A Health Check on Your Dealership’s CRM

Most industries have a bit of a love-hate relationship with their customer relationship management (CRM) system. In its earliest days, CRM was an expensive, premise-based installation that took months of integration and training, only to be largely ignored by employees. While today’s CRM are cheaper, more flexible and generally accessed via the cloud, they’re far from perfect. Dealers have more combative relationships with their CRM than other industries, and often face more resistance in replacing them.

“Dealers making do with substandard CRM software often use excuses for why they haven’t switched yet,” wrote Mark Vickery for Wards Auto. “They don’t want to spend the upgrade time or money. Choosing and implementing a new system is work. It means deciding what data to keep and what to clean out. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”

Many dealers take the attitude that, “If it works a bit, then it’s not worth replacing.” “Users aren’t trying hard enough.” “Get that summer intern out here: she knows the system.” As Vickery notes, “Inertia is a powerful force.”

A good CRM, however, has the power to make or break a dealership. One report by Nucleus Research found that every dollar spent on effective CRM returned $8.71 to a business.

“The right CRM can make all the difference in driving up CSI scores and closing the knowledge gap between customers and dealers,” wrote Vickery.

So how do you know if your CRM isn’t working for you anymore? There are some clues.

Too much time. Does it take hours to wrangle with to run reports, cross-check leads, enter data or gain meaningful feedback from it? It may be time to switch to something more usable.

Age. Is it years old? CRM design has improved a great deal in recent years, so if you’re using something that’s old and it’s not working well for you, it may be time to invest in something newer. With a software-as-a-service model (SaaS), costs for switching are likely far lower than you think.

Usability. Is it complex to understand and use? Are newer employees struggling to master it? That’s a good sign it’s time to switch.

Integration. Does it integrate with your other business systems? If you’re having to replicate administrative tasks such as data entry, it’s time to switch, and if systems aren’t integrating properly, you risk mistakes and lost efficiency.

The benefits can be significant. For starters, you’ll look more professional and knowledgeable to your customers.

“Dealerships have lots of assets: staff, inventory, facilities, service offerings, technology and, most importantly, customers who know the difference between a dealer who’s ‘just OK’ versus one who knows them, caters to them and works to get their business,” wrote Vickery.