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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.



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?

Tags: ad, advertising, agency, auto,, automotive, industry, online, philip, zelinger

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Replies to This ADM Discussion

You are absolutely right on the money. Well said! This is the model we are currently working on and are just begining our phase 1 launch. I'll keep you (and everyone else posted). I'll look for you in Orlando next week and hope to catch up with you.
Hi Chris, Orlando was better than expected and I appreciate your support of my plan. By the way, perhaps we can talk about your real world example on my "Lunch With Phil" show. Ralph Paglia has a show on Thursdays and Friday is reserved for "Automotive Advertising Experts" but maybe a "Dealer Spotlight" show would work? Please reply if you want to be famous!
Well put, and as you know and have most likely seen in many dealerships that the old guard has a hard time understanding the new way of conducting business. As a new face to this site it is nice to see their are others pushing for the change like myself.
Ford and Lincoln Mercury Digital Advertising Program for Dealers:

An online enrollment form for Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers to participate in this program has been set up at:

Ford and Lincoln Mercury Dealers who would like to receive a proposal from the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury Digital Advertising Program for Dealers can complete the online enrollment for an initial Search Engine Analysis at no charge to the dealer at:
Thanks Ralph,

Uh- can I go ahead and put word here that I want the SEA done and I'll fill out the form in a bit. I've got Ford here today...
Hi Susan,

If you use the magic words - Ralph Paglia - his reputation management antenna should pick up your request! Just in Case, I suggest that you contact him on his ADM page plus, I will email him your request.

After all, what are friends for!
You are on the money with the CCC concept. There are ways to overcome many of the "silo" issues that you typically see in a dealership organization. They come from outside the industry but they are proven. In order for the CCC to work you need to address the mechanics but also the culture. I think that is the greatest strength of Internet Managers in that they are on the leading edge of a new culture for dealerships. They know how to make the customer feel like they made a good purchasing decision. A CCC can keep that good feeling going.
Thanks Scott, after reading your forum I can tell that you are one of the guys that get it! As you correctly pointed out in your post there are many pieces to this puzzle in both people and processes.

Ae you going to the 5th Digital Dealer Conference in Dallas in October? I would love to pick your brains in person to share some best practices that I have learned and used on some of the other aeas that you referenced. SiSTeR Technologies Video CarLot and Laser Stream Videos in the video reference, Gumiyo in the Mobile Channel Text Messaging, LeadConverter and the newly developing "Video Chat" PLUS being positioned by Argisitics, vAuto and AAX for predictive pre-owned inventory management and marketing - and the list goes on!

I would love your input and/or experience in all of these and the many more solutions that I am sure you have used to address the issues that you so wisely referenced in your forum. After all, what are friends for!
Sorry for the delayed respones, I took a couple days off. I am trying to shuffle some work around to get out to DD5. I would love to chat, I feel there is a market for everyone of the products you mentioned. Perhaps we can debate whether car prices are driving predictive pre-owned inventory management or ppim is driving car prices...
Excellent - ready when you are to learn from your experience with those and other comparable applications that you may have used.

As to which came first - the process or the human nature that drives it - my answer is the people part. If you build it - they will come assumes that they like baseball! Same logic here. Processes channel human nature and human nature suggests that people only follow a process that feeds their needs.
Transparency in pricing is the holly graile for customers who think that price is all that matters - even though their actions prove that it is only a small part. Unfortunately, it is the first obstacle to them letting their guard down to trust the rest of the story!
It is the combination of good people working sound processes that will drive success.
From providing quotes in a timely,up-front manner to following up with that potential "be-back" to integrating the sold prospect to a long term service customer...there is no better ROI than keeping the customers you already have.
Why do we continue to cling to archaic ideas that we need to train every sales person to be a phone guy (or gal) as well? Some are , some never will be.
Having a "Special Teams" to handle ALL communication just makes sense!


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