This introduction to CRM is intended to educate and inform readers who are either considering integrating a CRM into their dealership or looking to replace an existing CRM solution already installed. It is designed to provide readers with a well-rounded view of what a CRM solutions accomplish, their importance in a dealership setting, its importance in a dealership setting as well as details a dealer should consider when making a selection. The pages following this will then highlight reviews by dealers of the different CRM solutions available which can assist dealers in selecting the right solution provider to partner with.

What is CRM?

A CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) is a software solution that assists dealers in recording customer interactions across the lifecycle of the relationship. it is generally used in multiple ways including but not limited to; handling Internet leads, recording followup with prospects and/or previous customers, recording follow-up with prospects and/or previous customers, recording customer visits from lot traffic as well as transactional information such as sales and service visits.

Importance of CRM

A CRM solution is designed to facilitate many activities within a dealership more efficiently. It can make customer interactions more personalized, automate follow-up communications as well as prompt follow-up activities with salespeople and/or service as well as sending marketing messages such as sales, special offers or coupons to customers. Management can use CRM to effectively manage sales activities happening within their showroom both with customers currently visiting the dealership as well as follow-up activities being performed (or not being performed) by their salespeople on a daily basis. Proper use of a CRM allows for a more efficient dealership operation and results in the identification of future revenue opportunities both in service and in sales. A CRM can track the entire customer lifecycle and will be programmed to maximize opportunities with both previous and past customers. It can increase customer retention and increase the customer lifetime value for a dealership's customer base.

Proper use of a CRM allows for a more efficient dealership operation and results in the identification of future revenue opportunities both in service and in sales.

Considerations in Choosing A CRM Solution


Today's consumers are choosing to communicate with dealerships via many different channels. A CRM solution should be able to automatically track and memorialize all communications on an individual customer level whether that communication is via e-mail, phone, text, chat or conversion via a web lead. While salespeople will still need to manually enter a customer upon their first interaction as well as record completed activities and/or communications along with notes regarding those interactions, many of these other communication service providers will offer automated data pushes to provide third-party verification of the activity. This is important in verifying that the activity was actually completed.

Transactional Activity

The ideal CRM will also include service activity, sales data such as vehicle purchased as well as financial data regarding that sale and all other revenue streams. Providing a comprehensive overview of the lifecycle of a client allows dealers to get a better overall picture of any given customer's relationship with the dealership. Oftentimes, CRMs are only utilized as communication tools while desking tools, DMSs and service activities are contained within separate systems. The ability to maintain accurate information on customer communication and activity across all departments makes managing, following up and marketing to an individual customer more relevant and personized.

Service Department Integration

While many dealers typically limit their CRM usage to the sales department interactions with customers, dealers should inquire whether a CRM has service department functionality. This allows service advisors to record customer interactions in service combined with sales activity in a single record making the overall history of individual customers more comprehensive. Some CRMs offer comprehensive integration with software in use by service departments while others offer native sales and service functionality including service scheduling, follow-up, repair order and vehicle history as well as accepted or declined service recommendations.

Mobile Capabilities

Another consideration that dealers may consider important is the ability of salespeople to enter communication activities via a mobile device. Salespeople are frequently in communication with customers via their personal cell phones, on the lot or in other physical locations without access to their work computers. This can lead to a failure in recording interactions accurately. In addition, some CRMs are server based and can only be accessed within the confines of the dealership's server versus at any computer that has Internet access. There are several reasons for these distinctions and why a dealer would choose a server-based CRM versus an Internet-based solution. A server-based CRM can provide more data security in the sense that a user must be using a computer within the dealership preventing potential hacking and/or data intrusion. A web-based CRM, however, can allow users to access and record interactions from any location. The primary function of a CRM, however, is to record communications accurately and in-depth. A webbased CRM solution would allow users to record those interactions from wherever they are physically located while a server-based solution would not.

Technology Partner Integration

Just about every dealership will have a variety of software solutions in use at any given times. A website provider will have multiple conversion opportunities for consumers. Dealers will often utilize third-party vendors to provide additional conversion or communication opportunities such as trade-in valuation, credit applications and chat functionality amongst others. Call tracking services are often used to both source marketing and record calls for review. Some dealerships have separate software in which to desk deals, appraise vehicles and record service activity such as repair orders. Equity mining software is also used to track and identify customers who may be attractive sales prospects due to their financial position in their current vehicle. When choosing a CRM, dealers should review their existing technology solutions and inquire as to the native integration each has with the CRM solution(s) being considered to evaluate compatibilities. The more solutions that integrate with each other, the more efficient the dealership's activities and customer data will be.

Data / Reporting Capabilities

Customer and transactional data is the most valuable asset any dealership can own, so dealers should consider how the CRM solution provider handles and records this data. An important concern of many dealers is the knowledge that the dealership owns their own data. This ownership can be a big deal should the dealership ever decide to change CRM solutions in the future as they could be faced with a situation in which there is data loss. In general, CRMs should have the capabilities of preventing “dirty data” as best as possible such as duplicate entries for a single customer whether that was accomplished m anually or automatically. CRMs should also have multiple reports that can be accessed by authorized users in real-time to analyze customer activities or other desired data. Data security is also an important consideration so dealers should inquire as to the CRM solution's various data security measures such as access levels on an individual user basis as well as the ability to export specific customer data to third-party vendors should that access be necessary.

Customer and transactional data is the most valuable asset any dealership can own, so dealers should consider how the CRM solution provider handles and records this data


Many CRMs are used in e-mail marketing capacities. Consumers are barraged with messages at an increasing level so ensuring not only that your messages are relevant but are also received is imperative. E-mails can easily end up in spam folders and never received by customers. This can easily mean the difference between making and losing a sale. In addition, CRMs should provide the dealership with an easy way to identify and segment audiences in order to ensure that the messages being sent are relevant to that specific group of customers. The lack of this functionality or difficulty with which it is presented can lead to consumers ignoring not only that message but also future messages regardless of relevance.

Solutions by Business Type

In the CRM solution category, the considerations listed above are fairly universal regardless of whether the dealership is a single-point or large group. While other solution categories may present different needs based on single vs multi-point situations, the ability to record all customer interactions is critical.

One consideration concerns multi-point dealer groups in that dealers should inquire whether the CRM solution provider will integrate amongst all stores within the group for users with the appropriate administration rights via a single log-in allowing a dealer to access enterprise-level data on multiple departmental activities.


A dealer could choose a solution provider that does not provide every consideration listed above. These considerations are only meant to educate and inform dealers on what capabilities and functionalities should be thought about when choosing a CRM solution. Ultimately, the correct solution for any dealership is the one that they feel comfortable with in terms of stability, support, training and the ability to grow with them. The CRM vendor ratings on page 10 share the various CRM solution providers and is meant to be an additional resource for dealers to use when selecting the CRM solution partner that is the best fit for their dealership.