Buying a CRM: A Massive Decision, Simplified


By Alex Snyder

Buy­ing a CRM is a mas­sive under­tak­ing. It takes a lot of research and requires know­ing exactly what you want. Look­ing at a CRM demo rep­re­sents your best chance to see how the sys­tem will work, and most impor­tantly, how it will mesh with the way you run your dealership.

To appre­ci­ate what a CRM can mean for your deal­er­ship, you need to under­stand its three main parts: Process, Mar­ket­ing and Deci­sion Mak­ing. The first has always been the dri­ving force, but the other two are rapidly catch­ing up.

• Process Enhance­mentThis the most impor­tant part of a CRM. You move the nee­dle in your store by man­ag­ing employee com­mu­ni­ca­tions to cus­tomers based on employ­ees fol­low­ing your process guidelines.

In order to sell more cars, get more ser­vice appoint­ments and just gen­er­ally get more cus­tomers vis­it­ing your deal­er­ship, it all boils down to good follow-up. This is where you close the gap with your com­peti­tors. Because this is where CRM makes the dif­fer­ence. Don’t let any­one tell you different.

• Mar­ket­ing Abil­i­ties: A CRM can be used to send bulk mails, push adver­tis­ing phone calls for your staff to make, and export a list of cus­tomers for mail­ers or exter­nal call cen­ters. Some CRMs offer more than oth­ers in this area.

Every email sent, voice­mail left, and phone call con­nected can be viewed as a mar­ket­ing impres­sion. Hope­fully these one-to-one encoun­ters leave a big impres­sion on your cus­tomer. A good CRM will include a his­tory of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions your deal­er­ship has made with a cus­tomer, and a really good CRM will also archive the mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als you’ve sent directly to each indi­vid­ual cus­tomer from within the system.

• Decision-Making Capa­bil­i­ties: This mostly boils down to reports and dash­boards, but it’s really the sys­tem pro­vid­ing accu­rate and rel­e­vant data that allows you to make bet­ter deci­sions. Sure, process is the core of a suc­cess­ful CRM sys­tem, but the report­ing and decision-making aspects are where things start to get interesting.

They are what fuel the tweak­ing and account­abil­ity of the processes. They com­ple­ment one another, espe­cially when they’re both done right and some­one is over­see­ing every­thing. Unfor­tu­nately, vari­ables such as faulty reports, lack of com­pre­hen­sion, and data cor­rup­tion (dupli­cates, bad ad sources, etc.) can plague the accu­racy of CRM reports.

Decision-making also com­ple­ments the mar­ket­ing end of the CRM, and if you truly under­stand the reports the CRM gen­er­ates, you can use them as good indi­ca­tors of your other mar­ket­ing efforts. Despite its value, report­ing often seems to be the last thing ever con­sid­ered by some CRM ven­dors, which is a shame because many forward-thinking deal­ers have come to rely on it heavily.

• The Final Word: The biggest thing to remem­ber when judg­ing a demo and buy­ing a CRM is to avoid get­ting dis­tracted by the shiny bells and whis­tles, and instead focus on the core ele­ments. At the end of the day, the fea­tures and screens that your peo­ple will use day in and day out are where you should judge a demo and a sys­tem. Every­thing else is just win­dow dress­ing; the bells and whis­tles might be nice if they work but they won’t make or break your CRM. How read­ily it gets adopted by your staff, how use­ful it is to your man­agers and how much it ulti­mately moves the nee­dle for your busi­ness is what matters.

Read the entire white paper by Alex Sny­der, Senior Direc­tor of Prod­uct Design for and writer for Deal­er­Refresh.