As a former new car dealer and current consultant on dealer operations and marketing through my advertising agency I am constantly amazed by the lack of cooperation between the various departments in a dealership. Their common goals – to sell more cars, service/parts and to make more money – should be part of their communal focus but these shared opportunities rarely receive the attention they deserve.
Dealers hire managers to solve a problem in a particular department with little attention paid to shared bottom line profits and accountability to the entire customer experience before, during and after the sale. Of course each department manager needs their own job description and areas of responsibility along with supported compensation plans based on individual and department guidelines and objectives but the true opportunity lies in inter-department communications of shared opportunities across department lines.
The A, B, C’s of the car business - “Always Be Closing” – go beyond the showroom floor and apply to all customer contacts. Opening internal communications in the selling process in both vehicle sales and fixed operations is the key to improving performance in all areas of operations. Verifiable R.O.I. to the dealer’s total bottom line, as well as the individual departments contributing to it, provides a more stable environment on many levels and is the key to consistent profitability in a down market.
The Internet Department of the future will be more than a lead generator with limited selling responsibilities. The Internet Manager of today is more central to developing sales and service than the GSM - and should be treated accordingly!
All communications, before, during and after the sale can, should - and soon will be-handled over the internet and/or on the dealership’s website which is already part of an Internet Manager’s area of responsibility.
Currently, Business Development Centers, (B.D.C’s.), coordinate new and/or used
vehicle sales developed on the telephone, showroom floor, service drive, data base
marketing and in some cases the Internet. They usually rely on linked technology like telephony systems communicating to a data base management system, (DMS), which is tied to a customer retention management system, (CRM). Who is better prepared to coordinate communications and even transactions on the Internet than the Internet Manager? Who has the best understanding of computers, software and integrated links to access and apply information to all of the department managers?
Customer Communication Centers, or “C.C.C’s.” can provide a more integrated and
accessible central point of contact at the dealership for your customers. All customer contacts for sales, service/parts and office should be channeled to one location from all sources including telephone, email, mail, internal DMS/CRM, Internet – you name it!
Cross-selling between sales and service/parts is obvious, but unlikely if they are handled by two different people or departments! Less obvious opportunities like customer complaints and key vendor communications provide the ability to turn a problem into a solution but only if channeled properly.
Most dealers have been traumatized by individual department software solutions they are still paying for and never use. Usually they require secondary input, are redundant with other more integrated systems to the selling process or just lack real world applications to their deal flow. “Inspect what you expect”, coupled with standards like “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” support the value of having one department responsible to focus on these investments in processes/procedures to be shared by all departments.
The following areas of responsibility cross over department boundaries and place your “Internet - C.C.C.” squarely in the middle of all selling processes. The devil is in the details and there is no standard application to apply to all situations. Deciding what to do and what to delegate, and how to best integrate with your current systems to minimize disruption, is the key. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water but expecting different results from the same action is a good definition of insanity.
INTERNET "C.C.C." MANAGER - SUGGESTED AREAS OF RESPONSIBILTY FOR SALES AND SERVICE:
1) OUT-BOUND PHONE CALLS / CONTACTS
2) IN-BOUND PHONE CALLS / CONTACTS
3) INTERNET CONTACTS - INBOUND AND OUTBOUND
4) LEASE RETENTION
5) GALLEY LISTS
6) THREE YEAR RETAIL PURCHASE
7) LETTERS – SALES AND SERVICE
8) INTERNET CLUB EMAILS AND SPECIAL PROMOTIONS
9) BUSINESS TO BUSINESS MARKETING
10) CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
11) WEBSITE MANAGEMENT WITH SEO/SEM MARKETING INTEGRATED INTO CONVENTIONAL ADVERTISING (YES - THAT IS STILL PART OF THE DEAL!)
The Internet “Geek” of the old days has matured into a key manager in most dealerships and the trend is growing! A forward thinking dealer or senior manager should evaluate current communications, customer and deal flow and create a C.C.C. based business plan in concert with the other department managers to develop shared profits.
Inter-department squabbles in the car business will always exist but a well integrated
C.C.C. – if introduced correctly – will transcend individual motives to resist efforts to
improve everyone’s bottom line. A C.C.C. taking on the burden of making appointments and providing centralized communications – both internally and externally to the dealership – will free everyone else up to sell more cars, service and parts!
Real time “paperless” reports available online – or in the DMS/CRM – will provide the department managers with the information and tools they need to do their jobs. C.C.C. provided “secretarial” services, automated and managed follow up systems to recapture lost sales/service opportunities coupled with increased appointments, sales and customer satisfaction is not a threat but a blessing!
Define the areas of responsibility that the C.C.C. will handle and decide which ones will be delegated. Compute the budget, staff and facility you will need, online and in concert with your conventional advertising and community networking proposals, to develop the traffic required to achieve established sales and performance goals.
Monitor shifts within budget based on results and R.O.I. per investment but never
increase the budget without a proper risk to reward consideration and an acceptable projected R.O.I. The days of guessing are over; so be right! Do all of the above, design a pay plan for the Internet /C.C.C. manager, as well as all other department managers, tied to specific performance with a bonus tied to the total dealership bottom line and move forward with the confidence that you have not left any money on the table.
That's all I have to say about that! What do you pro's think?