Car Dealership Group Goes on Data-Cleaning Spree

During its purification project, Cardinale found a high percentage of outdated, incomplete or mismatched information.

Steve Finlay, Contributing Editor

September 27, 2019

2 Min Read
Robert Powell Cardinale
“Data is useless if you can’t turn it into action,” Powell says.

A data-cleaning project was a big job but was worth it for the Seaside, CA-based Cardinale Automotive Group, which operates 22 dealerships.

So says Robert Powell, chief investment officer for the Cardinale Group of Companies that includes the dealerships in California, Arizona and Nevada.        

During its cleanup, the company, which laser-focuses on customer engagement and satisfaction, found a high percentage (32% to 68% depending on the store) of outdated, incomplete or mismatched electronic information stored in its venerated customer-relationship-management system.

“We treat our CRM as a vault,” says Powell. “All opportunities (i.e. customer visits, contacts, sales and prior-purchase information) go in there. We’ve spent years building it.”

Experts say keeping CRM content information current is vital for the system to fulfill its potential.

That’s why Cardinale hired a verification service provider to do what Powell calls a “data purification” that rid the system of thousands of pieces of bad information.  

“An incorrect email address won’t get you far,” he says, referring to keeping in touch with customers in the name of repeat business. “We also found that a lot of people moved.”

Cardinale, No.53 on the 2019 WardsAuto Megadealer 100 with $406 million in total 2018 revenue, uses its CRM system to monetize its customer base, he says. “We realize there is a lot of customer lifestyle data in there,” including the number of vehicles owned, financial information, vehicle-equity status and lease expiration dates.

Powell adds: “Data is useless if you can’t turn it into action. We use it to make marketing decisions. It doesn’t do any good to run an email marketing campaign when 40% of the emails are invalid.”

At an automotive customer-experience conference, he and other industry people talk about the need to keep it clean. Thought Leadership Summits put on the event in Marina del Rey, CA.

Freshening stored customer information is an ongoing effort at Hyundai Motor America, says Jennee Julius, the unit’s senior group manager responsible for Hyundai and luxury-brand Genesis customer experience.

“We’re constantly trying to update old emails,” she says. “Unfortunately, dealers are busy and when a (return customer) comes in, the dealership is not always asking if the current information on file is accurate.”

Even taking the time to go down that checklist with customers isn’t foolproof, says Eric Leys, general manager of Lexus San Diego. “Sometimes customers, in order to speed up the process because they’re in a hurry, will say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s a good email address for me,’” when it isn’t.

Then there are customers who protect their privacy, Julius says. “Some people will share everything, but others are like a closed book. There also are the in-between types.”


About the Author(s)

Steve Finlay

Contributing Editor, WardsAuto

Steven Finlay is a former longtime editor for WardsAuto. He writes about a range of topics including automotive dealers and issues that impact their business.

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