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.