When you work in an industry that caters to just 3 percent of the American public, phrases like “customer retention” and “customer relationship management” aren’t just idle business chit-chat.
They make a difference whether you’re selling a couple hundred units a year or a couple thousand units a year. As a service provider for hundreds of dealerships that fit into each of those sales categories, they make a huge difference to me.
So when something in this important arena changes, it’s certainly worth calling out. Consider yourself duly warned: There’s something amiss with some of our customer relationship management – or CRM – efforts.
What’s missing? The “R.” The relationship.
It’s not difficult to lose sight of the relationship in a retail environment with constantly evolving technology. In some cases, CRM has morphed into CM because we’re relying solely on technology to grow the relationship rather than using it on a person-to-person level to create a more rewarding consumer-retailer experience.
[pullquote]“For you and me, the “R”
is simply too important to lose in our CRM efforts.”[/pullquote]
This isn’t a difficult hole to fall into. Technology allows us to easily send our major unit buyer a direct mail piece or an email every 12 months wishing them a happy anniversary on their bestselling sport bike. That’s a great way to build dealership awareness, but it doesn’t necessarily nurture the consumer-retailer relationship. It’s CM, not CRM, and we all know that missing “R” stands for not only the missing relationship piece, but eventually a reduction in revenue as well.
Don’t get me wrong – technology is certainly not the bad guy here. After all, it makes consumer interaction easier and often more efficient. But are we just managing a database of people (the CM) or are we truly building relationships (CRM)?
It’s not an easy question to answer.
There are steps we can take to ensure that missing ‘R’ doesn’t surface when we’re face-to-face with our consumers. Technology again plays a defining role here. Consider the guy who comes in on a Sunday morning looking for an OEM hard part. The guy’s a regular customer in his early 40s and has three kids, each of whom rides. One of the kids just broke a throttle cable and needs a new one to get back on the track before the weather turns.
From a “CM” perspective, this common scenario is handled by a parts department staffer like this: “Yeah, no problem. Which bike is that? And what year?”
The customer stares blankly because each of his kids wanted different brands of bikes. He can hardly remember what he had for dinner last night, let alone which brand of bike his youngest son has. So he takes out his cell and spends the next half hour trying to figure out which of his kids has which brand of bike.
Did the parts staffer do anything wrong? No. Did he build a better relationship with that customer? No. In fact, the consumer’s probably a bit miffed that something so simple should take so long to accomplish.
Now take that same scenario, add the “R” back in so it’s actually a “CRM” experience, and here’s what you have: Consumer walks in, asks for a part and the parts department staffer says, “No problem. Just give me a moment.”
The parts staffer opens up his dealership management platform that contains all consumer information in one database – not just the parts the guy bought last week, but the units he purchased over the past decade. With a couple of keystrokes, the parts staffer sees a history of the consumer’s purchases.
“You said the cable is for your youngest son, right? I see a KTM, a Honda and a Suzuki in here, but I’m guessing it’s the smallest of the CC units, right?” the parts staffer asks.
The question is answered, the part is found, and within moments the consumer is out the door with a smile on his face. And why not? His day was made easier and he’s closer to being back on track because the dealership focused on the customer and not the part.
That’s CRM. That’s relationship building.
By the way, this isn’t just a dealership issue. We dealership service providers face it too. We need to maintain the “R” by putting the customer first just as much as you do. It’s why last week when a general manager called and said he was trying to better define a sales report in DX1, our complete dealership management platform, I essentially did what the parts staffer did.
I looked in our consumer history report, identified the problem and then was able to work with the general manager to quickly improve the report. I didn’t have to begin the call with “I know you called last week, but can you restate your issue?”
For you and me, the “R” is simply too important to lose in our “CRM” efforts. We need to continually ask ourselves if our technology is allowing us to grow relationships or merely manage customers.