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It’s referred to as the “car business”, but true car professionals know it isn’t and never has been just the car, the transaction, or the money. Beyond the negotiating, bargaining, and adversarial activity over the terms, conditions, and other costs of these temporary contacts, it’s the “people”…the personal connections and relational interactions between vehicle buyers and service visitors and frontline dealership employees in those departments.
Routinely dealerships focus everything and everyone on transactional buyers that have little willingness to commit beyond the “current deal”. Relational buyers who are seeking a lasting connection and wanting to become actively engaged with the dealership are more prevalent in today’s market than ever before consisting of up to 80% of new car buyers.
True car “professionals” always managed customer relationships to turn prospects into customers and customers into repeat and referral business. They realized that making a connection and building trust lead to many benefits: less price resistance, more future work, more referrals, better working relationships with their customers, and more revenue…repeat customers spend 33% more.
Technology only vendors continue to enter the market place touting “CRM” applications they say will revolutionize the “car business”. These highly automated, low touch, and impersonal systems continue to fail at alarming rates, up to 80% according to experts. These folks just don’t get it…customers are not just numbers and do not want to be made to “feel” like they are just a number and all car people are not stupid idiots.
Unfortunately these high-tech CRM systems, many dealership frontline employees, and many in middle management rely totally on a transactional view of prospects and customers, not any reliance on a relational viewpoint. They continue trying to automate and totally mechanize the industry as a substitute for the human process. It appears they really have no interest in changing…its just about driving “new traffic” and the “current deal”. They may all say they want the benefits of retention, yet they continue to act in ways that suggest that what they are really interested in is the one-time sale. It’s all about “what can I do to sell you today”. What it should be is what can I do to sell you today, what can I do to get you to return and buy from me again, and what can I do to earn the right to referrals from your family, friends, and co-workers.
Please don’t accuse us of being “phobic” about technology or CRM systems because that would be a mistake. In fact we know that technology and CRM combined with the human element can be a powerful tool to incrementally improve vehicle and service sales and increase customer retention. By the way, we think we have a better knowledge of how to really make it work in “real world” dealership environments than about anybody in the industry.
However, it seems the up front agenda of these non-car people, dot-com types, techno-freaks, and techno-only companies is to exterminate retail car professionals, make new vehicles commodities, take all the profit out of car sales, recklessly stereotype car dealerships and the folks working there.
You can let these folks force their ways into your dealership or you can require them to work CRM and technology into your dealership in a way that enhances the culture of your clients and frontline employees...not breaking it. Quite frankly we do not believe the car business is broken… it just needs to adapt and adjust to take advantage of the new emotional relational driven economy.