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Taking Advantage of Your CRM

Connected Podcast
Article Highlights:

  • Tips for utilizing your CRM to keep business running.
  • Best practices for communicating with customers at this time.

In this episode of Reynolds’ new video podcast, Connected, we discuss how many departments in your dealership – sales, service, and BDC – can take advantage of your CRM to help your dealership through this uncertain time.


Greg Uland: Hello, I’m Greg Uland, marketing director at Reynolds and Reynolds, and this is Connected – the podcast with best practices and ideas to help navigate what is happening in the automotive retail industry and the world today. As the COVID-19 virus continues to change our world and how we live and work daily, this podcast discusses ways to continue operating in this unprecedented social environment. On this episode, we have with us Ed Pontis, director of product planning for variable operations at Reynolds at Reynolds. Ed, thanks so much for joining.


Ed Pontis: No problem. Thanks for having me, Greg.


GU: Absolutely. So Ed, in this really unique time we’re in, a proactive sales outreach from sales folks can seem in many ways insensitive and can honestly be a turnoff to consumers. So I’m curious from your perspective, and maybe what you’ve heard from dealers, what are some ways dealerships are adjusting to that and are still communicating with customers, but doing it in a sensitive way?


EP: I think there’s a few things that everybody should look at and try to incorporate if they can. Number one is making sure everyone stays working in the CRM, whether they’re in the store or working from home.  They’re talking to customers so we want to make sure we record that activity, especially at a time where people may not be thinking the most clear on the other end of the phone and things like that. We want to make sure that we’ve captured everything we can and can track that activity for the future.


A second thing is, what is your overall communication strategy with your customer base? Really shifting from a sales-focused communication to support and education, “We’re here for you,” type model. Things like, did you change your store hours? Did you change procedures for pickup and delivery, or remote appraisals, or remote delivery of vehicles? A couple episodes ago, Jason Sideris talked a little bit about processes and how you can change in the service drive, whether it’s touchless payment and things like that. Those are all great things to communicate ahead of time so consumers, as they interact with your dealership, know what’s going on.


Another key thing to communicate is what’s going on with your community. Some of our communities are getting hit harder than others. What are you doing for your community… make sure that gets articulated to customers. Is there something that your customers can help with or what are their needs? Then we all get all of the emails professionally on how you’re handling cleanliness and things like that, whether it’s kiosks in your dealership or it’s payment terminals. Share with your customers what you’re doing to make sure that everything is clean.


Another thing I think is key, especially in this time, is you’re probably still getting some internet leads. Internet response time at this point is super important. I mean, we stress it all the time. But if I’ve got somebody at home and they really are interested in buying a new car, we need to make sure that we are on top of it and interact with them as quickly as possible. They’re not going to have a whole lot of patience to wait for you to respond. They’ll move on to the next dealer. So, whether there’s people that are home working or people in dealership, internet response time needs to be a key factor.


Another thing you and I talked about before, Greg, that I think is key is there are people that we know are coming off a lease right now, so that lease turn-in process… How are you going to handle that? Are you going to go out to the consumer or are you going to have them come to the dealership? Educate them on how that process might have changed. It’s also a great opportunity, you’ve got somebody who’s coming up on a lease and it’s a new sales opportunity for you.


GU: Absolutely. And those are truly folks that in a lot of instances probably don’t know what to do. I mean, they need help and they need educated more now than they ever have. Their lease is coming up and, they’re wondering can I take it back in, is it safe, how do I even do this? So communicating makes complete sense there.


EP: They may not be getting great communication from their bank at this time. So it’s a great opportunity for you to takeover that communication and really be a source of information for them.


GU: Yeah. Very good point. And another thing I’m interested in, specifically from a CRM perspective, are there opportunities to leverage the CRM in the back end of the store too? In the service department right now? Or how are dealerships, are they shifting at all? What’s that look like from a CRM perspective?


EP: Well, sure, especially since a lot of dealerships may only have their service department open right now or the parts department open right now. So, again, some of the things we talked about before, like communicating that you are open, what your hours are, how you’ve changed that process. Really focusing on how you can maintain a revenue stream from service and how that impacts that relationship with that consumer. Telling them how you’ll interact, whether you’re doing pickups for them, loaner cars, all kinds of things, and what that cleanliness and environment looks like in your dealership.


GU: Good, good. And thinking about, in that same vein of communication and in the CRM, obviously dealers have a lot of automated communications and schedules set up to send communications to customers. Going through and looking at that stuff, is that important right now? Is it better to let your current schedules fly? Is this a good opportunity to maybe evaluate some things? What are you seeing?


EP: I think it’s a great time to reevaluate some of that. We set up a lot of automated schedules because it’s easy. Let’s be honest. You’ve got birthday messages, anniversary messages, automated content that’s going out all the time. So you need to make sure that you’ve got appropriate communication and nothing is insensitive in the process. Some of it may be perfectly fine. And you make the decision that having it go out automated is great. Others, it may make perfect sense in your CRM to uncheck the box, to turn it from automated to generated, but it requires someone to actually hit send before it goes out.


And that drives another factor. If your system administrator goes through and changes things, make sure that everybody in the dealership knows that. They always assume those communications are just going to go out on their own. Now if they want it to go out, you need to look at that content, personalize it, and make it appropriate to the person you’re sending it to, and add some of that other context of, “Yes, we’re still open. This is what we’re doing,” and going through that process.


GU: Yeah, and Ed with looking at each one of those things and customizing it a little bit, it’s likely right now that there’s probably some downtime in sales departments. What are some other things that are maybe routine maintenance that should be done consistently, but oftentimes there’s just not time to get them done?


EP: We put together a high level list here of things they could really be looking at, especially if you’ve got somebody sitting at home. A BDC person, a marketing person, a system administrator, could really start looking at what documents are out there? What do those email templates look like? What do those text templates look like? Do they need to be updated? Do you just need to get rid of some? Going through a document cleanup can definitely be done.


The other thing that’s important right now is looking at those clients or customers you have out there that aren’t assigned to a salesperson. We often refer to them as orphan clients. They came in, they were Greg’s customer for years. Greg left my dealership and now the client is floating out there. So going through and making sure all of your customers in the database have a salesperson associated to them. It also gives that new salesperson an opportunity to reach out to them and articulate some of those messages that we want to craft around how we’re here for you and how we can help.


At the same point, as I’m going through and looking at that, another great opportunity is to clean up some duplicates, duplicate prospects, duplicate clients. Whether it’s in the CRM or the DMS, going through that process. Looking at user access, does everybody have the right access capabilities? Especially with the turnover we see in the dealership, making sure roles are set up and that process is good.


And then another key factor is if you do have people in the dealership or at home, let’s be frank, they’re probably not as busy as they were a few weeks ago. It’s a great opportunity to go through some training, whether it’s CRM training, product training, other sales tools, to really make sure that they’re leveraging their time as best they can to be a better salesperson, a better BDC agent a month from now when we’re on the other side of the curve.


GU: Great stuff Ed. Definitely, definitely appreciate it. Thank you so much for taking some time today to hop on here. While we have the audience and before we hop off, is there anything else that you want to talk about or that you want to share?


EP: I think like you kind of said at the beginning, it’s such a fluid situation and it changes every day. It’s important for you to listen to your customers. We can’t tell you what to say because it’s all unique in everyone’s hometown. But continue to communicate with them. Let them know that you’re there to help them if they need help, whether it’s service on their vehicle or just being the pillar of the community that you already are. So listen to the customer, listen to the community, and keep that communication and that contact flowing with your customer base.


GU: All right. Thank you again Ed. Really appreciate your time and have a good one today, OK?


EP: You too. Stay safe, Greg. Thanks.


GU: All right. Thank you. This is Connected. Stay safe and we’ll see you on the next episode.


Continue to tune in often to see new episodes on best practices and tips for navigating the automotive industry during this unprecedented time.

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