When I ask most dealers to tell me about their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiative strategy they instantly default to what piece of software they use and that is where it ends. Funny how we focus almost 100% of our faith and attention on what is deemed as only 10% of the overall CRM initiative to deliver results; the software which only facilitates good processes and people. Investments in CRM applications have indeed produced a broad spectrum of results. Some dealerships have experienced dramatic increases in revenue and customer satisfaction along with significant cost savings, while others have experienced limited returns and disappointing results. The benefits would be greater if more stores took CRM for what it is to the next level by designing and managing their CRM strategy for future aspirations instead of just implementing software to support current capabilities. The focus on bottom-line costs and departmental goals limits the top-line potential of CRM investments.

To gain a competitive advantage and promote sustainable, profitable growth, organizations need to take a holistic approach to CRM and develop bold strategies to win, know and keep their customers. We all know technology is important but technology “only” results are paled by solid people skills. This will only occur with professional process training and implementation of a disciplined approach. All else fails or offers semi-success.

Notwithstanding notable success stories, we have been witnessing a paradox trend. While utilizing and relying upon CRM software, many organizations lose sight of their customers. Their attention centers on ratios and efficiency gains thus, becoming a prisoner of Analysis Paralysis. They focus on single channels, ignore back-end integration needs and get only a limited view of the customer, resulting in missed opportunities and a negative customer experience. Organizations often automate existing bad processes instead of redesigning their customer-facing operations based on the new and improved best practices. It is clearly the time to refocus on what CRM processing is really about, “the customer” in order to achieve the results CRM has promised to deliver.

No business can exist without customers. No matter how good a product is or how efficient an organization operates, without customers there is neither growth nor profitability. Customers make the purchase decision. They bid the price up or drive it down depending on the value they perceive in a product or service. The customer decides which way and when he wants to interact with a dealership and how he/she wants to explore and ultimately buy whether it be online, over the phone, in a store or through any other channel. It’s the customer’s perception of everything a company does and represents that creates an image of its people, brand and dealership and eventually determines its success or failure as a business.  Thus, it is ever so critical for every corner of your store to be radiating these new “relationship building” elements or your store looks just like everyone else and consequently your business will ultimately hinge upon ‘best price’ issues. We have to give customers real reasons to do business with us way beyond just the money factors.

This is why successful companies build their business totally around the customer. They know who their most valuable customers are and they understand their needs and buying habits. They target and tailor their offerings and personalize the interactions with their customers. Successful companies design and continuously improve business processes across their entire ecosystem “including suppliers and channel partners” to respond quickly to changing customer needs. They strive to become fully customer-driven, deliver superior customer value and consistently provide exceptional customer experience across all customer touch points. They make every effort to build long-term relationships with their customers, recognizing that keeping customers is more profitable in the long run than winning new customers over and over again. Essentially this is what CRM without compromise is about.

More than ever, Relationship Building training is so critical to organizational success. What we expose our team members to is exactly what they will become. What have you done lately to grow your team to new heights in learning new things? After more than a decade of harnessing cost-savings potential to remain competitive in an increasingly difficult economy, driving growth has replaced cutting costs as the most important goal for most dealerships. Hence it becomes no surprise that CRM is back on the agenda of many top executives.

To stimulate new growth, wise dealers are beginning to explore a more disciplined approach to exploit untapped opportunities and make the most of relationships with customers. They seek new ways to increase wallet share, deploy new channels, penetrate underserved segments, reach out to new customers and enter entirely new markets. To ensure sustainable, profitable growth CRM processes must take a leading role in the value chain, enabling organizations to excel not only across, but beyond customer touch points and rapidly adapt to changing business needs.

When price and efficiency were the driving forces of competition, many companies focused on increasing their competitiveness by improving their internal processes. Continuous, standardized processes were the key to new efficiency potential and for survival in the market. But the spotlight has since shifted to relationships with customers, employees and partners. Internal efficiency alone is not enough to guarantee market differentiation and competitive edge. Success is no longer determined only by price and product, but by well-designed sales channels and well understood relational sales and service processes.

At first, companies focused on CRM for a single department or function. They often turned to niche CRM software vendors to not only support but be their CRM effort. However, while sales productivity, call center efficiency or marketing effectiveness may have improved, progression to effectively managed customer relationships was often prevented by an internal focus, deployment of tactical departmental solutions and inadequate integration of front-office and back-office systems. Successful dealerships have realized that integration along the entire process chain is the only way to gain a lasting competitive advantage. But so far, few companies have used this profitably, redefining their own strategies and reshaping business processes for a truly customer-driven enterprise.

More and more organizations are beginning to realize that overall CRM success depends heavily upon how they treat their employees. Hiring good people, setting high goals and expectations, providing needed resources, training and developing new skills, and holding people accountable for results seem to be critically important ingredients in organizational success.  Employees who work in organizations with these qualities often exert more effort toward organizational goals, report higher levels of job satisfaction, and are more likely to stay with their company over the next three years than employees working for organizations that do not possess these qualities.  And, for the bonus round – their customers love them and keep coming back.

Although the ingredients for organizational success appear straightforward, few companies appear able to implement them on a consistent and comprehensive basis because many managers believe they do not have time to interview potential employees properly, much less set clear expectations and develop skills. Nor are they much better at holding their employees accountable for results, as many managers do not take the time to conduct weekly one-on-one performance much less annual reviews. If research vibrantly shows us that these leadership activities are related to an organization’s ability to attract and retain key talent and in turn provide us with superior results, and if managers are not doing them, then what other things are they spending their time on that could possibly be more important?

CRM Process Leadership is the required key in order to grow people, processes and customer base. Never a better time to re-invent yourself, your people and your store than today. Say goodbye to the status quo and hello to new processes and relationship principles that will encourage and sustain overall dealership growth.

Here are a few required Skill Sets for Team Member Development to ensure your growth plan will succeed and provide an enhanced Customer Experience:

CRM Team Member Development Training Requirements:

Superior phone skills

Phone guides for every occasion

Personality and behavior alignment understanding

Best practices in objection handling

Securing appointments with high show ratios

Empathy for customers

Discipline towards mission goals

Interviewing/questioning skills

Listening skills

Email/text grammatical and construction skills

Follow-up integrity

Value-added customer experience enhancement

Overall communications skills

Negotiating skills

Product knowledge

Customer-centric attitude


These are just a few of the essential elements required to operate a well-honed operational customer experience. Target these elements into your development program and you will receive an abundance of engaged employees, happy customers and your business will become stronger.

Personally, I like a BDC although I prefer to call it a CRE or Customer Relationship Experience. The theory here is it is easier to “thoroughly” train and develop a 3-to 8-person team than it is to train 15 to 20 people towards excellence. Sort of the Navy Seal vs. Battalion theory. It offers up tight controls, accountability and a discipline towards mission fulfillment. I know the term BDC has a negative connotation attached to it due to the multitude of dealership failures over the years but I conclude, as many others, that it will become the future of our business.

Most of the BDC failures in the past were due to:

Management not appreciating the value proposition

Lack of process training

Lack of leadership overseeing project

Lack of policy and procedures

Not knowing how to pay the team members,

Thinking the costs were prohibited

Etc., etc.

Too bad the failed dealerships did not take the time to investigate deeper the critical elements to drive a successful BDC venture. As the saying goes, you get what you inspect not what you expect.

If you are interested in receiving a few enriching ideas that you can employ now send me an email chuck@impactgroupcrm.com and I will get them out to you. Also, if you have any questions or success stories I would love to hear about them.