KANSAS CITY, MO – Former auto dealership manager Mark Vickery now is an evangelist who believes in the importance of using customer-relationship management software to sell more cars.
Sometimes he’s preaching to the choir, other times he’s trying to convert doubters, or at least people who aren’t fully convinced CRM systems play a big role in modern auto retailing.
Vickery is senior director-performance management at VinSolutions, a company that provides CRM software and services to dealers.
CRM functionality includes target marketing, personalized customer contact, tracking where customers are in the shopping process and engaging with them accordingly and keeping in touch post-sale.
At an annual VinWorx user conference for dealership managers here, Vickery in a WardsAuto interview talks about topics ranging from how to make CRM rock to how to get more salespeople to use it.
WardsAuto: Last year at this event, you gave a talk entitled “Five Things You’re Doing Wrong With CRM.” Has anything changed since then?
Vickery: The industry is evolving, right? What that means 10 years from now, I’m not smart enough to figure out. We all know it’s different today than it was 10 years ago, so it’s reasonable to think things will change in the next 10.
Yet, there’s not a whole lot I talked about last year that will be different down the road. I just gave that same presentation two weeks ago to two dealer groups.
WardsAuto: Could you recap it?
Vickery: It’s basically, “Here are things you can do better.” Things like understanding what your processes are, or do you even know what they are? Did someone build your processes three years ago when you went live with a CRM company, and that person doesn’t even work there anymore?
We’ve had people tell us, “We like VinSolutions, but hate your processes.” My reaction is, “Wait, those are your processes. If you like me, you’re telling me you don’t like you. Let’s change your processes. I can make you a better you.”
WardsAuto: To be clear, what is the context of “processes” here?
Vickery: A CRM comes down to two things. One, we’re a data warehouse containing information that enables you to interact with customers at the appropriate times.
The other thing is you have processes in the CRM that fire off tasks, steps to take with people depending on where they are with you. If they submit an Internet lead about buying a car, there are steps about making phone calls, sending email quotes, maybe sending a text message, whatever. It’s all designed to get them to come in and look at a car.
If they buy a car, there’s a separate process of how to interact with them. If they come to the showroom and leave without buying, there’s another process to try to get them back in. It goes on, limited only by your imagination.
But if dealership people don’t know or aren’t passionate about the various processes the CRM is firing, that’s a major problem. It’s not that uncommon.
WardsAuto: And if they don’t know the process, presumably they’re not following it.
Vickery: Yes. Then, accountability is my most passionate thing. If you do certain things in a particular order with CRM, it enhances the chance of success. If you don’t do those things, you should be held accountable. It shouldn’t be optional.
WardsAuto: What is the best way to get somebody to do it?
Vickery: You don’t want to wield the CRM as a weapon. It’s there to help. If you don’t use it, the guy down the street will and you’ll be sorry.
It’s not laziness. No one has ever said, “I’m going to work today and just be mediocre.” We may allow mediocrity. When that happens, it’s on us. What’s sometimes missing is helping people understand what’s expected of them, and what happens when they don’t meet that expectation. That can be common with CRM.
WardsAuto: Jim O’Connor, a retired Ford vice president, once told me no dealer puts his or her name on a building and then purposely does a lousy job. When that happens, it’s typically a consequence, not an intent.
Vickery: It really is. And it’s largely avoidable. CRM utilization has to be on the same level of importance and regularity as taking a customer on a test drive.
A lot of people ask me, “What’s the right process?” Heck, I don’t know. It depends on what the dealership wants it to be. But I will say the right process is the one you can complete.
WardsAuto: Do you mean it’s simple and easy enough?
Vickery: No, it just needs to be executable.
WardsAuto: I meant simple, not simplistic.
Vickery: Yeah, maybe. But I don’t know that it has to be simple. I might choose a complicated, more robust process because I believe in it. That may mean I have to add to my head count. If salespeople are selling cars, they usually aren’t in a position to follow up on leads. Someone else should do that.
WardsAuto: Are Millennials more likely to use a CRM system?
Vickery: I don’t think so. Here’s the thing about Millennials. Every earlier generation is pretty sure the younger generation is lazy, whiny, spoiled – “insert-your-Millennial-stereotype here.”
In the 1960s and ’70s, the older people thought that crop of young people were a bunch of flower-power hippies that wouldn’t amount to anything. That’s the way it’s always been. It won’t be too much longer that Millennials will be criticizing the next generation.
WardsAuto: Sure, that’s the way the world goes around. But is there a difference between someone who is old-school and therefore has a tough time using CRM to sell cars vs. Millennials who started selling cars that way.
Vickery: The age of the person doesn’t have a thing to do with whether someone is adept at using a CRM system. People of all age groups are proficient computer users. Do you use a typewriter?
WardsAuto: I saw one in a museum recently and thought, “I used to use one of those at work.” Granted, the museum piece was pretty ancient.
Vickery: I went into a business the other day and heard one. I couldn’t believe it. Computers have been mainstream long enough that we all know how to use them. There are lots of car people north of 60 years old who are robust CRM users. Use of CRM is not an age thing, it’s an accountability thing.
WardsAuto: Do you get a lot of feedback from dealers on your system’s functionality?
Vickery: Sure. Some are things we should have been smart enough to see on our own.
WardsAuto: What would an example of that be?
Vickery: Well, we’re launching a new texting product. We all wish we would have done this 18 months ago. Our dealers made it clear we needed to do some things that allowed them to text with customers more readily through the CRM system.
WardsAuto: Are today’s customers expecting the personalization that CRM provides, or do they just like it, presuming they do like it?
Vickery: The expectation has changed. Ten or 15 years ago, just responding to them at all gave you a competitive advantage. Now, that’s not the case. The quality of the interaction has become really important. Seven-paragraph template emails aren’t the best approach these days. Content-rich and content-specific emails focused on customers’ expressed interests are. Personalization is a big part of quality.