Technology Fine, But Limited

Is there such a thing as too much technology? Perhaps, a better question is, Are we relying on technology too much? The answer, I fear, might be yes. Last month I participated in ENG's customer-relationship management conference. There seemed to be two prevailing attitudes at the conference, both of which I find troublesome. I picked up on the first one while moderating a panel on the future of CRM.

Is there such a thing as too much technology? Perhaps, a better question is, Are we relying on technology too much? The answer, I fear, might be yes.

Last month I participated in ENG's customer-relationship management conference. There seemed to be two prevailing attitudes at the conference, both of which I find troublesome.

I picked up on the first one while moderating a panel on the future of CRM. The majority of questions coming from the audience reflected an almost anti-dealer bias. In other words, they seemed to blame dealers for the failure of CRM initiatives in the store.

I might anger some people here, but a common attitude held by CRM vendors and OEMs is, “We're giving dealers this great technology, how come they're not using it?”

Everyone gives lip service to the idea that technology is not a silver bullet, but an enabler. It's supposed to help you manage your customers. But often, the sales pitch to the dealer is, “Only our technology can do this. Buy ours and you'll see great results.”

That may be the case, but there is a real disconnect between dealers and their vendors. Technology is not the silver bullet it often is made out to be.

A second attitude I noticed at the conference came out of the presentations — just about every one focused on the technology and ignored the human touch.

I was once guilty of that type of thinking. Years ago, I wrote about how new technology was going to revolutionize CRM and allow dealers to know everything about their customers. The idea was that technology was going to replace the handshake and personal touch that was common years ago.

I realize how foolish that thinking was. Customers are always going to do business with people they like. Compared with that, it doesn't really matter how good your processes are and how whiz-bang your technology is.

Customers are lucky if someone answers the phone by the third ring at the dealership. The promise that a dealership can answer a phone and instantly know everything about the customer and direct them to the right person is pie-in-the-sky thinking. The same for using our extensive knowledge about customers will help us market to them better.

The technology isn't bad. Technology certainly can save money and time, and help you mange your customers more effectively. If you can make it work, good for you.

The problem occurs when relying on that technology is all we're doing. Technology will never replace the experience at the store.

I take my vehicles for service to the Quality Care Quick Lane shop that's owned by the local Ford dealership near my house. I go there for one reason: I like the guy who manages it. He's friendly, a good conversationalist. He never upsells; if he sees something wrong, he tells me. But he never pressures me. And once, he gave me a ride home.

His store's customer information gets merged into the dealership's Reynolds and Reynolds database, and each month, I get the OneCommand-generated automated phone call from the dealership's service manager.

I know several stores report great results using OneCommand, but I don't take my vehicles to this particular store because of the automated phone calls. I go there because I like the guy.

I don't care how many e-mails you send customers, or how much information you collect, or how many automated phone calls you make, if the experience in the store is not friendly and inviting, they won't come back.

That ranges from how your receptionist answers the phone to how you greet your customers in the dealership — both in service and sales. The question isn't how good is your technology, it's how warm and friendly is your dealership?

There's no doubt, technology is important and can help the process, but please don't ignore the human touch in the store.

That's where great dealerships win in CRM.

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TAGS: Dealers Retail
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