools that considers the entire life cycle of the customer with the dealership.
In this blog, I will discuss what the CRM of today looks like, and in later blogs, I will dissect the functionalities that are and will be the “true” core functionalities, and those that are peripheral and might not be there in the near future.
The most common characteristics of a truely robust CRM of today, is that it must be web based, an enterprise level tool, and offer a comprehensive feature set. What does all of this mean? As the dealer body has evolved into multi-unit dealerships, the CRM has to be able to handle multi-unit companies with many dealerships. The CRM of today must be able to provide a”company level” database with appropriate rights and privileges. It must be web based as the end user will be able to take advantage of a much more powerful tool without having to truly” foot the bill” for using it and lastly, “comprehensive” means a tool that can tell the end user every aspect of the interaction of a customer with every member of the dealership team.
From these roots a tree can rise with many branches. Some of the branches, the tree cannot do without, but many are not needed and just sap the nourishment from the root. In further blogs we will dissect this tree further and discuss the most pertinent parts of a robust CRM.