5 Steps to Help You Invest in the Right Dealership CRM

Though every car shopper is different, three general types have emerged: Shopper A who wants to do everything online; Shopper B who wants to complete some steps online; and Shopper C who prefers the traditional, in-person buying process.

With in-person car shopping becoming a less attractive (or even unfeasible) option this year, even Shopper C is being forced online. Many Shopper Bs, who want to do some of their deal online, are quickly transforming into Shopper As, who are happy to purchase their vehicle without even stepping foot in the showroom.

The most recent Cox Automotive COVID-19 Consumer Impact Study revealed that 43% of car purchasers who bought since mid-March did more steps online than they have in the past. But, 71% of consumers who intend to make a car purchase say they want to do even more of the steps online then they did the last time they purchased a vehicle.

Ultimately, the right automotive CRM systems will help transform a dealership’s business, especially at a time when it might need a boost.

Needless to say, the buying journey is no longer linear. So, how can dealers successfully navigate the maze and guide customers through unique car-buying journeys? For salespeople not equipped with psychic abilities, the right customer relationship management (CRM) technology can make the difference between a record rally and a record loss.

Investing in the right CRM is a big decision, especially in tight times. However, you can mitigate the risk and reap the rewards by following some thoughtful steps:

  1. Form a committee: It’s important to make those using the software part of the selection process. Select a diverse lineup with team members from different departments across the dealership to gather different perspectives. CRM selection will impact everyone from fixed ops to the top sales rep, so it’s crucial to ask for and consider their input, whether through surveys or all-hands meetings.  


  2. Create your criteria: Now it’s time to ask some tough, but critical, questions. For example: What do we hope to accomplish? Is it campaigning the right offer to your database to generate repeat sales or service business? Better follow-up or greater accountability?  


    Next, what do you expect from your team? How much are you willing to spend to achieve the results you want? Try not to base the budget on how much is currently being spent if you’re looking to upgrade a current system that leaves something to be desired.  


    Finally, what do you expect from the vendor? Make sure to define what kind of support is needed and make those expectations known. The right vendor will not only be capable of convincing you to buy, but also offer excellent customer service, including pointing out areas of opportunity that can make a difference before, during, and especially after the final decision. Look for a CRM partner, not just a vendor. 


  3. Compare and contrast your options: It is your right to be picky about this decision and even a little nosy. Look into what CRMs competitors or sister dealerships are using. Take advantage of consultants and ask questions like whether the vendor is reputable, how often the CRM is updated with new technology, whether your peers have any bad experiences, or if there are any hidden costs. This should help narrow down some top options.  


  4. Don’t be afraid to demo: After conducting thorough research, it’s time to demo the top options. Think of this like the test drive you offer customers. Contact each of the vendors and request an overview that works for the selection committee’s schedule. This is an appropriate time to ask any final questions. Good providers will also record the sessions so you can weigh your options side by side before making a final decision.  


  5. Decision day: Consult the committee, remember your criteria, and decide which option is the best fit for your dealer and staff. Make sure to be fully aware of and prepared for the contractual obligations. A lengthy, complex contract could be a deal-breaker if you’re not ready for the commitment. Consider taking a vote with the committee if you’re torn between options. Buy-in from the team is crucial for the long-term success of the investment, so their opinion really does matter.  


Like a car is made to be driven, a CRM is made to be used. The CRM will be in the best running condition and yield the most profitable results when all its parts are engaged. The dealers who are realizing greater efficiency are those who are adapting their business to get the most out of their investment and who are willing to work collaboratively with their partners to execute change. The same rules for good business apply with or without using a CRM, like customer service, communication, and transparency. The CRM will make all of these things, which today’s customer increasingly values, easier to manage.  

Ultimately, the right CRM will help transform a dealership’s business, especially at a time when it might need a boost. There’s never been a better time to embrace the technology that can give customers the experience they have become dependent on, and fond of, to take business to a new level.  

A version of this article originally appeared in Agent Entrepreneur.  

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