In the automotive industry and beyond, there is a plethora of different CRM choices. Visiting any of the trade shows geared towards dealers would provide a quick education on the daunting range of offerings. Some CRM products are basic, while others are full featured and seem to do everything except the dishes. While choosing the right CRM for your dealership may be a challenging task, one thing holds true across the whole spectrum.
A CRM is only as good as the data that goes into it
One challenge that CRM products face is to provide a dashboard through which oversight and intervention is possible. It is incumbent upon managers and owners to monitor and adjust the processes that power their dealership. This allows you to perform course corrections and maximize profit by providing a quality experience balanced by a forward focused effort to transition leads through the various stages of buying.
The sales team is arguably the most important part of the CRM equation. If the members of the sales team are the gears that power the dealership, they are lubricated by the leads that walk in, call in, or find themselves filling out some form on some website expressing interest in a vehicle or financing incentive. They enter the majority of the data that makes CRM possible. This data entry includes new leads, notes, activities, and other informative tidbits that collectively build a 360° view of the relationship that a lead has with the dealership. While it’s true that a sales person is better served by using the tools that the dealer provides them, it is often a challenge to get them to do so consistently and at the level of detail that is necessary for the best bird’s eye view of where the customer is in the buying process. This lack of data entry can turn the best CRMs to little more than glorified contact managers.
ADF data exchange reduces data entry
Thankfully, the vendors who build software and services that cater to the sales process have standardized on formats of information exchange that automate some of the data entry tasks inherent in generating new business. The ADF, Auto-Lead Data Format, allows web sites, call tracking numbers, ILMs, and CRMs to share and pass along lead information. This reduces the amount of work a sales person has to do in order to work with a lead within the CRM paradigm.
There are three basic sources for a lead. These are: the web, the phone, and walk-ins. Referrals may sometimes traverse these categories, but generally speaking these categories accommodate the majority of all leads that a dealership may receive.
A good example of the benefit gained by data exchange is a lead who fills out a form on a web site expressing interest in a particular vehicle. Many web site vendors have solutions that allow the dealer’s web site to reflect the inventory that is currently on hand. When a web site visitor fills out the information request for a particular vehicle, the information that is collected includes their name, number, e-mail address, vehicle stock number, and any other information deemed relevant such as comments or best time to contact. If the website is configured to send the information to a CRM in the ADF format, a lead can be automatically created in the system with the information that was entered by the web site visitor.
Now granted, this is currently the norm, but it was not too long ago that this information came in the form of an email that had to be entered by an Internet manager, BDC, or salesperson. I would wager that there still are some dealers today where this is still the case.
Today web leads are also being delivered by phone. A designated person, or a selected person chosen through lead routing logic, receives a phone call announcing the lead. They would hear something along the lines of: “You have a new lead from your web site. The leads name is John Dixon and he is interested in a new SUV. To call John now, press 1.”
Connect with the lead while interest is at its peak
At the end of the conversation, which may have been recorded, they are prompted to speak a 30 second voice note. This note would be the equivalent of what they would type into the CRM to notate the call activity. This note is converted from speech to text behind the scenes and attached to the call activity just as though it was typed.
The end result is a lead being created in the CRM with an outbound call activity attached that was notated by the sales person without ever having to touch the CRM.
Call Tracking has been a major component of CRMs for several years now as the majority of leads call the dealership at one time or another. These phone calls, when made to a tracking number, generate a data exchange to the CRM including name and address information (when available) as well as call metrics. Call metrics are information about the call including the source and destinations numbers, length of call, call recording, salesperson ID and more.
Call tracking companies pass data using ADF
A derivative of ADF is sometimes used, depending upon the level of integration between the call tracking vendor and the CRM.
When receiving an inbound call via a tracking number a lead can automatically be created in the CRM and assigned to the sales person who took the call. When coupled with the ability to leave a voice note at the end of the conversation it becomes really easy for a salesperson to contribute to the overall CRM strategy of the dealership.
The end result is a lead being created in the CRM with an inbound call activity attached, which was assigned and notated by the sales person who took the call, without ever having to touch the CRM.
When a prospective buyer walks into a dealership there are still opportunities for data entry reduction by the use of driver’s license scanners and readers. These devices capture information and images using barcode readers or optical character recognition. This information can be fed into the CRM to populate the appropriate data in order to create a lead in the system. The support for these types of devices is varied, as is the vision of their use by CRM vendors.
The end result is less typing and more focus on the prospective buyer.
In summary, I will reiterate that a CRM is only as good as the data that goes into it. One challenge to any dealer is to drive usage of the CRM by the sales staff in order to reap the benefits that can be gained. Technology is evolving to make this task much easier, but when all is said and done, there is no substitute for the adoption of a good CRM strategy by the sales team.