Article

Clay Subaru Makes Connections Count with VinSolutions  

Brand loyalty often translates to unique needs and preferences for car-buyers. When and how they shop. The precise specs, features and trim level. The lifecycle of their vehicles.  

Laura Schiffer is Sales Manager for Clay Subaru in Norwood, Mass, about 15 miles southwest of Boston. Clay Subaru’s customer base includes local and in-state buyers, ranging from lifetime Subaru drivers to shoppers assessing the brand for the first time. She has a deep and data-driven understanding of her customers’ needs.  

 “Subaru customers are a rare breed,” says Laura. “They know the exact measurements of their desired vehicle. They know the safety features they want, and they arrive at the dealership understanding the inventory supply and what they can expect to spend.” 

Laura estimates that up to 90% of Subaru buyers are customers for life.  “Once they’re in the Subaru brand, they tend to stay with the Subaru brand,” she says. It’s easy enough to sell them a car, but they are likely to keep that car for a long time and then just pass it on to a family member when they buy a new one. That’s one reason it’s important to be transparent with pricing & trades.”   

Earning Customer Loyalty Through Transparency 

Understanding the vehicle lifecycle with those customers has helped inform Clay Subaru’s strategy toward incentives. In many cases, competitive dealerships advertise price discounts but in the fine print require the customer to trade in a vehicle, and to have previously owned a Subaru. Clay Subaru, in contrast, will offer discounts on a case-by-case basis, without requiring a trade-in.  

“We really pride ourselves on being an upfront and honest Subaru dealer,” says Laura. “We don’t have those requirements. We get a lot of returning and referral customers because people know we aren’t hiding anything from them.”  

Clay Subaru’s philosophy of transparency comes from the top down. “Our General Manager believes we should strive to be the best people around, to build that reputation. He would rather negotiate on price and earn a customer for life, than maximize profit on a car and then hope they come back to us.” 

Post-COVID production increases mean that inventory levels are gradually increasing month over month – i.e., more available vehicles. However, high interest rates can be a limiting factor for some prospective buyers – increasing competition for those in-market buyers. This creates a direct and profitable incentive to anticipate when existing customers will be in-market and get them back to the dealership. 

Clay Subaru’s focus on the lifetime value of the customer, combined with their deep experience serving Subaru customers, informs their outreach. Laura and her team rely on the data in VinSolutions CRM to target the right customers with the right messages at the right time.   

With the help of their Performance Manager Kristen DiPietro, Laura has honed their insights so she can understand how long customers have owned their Subarus. She links drivers in the same household for a better understanding of what that household needs and their buying cycle. She tracks customers approaching end of lease. She extends special financing offers to buyers who would benefit.  

“Maybe I have a customer who replaces their vehicle every five years. The Insights help me drill down and find that customer, and get them the new car that they want,” notes Laura.  

Giving back is a key part of Clay Subaru’s community involvement. Since 2013, Clay Subaru has donated more than $313,000 to hometown and national charities! 

VinSolutions Insights to Reach Sales Goals 

Laura recalls a recent time when the rich Insights in VinSolutions CRM helped them exceed their monthly sales objectives.  

“I wanted to sell 100 new cars by month’s end, and we were short by 15 going into the last week. So I drilled down into my Insights, found out who recently was looking at new cars on my lot… and we ended up exceeding our goal by 5!”  

Laura continues: “We sold 20, which was great. We sold some of those cars to customers that I identified using Insights and then created tasks for the salespeople to follow up. We definitely utilize VinSolutions to reach our goals every month!” 

In addition to mining sales opportunities, Clay Subaru also uses VinSolutions CRM to support its own evolving business processes and team. The dealership recently shifted away from a BDC model, which meant that different team members assumed responsibility for core tasks such as lead follow-up and cleanup. VinSolutions CRM provided streamlined processes and time-saving automations to ensure a smooth adoption for the team.  

“Once I showed them the tasks are right there, it just fell right into place. It tells you where to start and where to finish,” says Laura. “It’s pretty self-explanatory, they definitely have no complaints. We distribute the leads to our salespeople, and they understand the priority.” 

“I really think that the salespeople taking ownership of the customer right from the beginning helps them build a better rapport with them,” says Laura. “We set goals in VinSolutions CRM: response times, contact information capture, appointments set, etc. We have to be at or above the average for the goals.”  

Adds Laura: “You want to make sure that the CRM you’re using is creating the right tasks and events so that you’re selling cars.” 

Performance Management: Dealership Experience Meets CRM Expertise 

Clay Subaru relies on its Performance Manager Kristen DiPietro to fine-tune the tasks and processes in VinSolutions CRM so they are aligned to the dealership’s goals and sales philosophy.  

“We have a standing 9:00 AM call on Monday mornings. Kristen knows the issues that matter to our GM. He wants to make sure that we’re not creating unnecessary tasks for the salespeople and the salespeople are actually performing their tasks. He wants them use what VinSolutions offers to help them to sell cars.” 

Laura continues: “So in order for us to sell cars, we know our response time is really important along with follow-up. How fast are you getting back to the customer that sent a lead in for you?  How many of those people are you actually getting in touch with, whether by phone, text or email? Are you making appointments with these people, and are you following up with the appointments?” 

Laura recalls a recent example where Kristen fine-tuned a lead process:  

“Last week we changed our whole KBB lead system.  We have an outside agency that manages these KBB leads and handles the beginning of our lead process.  Once those KBB leads are in the CRM, it just doesn’t make sense for them to follow the standard path we use for other types of leads.  So Kristen and I went through and just changed it all. Now when a KBB lead comes in, it’s got a whole new process that picks up where the agency left off.” 
 

Laura deeply appreciates the experience and guidance Kristen DiPietro brings to the table.  

“I couldn’t speak enough about Kristen, she’s taught me so much. This woman actually was a BDC Manager and Finance Director. Almost every Monday she comes up with something new to teach me in the CRM. I am not the most tech-savvy person, but I’m able to use VinSolutions very effectively by working with Kristen. I told her, ‘You’re the biggest asset in VinSolutions!’”