Buying a CRM: A Massive Decision, Simplified

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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 Dealer.com and writer for Deal­er­Refresh.

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