We all know that just having a website, no matter how great, is not enough to make sales in the automotive industry. LEARN MORE
Dead people don’t appreciate it. That’s my advice for dealers.
Because I genuinely care about any customer base I am helping a dealer talk to, it breaks my heart when we do it so badly. How badly? Well I just got an ear full from Mrs. Jones. She informed me despite her calling into the dealership and letting ‘someone in the service’ know that her husband passed away when it first happened two years ago, we have continued to phone and snail mail her home asking for her husband and using her husband’s name. Every time someone calls the house from the dealership she has told them that he has passed away, everyone apologizes, she tells me and I really don’t want any apologizes I just want you to stop asking for him and sending me mail with his name on it. They had two vehicles she explains and they were both in her late husband’s name. She tells me she has asked more than once to have her own name put on the (insert plain domestic sedan here – although this problem is certainly not limited to domestics) and that the truck her husband owned has long been sold, but yet we continue to mail out service reminders for this pick-up. It hurts to be reminded she tells me, with a crack of emotion in her voice.
A highly personalized invitation to a private sale with her husband’s name all over it went out in the mail last week and this is the reason I am calling her today, to follow-up on this expensive, customized invite. I listen closely to everything she tells me and I make notes. I apologize once again and I personally promise her the minute I get off the phone it will be my priority to fix our error and not to bother her again. She tells me we have told her something similar before and doubts she will deal with us moving forward because obviously no one is listening. I tell her I understand.
The receptionist, whom I ask, is trying to stock in a vehicle, finish licensing and deal with the dealer trade driver impatiently pacing in front of her desk. I am asking her between the phones ringing if she can open the customer profile (I made the call off a printed list that showed Mr. Jones as an active customer).
After she transfers a call to Parts, I ask her if the parts department has a direct line. Of course she tells me and I offer that she could gently suggest to her caller that they could save themselves some time by calling the parts number direct.
She stops what she is doing and stares at me. “That’s a great idea that guys calls here a lot” she says, “I should tell him to call parts directly” she thinks about it for a minute, “but my manger doesn’t like me changing anything I say on the phone, will you please explain this to him?”
I sigh, I didn’t mean to complicate things and re-directing front line incoming phone traffic is a project for another day and this day is melting away along with my appointment ratio, but I have made Mrs. Jones a promise and I am going to follow through. She finally pulls up the customer on the dealers DMS (no CRM here kids) and we can see both cars are clearly in the deceased name. There are notes on the customer in another screen and in the 30 key strokes that are allowed for notes in this system it says the customer is passed and real customer is Mrs. Jones. Now these notes would print out on a R/O, but obviously would not stop the name coming up in an data pull and if no one checked the notes when calling for service reminders, you’ve got a perfect storm.
“I didn’t write that.” The receptionist says defensively and tells me she does not know how to change a name on someone’s profile. That’s fine I tell her, I am not trying to blame this girl, who tries to do what her manager tells her and looks spread thin as it is, I am simply looking for process and clearly there is none for this type of data change. The service cashier who has been listening to part of our conversation jumps in and with a few keys strokes shows us how to make the customer ‘inactive’ that way they won’t come up on any lists or get any mailers. I sigh again because something tells me this is a regular occurrence and explain that shutting off a customer is not helpful. I explain that we need to orphan the truck off the profile, change the name to Mrs. Jones and check in the OEM site to make sure it reads the same way. They look at me blankly; neither one of them has access to customer update on the OEM system.
I watch over the Service Manager’s shoulder as he changes the name on the profile to Mrs. Jones and deletes the truck. He tells me that the truck isn’t gone forever and the system will pick it up again if the new owner shows up for service at some point in the future. In a system I know better you would have to put the truck into an Orphan Profile, but I’ll take his word for it that this one will save it by simply deleting the vehicle. I am more familiar with the owner update on the OEM and between us we manage to update their information as well. Their normal policy changing OEM information is to give out the toll-free customer service number to the OEM and ask the customer to call in and change it themselves. I wonder if he has ever called one of these manufacturers numbers himself.
He assures me that he will train the staff on how to handle this for next time. I’m not sure if he’s just giving me lip service on this, but satisfied that Mrs. Jones will not receive a phone call, service reminder or recall notice in her deceased husband’s name from either the dealer or manufacturer I can return to my original task with a clear conscience.
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