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A dozen or so years ago most folks had no idea what CRM was. Today, most folks still have no idea. If you think it is software - you are wrong. If you think it’s a secret weapon used to increase sales, productivity, or reduce expenses, you’re partially right but not totally.
CRM is a concept not a product: Before changing anything, you should get your head around the idea behind CRM - Customer Relationship Management. Generally speaking, CRM is a well formulated plan that is centered around getting you and your staff customer focused rather than product focused. CRM is not software, fancy tools, web-based magic or anything else. CRM is a plan, a process, a customer-centric philosophy.
This post is a simple list of common pitfalls many dealers experience when purchasing software to help their CRM strategy. They are not in any order of importance. Some experience these pitfalls immediatley, others down-the-road. Very few organizations (or individuals) are fortunate enough to avoid these simple pitfalls. One way to avoid these, and others, is to not pretend that you want your organization to be customer-centric when you really do not. Running a customer-friendly business is demanding - very demanding. Doing things the same way you always have (assuming your like most dealers) is easy. Take the easy road if you think customers are second-fiddle compared to products. Hint: Detroit has done this for a few years now, they have taken the easy road. And, as we all know, the city of Pistons could sure stand a tune-up.
Pitfall 1: You think CRM is software and you call your software "our CRM." CRM is not software, lead management, follow-up scheduling or anything else. It’s a strategy. There are many, many tools available that can help you implement your customer-centric plan. Call them whatever you want. But, understand the difference between what tools you use and what you are trying to accomplish.
Pitfall 2: Expectations are too high. For many, there is a belief that sales will increase shortly after they sign a contract with a software provider (the software used to help with the CRM plan, not the CRM software). Don’t be silly. CRM is not magic, it’s work, lots of it. Managing your customers and improving your individual relationships with each customer is no simple task. Yes, software helps but NO SOFTWARE can do this for you. Like they say: “Software does not sell cars, people do!”
Pitfall 3: Don't ignore your data. OK, so you invested in a super-duper software system that stores a gazillion "customer" records. And yet, nobody seems to value the data. For sure, folks assign some mystery value to it that is only talked about when there is a threat of losing it. “What about all my clients?” But, almost everyone is comforted with a belief that their “beloved clients are safe and sound in some magic box somewhere” and totally ignore it on a daily basis. Don’t ignore it. Mine it, query it, put this amazingly valuable list to work. Get professional help if you don’t know how to take advantage of the single most important asset of the entire company - the customer list.
Pitfall 4: Flattered with features. So your CRM initiative includes some software that will become the cornerstone of your plan. You shop around, talk to vendors, go to trade shows, then finally settle on “the best one in the industry.” This thing costs tons of money (thousands and thousands per year) does all kinds of amazing things (so you hear) and connects with every other machine in the building with amazing simplicity (giggles). After a few weeks it becomes painfully obvious that features a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,k….. you get the idea, are not used, by anyone, ever. Your staff logs in, checks a “list” of leads or clients, does some quick task then logs out. It’s one thing to pay for features that don’t get used, it’s another thing all together to OVER-PAY for lists and lists of complicated gadgets that nobody understands. If this is the case, you may be better of with a simple spreadsheet. Those yellow-pads with the lines on them work well. Make sure you actually NEED what you buy.
Pitfall 5: The folks that wanted it in the first place don’t use it. This happens all the time. Joe Manager insists on the Turbo, All-Wheel Drive, Sales Creator 2000. He test-drives it, demands that the staff use it (you better use it, this thing costs us tons) then ignores the initiative all together. Don’t bother implementing any CRM plans if everyone involved doesn’t totally “get it” and that everyone makes a commitment to improving customer service and understand that this fancy new tool will HELP us do that, not do it for us. Make them sign something, make 100% sure that everyone is aboard. If not, save your money, Staples has the yellow-pads on special this week.
There are countless reasons CRM plans fail. But, a misunderstanding of what CRM is, unreasonably high expectations from a “system,” ignoring information, flashy unused features and a lack of support from management are the biggest reasons most dealers waste thousands and thousands each year (some each month!) on CRM plans. Don’t be naive. My advice to you is this: Formulate your CRM plans, write them down, communicate them. Implement your plan WITHOUT the help of software (or with the software you have) for a few months and see if everyone is dedicated to actually improving customer service. If they are, help them buy buying some technology. If you have a mess now, and change nothing but the software, you’ll have a mess later - an automated mess.
David is a tech-guru at http://www.mygoaltracking.net