Automotive e-commerce is a fast-moving target, but Herb Chambers' dealership group is a speedy organization in its own right.
“Herb Chambers is an amazing motivator and constantly encourages us to never settle and to always seek constant improvement,” says Jay Gubala, general manager-e-commerce and business development for The Herb Chambers Companies, based in Massachusetts and including 44 dealerships.
Six of those stores are on the Ward's e-Dealer 100, accounting for a total of 9,808 Internet-related vehicle sales.
The Chambers group over the years has received various “best-of” accolades, but the boss tells his employees not to rest on past accomplishments, Gubala says.
“Whereas e-commerce is a moving target, Herb Chambers' philosophy has been instrumental to our success,” he says. “Our team never settles.”
While the Chambers organization had its first website up and helping to sell cars in 1994, it took some auto dealers years to follow suit. Many dealers are just starting to create mobile websites, but Chambers did so two years ago and now has iPhone and Android applications.
“Herb has unbelievable foresight, conviction and the horsepower to get things done,” Gubala says. “We don't make revolutionary changes but we make evolutionary changes every single month.”
The Chambers group has been involved in social media for the last four years and today relies on a combination of inside and outside resources to maintain its Facebook, YouTube and Twitter presence.
“Social Media allows us to truly highlight and exhibit our transparency with our clients,” Gubala says.
The group's dealerships try “to provide higher levels of service promptly and treat guests in our dealerships as we would guests in our home,” he says, describing social media as a great way to transmit that culture to consumers.
For many dealers, the challenge to using social media is finding a return on investment or a way to measure its effect on car sales.
“It's a rapidly moving target that is effective, but hard to monetize,” Gubala says.
“No one's got this nailed, but do you want to sit in the dealership all day waiting for clients to walk in the front door, or would you prefer to reach out and connect with them in the ways they would prefer and in a far more cost- productive manner?”
For dealers about to venture into social media, Gubala offers words of encouragement.
“Don't be afraid to admit what you don't know,” he says.
“It's 2011, and there are companies, colleges and universities that can help,” he says. “Remember the first time you started using email?”
The Chambers team currently is focusing on reputation management. Several automotive websites give Internet users a chance to rate dealers and comment on their performances.
Much of reputation management involves staying on top of such rating systems, using positive comments in marketing and dealing with beefs by trying to resolve them — and noting on the site that you did so.