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ChristianThornton

leadership solution

are you winning the

technology arms race?

Six Potent ‘Weapons’ for Selling More Vehicles Online

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I recall the 1997 NADA convention where a new idea popped up. It had everyone talking. It had everyone trying to figure out just what this new technology was.Now, hardly a dealership today operates without this new channel for selling and buying inventory.

A single integrated platform for end-to-end lead control: You will capitalize and convert more online leads into sales when your online inventory originates from the same system where leads are received and managed. A single, integrated platform for such end-toend control provides increased visibility into We know this advancement today as online lead the intricacies of consumer behavior. This generation. My, how some similar technologies insight helps sales staff work leads more over the years have turned the car business on effectively and efficiently to increase closing its ear. Most would say we have been much rates and sell more vehicles. better off because of them, though some oldschool salespeople might object compared to Such care-centered follow up is increasingly the glory days of showroom-centric sales. powerful today. Consumers thirst for more personalized interactions. They’ve grown Be that as it may, technology marches on tired of repeated e-mail blasts instead of and dealers have more solutions and services real-life, personalized follow up. to consider than ever before. Many of these pertain specifically to how dealers utilize the The best technology tool to deliver Web to market vehicles, attract quality leads improved customer analysis and follow up and draw them into the dealership. Some is this single-platform concept. It adds this even enable dealers to try to conduct an entire value by tying inventory optimization and transaction online. publishing together with robust Website content management and CRM functions. Considering this trend, now is the time to look at a few potent new ideas that will help Automated windshield inventory tags: you keep pace with your competition in the One new exciting technology allows dealers technology arms race. Here are six such of any size to replace old school, messy “weapons” that can also help reduce costs: grease pens and stacks of pre-printed hang tags (and similar labels and decals that have Single sign-on: Using a single provider for to be hand written) with branded, variable multiple applications like CRM, inventory data printed stickers. Printing stickers right out of the showroom with “was/is” pricing and any management and Websites reduces the number other content means no waiting. Plus you can print stickers that cross-sell F&I products like of log-ons employees must use. Over time, extended warranties and other “soft adds.” a single sign-on app reduces IT maintenance costs. It also provides a single bill to pay for Mobile presence: Consumers are increasingly mobile and when you’re connected in multiple accounting, reducing overhead costs. Plus, it ways to your market shoppers they can interact with you via mobile Websites, social media, delivers a single support and help desk partner, the phone itself, e-mail, etc. — whichever method they prefer and is most convenient to them. simplifying remote assistance for employees Today’s aggregated real-time data exchange technology lets customers browse your online and improving employee satisfaction and listings — via classified shopping sites as well as your Website inventory pages, prequalify ensures that all teams inside the dealership themselves using online finance/lease calculators, negotiate a down payment, and/or even receive the features, functionality and support schedule their first service visits — from anywhere at just about any time of day or night. Not they need. investing marketing and technology dollars in mobile is a risky bet on your part. Real-time, inventory data exchange: This technology reduces or eliminates delays when posting inventory, changing inventory descriptions and/or pricing online. It also enables greater posting consistency among sites, such as cars.com, autotrader.com and craigslist.com where customers view inventory. Perhaps most beneficial, real-time data exchange enables real-time updates of inventory posted on your own Website, which tends to capture leads from the most downfunnel shoppers. With this time advantage, what shoppers see on your Website inventory pages is exactly what they see on any thirdparty site. This is crucial. Inconsistencies across platforms result in lower conversion rates and raise red flags for adept consumers.

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Dynamic CRM: We all know systems like CRMs are often underutilized. Sometimes this underutilization is due to user training or motivation issues, but often because the tool packs more functionality than the dealer can use now. Modular CRM systems give dealers options — they can start with a system that helps them “crawl,” upgrade to when they’re ready to “walk” and as they become more experienced and their needs grow, upgrade again to a “run” level system. There is rarely any justifiable reason to buy more technology than can be used now or for the near term. It’s like being to pay for only those cable channels you really use, not the 200+ channels the cable company bundles in. The Great Recession (now in its fifth or sixth year, depending on who is counting) did change the retail game. While the industry’s growth and profits have improved over the last 18 months, it’s clear that leveraging technologies to reduce expenses, increase turn, increase profits and improve customer retention are a necessity for long-term success. Stay abreast of new technologies like those above to keep up with the automotive technology arms race. Christian Thornton is senior executive vice president of marketing and new business development for all AULtec Inc. He can be contacted at 866.516.6238, or by e-mail at cthornton@autosuccessonline.com.

3/26/12


DavidJohnson

as seen on

sales & training solution

why relationships matter

and roi doesn’t

DUads-autoSuccess2012-03P2.pdf

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We live in a society that puts the dollar above the customer. That is, corners are cut and customer service is subservient to getting “paid.” Don’t get me wrong, I like getting paid as much as the next person, but too many times we question the return before we implement any kind of customer service process that influences both repeat business and word-of-mouth. Albert Einstein said it best when he said, “Everything that can be counted doesn’t necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” I recently wrote a post on my blog called “Forget About ROI, Start Think About ROE.” In that post, I put forth the idea of thinking in terms of “Return On Experience” — in other words, the return you receive on the experience you give your customers. I had somebody tweet me saying that I was naive and misguided if I thought ROI wasn’t important. He missed the point. I’m not saying that ROI isn’t important, because it is. What I am saying is that being able to track an ROI isn’t important on some of the things that we know we should be doing. That takes me back to what Einstein said, “...everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” While there are ways to track a repeat customer and word-of-mouth, it’s not always straight forward. I don’t think anybody would argue that customer service goes a long way to determining if a particular customer is going to become a loyal customer or not. We’ve all been subject to poor customer service and thought to ourselves, “I’m never coming back here again!” The opposite is also true. Again, you may not be able to figure out what the cost-to-income ratio is of good customer service, but we know it’s there. So, when it comes to relationships, they matter and ROI doesn’t. Building A Positive Relationship With Your Customers

Depending on what type of business you’re in, the depth of your customer relationships will vary. I’m not putting forth the idea that you should become buddy-buddy with all of your customers, to the point that you’re hanging out with them on the weekends. What I’m saying is that you should build the type of professional relationship that showcases you as the authority, the go-to restaurant or the honest mechanic. What does that mean? It means that you should give great customer service, that you should enchant your customers to the point that, at least in their minds, you are the best thing since the Internet. From there, once they are enchanted, follow-up to cement yourself as the business of choice. Let me give you a hypothetical scenario using a barber shop. I go in to get my hair cut, walk up to the counter and am told there will be a 45-or-so minute wait. The gentleman behind the counter offers me a coupon saying, “If you’d like to, the coffee shop next door has some of the best coffee in town. Here is a coupon for a free cup. I can give you a buzz on your cell when your barber is ready.” I take the coupon, and in 30 minutes I get a call from my barber letting me know that I’m up next. Once I get back to the barber shop my barber welcomes me by name, and asks me if I want the same “regular” haircut, tapered in the back, as I got last time. I mention that I would, and then he asks me if the shampoo he recommended had cleared up my dry scalp. I tell him that it had and then he strikes up a pleasant conversation about me. He shows a genuine interest in what I do, even mentions that he knows somebody who might be in the market for my services and asks for a business card. I give it to him, but instead of sticking it in his pocket he picks up the phone and two minutes later tells me that his friend will be expecting my call. After he ensures that everything is just how I like it, he tells me how much he appreciates my business and how much he enjoys it when I come in. Twenty minutes after leaving, I get an e-mail from him, with the phone number of his friend along with a few tips on how to combat dry scalp.

How would that make you feel? He didn’t spend any money, but he did go above what I’d expect from the person cutting my hair. Even the conversation was about me (everybody’s favorite conversation is about themselves), and not about the weather (what most barbers talks about). What is the ROI on that? Can it even be tracked? Do you even need to track it? I don’t think so, because once again, relationships matter and ROI doesn’t. So, don’t let the fact that it can’t be counted stop you from implementing a customer enchantment methodology into your everyday business practice. Just know that the return will be huge, even if you can’t prove it. Remember, people talk. Give them something positive to talk about and they will talk about you, influencing others to become your customer. That’s how you create a lifelong customer that creates other lifelong customers. How are you enchanting yours?

David Johnson is the digital marketing strategist for Next Generation Dealer Services. He can be contacted at 866.481.8812, or by e-mail at davidj@autosuccessonline.com.

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AS + DE May 2012 Feature Editorials  

The #1 Sales-Improvement Magazine for the Automotive Professional

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