The Digital Evolution of Customer Relationships

By Howard Leavitt, President, AutoRaptor CRM

I did not wake up one day and think that if only I had a CRM appli­ca­tion, then I sure­ly could sell more cars. The term “cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­age­ment” did not exist in 1983. If it did, no one in this indus­try shared or explained what a CRM would do or could do to help you sell cars. Man­ag­ing your busi­ness was done on paper and it seemed a good enough sys­tem.

• We man­aged to sell all our vehi­cles even­tu­al­ly so why change and do any­thing dif­fer­ent­ly.
• We could han­dle the vol­ume and felt like the old adage was true, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
• The Inter­net did not exist, we had a good loca­tion and a busi­ness was very good.
• Vol­ume start­ed inch­ing up and as we sold more cars and pro­duce more paper work I real­ized we were los­ing deals.

What worked for us for so long was start­ing to become unsus­tain­able. It was unac­cept­able, there had to be a bet­ter way.

On the way home one night, I stopped by a retail soft­ware chain store to see if there was a pos­si­ble solu­tion to my prob­lem and found a con­tact man­ag­er, a dig­i­tal ver­sion of what we were strug­gling to keep up with on paper, and that was the begin­ning of the next phase of my life. I want­ed every­one to see the val­ue and how to use dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy for fol­low up.

Eager to learn more about the meth­ods and sys­tems oth­er indus­tries use to grow and main­tain rela­tion­ships with indi­vid­ual cus­tomers, my man­age­ment team and I flew to Dear­born for a week of sem­i­nars on team man­age­ment and cus­tomer rela­tions.

It was sim­ple: they col­lect­ed per­son­al data not just con­tact data with every per­son they touched. It was a con­tin­u­al process as they added infor­ma­tion to a client’s data­base, birth­day, per­son­al col­or choic­es, weight changes and all the infor­ma­tion that would help sell the next arti­cle of cloth­ing. The light went off for all of us that we were just col­lect­ing basic con­tact infor­ma­tion.

• What if we start­ed to col­lect per­son­al data that would help build a rela­tion­ship with the prospect or client? It should enable us to build a rela­tion with a high­er poten­tial for a sale.

• More sales was the goal and we now insight to the process. What tool could we use to expand the con­tact man­ag­er and col­lect the addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion?

Today it is called a CRM/ILM appli­ca­tion. 

CRMs are more robust today but the end goal is the same: to build a rela­tion­ship with the peo­ple you touch with a focus on cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence that will pro­duce more sales. Using basic fol­low up tech­niques, using data col­lec­tion order to build bet­ter rela­tion­ships with your cus­tomers, and man­ag­ing all of this with a dig­i­tal CRM appli­ca­tion will reap ben­e­fits in today’s com­pet­i­tive world.

Howard Leav­itt is the founder of AutoRap­tor CRM and can be reached at



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