After 16 years of serving the Automotive CRM vertical, I have come to the conclusion that the best CRM is one that is specific to the user and is free. Many CRM companies such as the one I founded Prize Corporation ReckonUp was and is capable of making some customization to the end users needs but never enough to be satisfactory. I have gotten to believe that in the automotive space being a CRM vendor is a thankless task. The greatest evidence of that is the end result that there is no CRM company in this vertical that has made a true success of them in the form that true financial success is defined in today’s world. What is the reason for that? Do we all not produce good solid products? Do these products lack in functionality? Do we not train users well enough? Do we not produce enough interfaces? What do we do wrong?
The answer is none of the above. Most all top CRM’s offered in this vertical are decent products with rich functionality. They interface with DMS, OEM and other vendors to make life easy for the automotive end user and they do train the user as much as they are financially able to and as much as the user is willing to buy and to take. So, what is the problem? How come in other verticals users have adopted multimillion dollar companies such as Salesforce and Sugar and there is none of that level of success in automotive. Of course one answer could be that those tools cover a much larger segment of the population but the Automotive sector is by no means a small one. There are some 19000 franchised dealers whom on average employ around 190,000 people and some 35000 non-franchisee who employ about as much. The revenue generated by this sector is in the billions and they certainly need CRM. How come there is not one or only two who has not dominated this world? You could say that R&R and ADP have most of the sector for CRM! And my answer to that is well they have a lot of the sector as clients, but those clients are by no means “true” CRM users.
So, what makes a “true” CRM user? We all know what it means to be a user; but the true user is defined by his usage style and frequency of the tool. Having and using a CRM are two things. Most of the sector might “have” a CRM but do they really use it. It is not unlike saying that most of the population knows that if they exercise they will look better and live longer and most of us either have some kind of exercise machine or are members of an exercise club. But how many of us really take exercise seriously? What percentage actually puts time aside in their day that is cast in iron and actually goes and puts in the time? It is dark in the morning when we got to go to gym or late when we are coming home. We are sleepy or hungry or tired or many other issues and so we cut out the exercise time and as we pay for the darn usage and we don’t take advantage we eventually give up send the machine to charity or give up on our exercise club subscription. Also, it takes a long time and great effort to see results of exercise. Once or twice or three times shows nothing, it is only after long term discipline and hard work that we see some change in our body.
This is not too different than what happens in the CRM world. CRM helps us stay in contact with our clients, get to know who they are and make sure they feel good about us and stay with us. We all know that gaining a new customer is far more costly and harder than retaining one and that most of our revenue is generated by those that approve of our business practices and that without our customers, obviously we will not exist. We also know that CRM holds our data base of customers, it is our venue of communication with them and brings accountability to our employees. But, if our business has a hiccup one of the first vendors we cancel is CRM. Also, just like trying to stay in shape, we got to get our usage of CRM in shape. Meaning all employees have to use it. That means you Mr. or Mrs. Dealer also. All systems have to work together. You need to make sure your database is clean and duplicate free. You need to make sure your internet leads are coming in per minute and your service department information is merged accurately and each and every customer visit is logged. The management needs to get on the tool and use it and have first rate knowledge of this tool, its reports, outcome and results.
So, most dealerships are comprised of busy people and learning CRM is difficult and buying CRM is costly and training employees is difficult. Specially a bunch of salesmen who are still our front face to the customer who are concerned about accountability these tools bring and are also highly transient.
Now supposing the dealership has “its own” CRM. One they have invested in acquiring that actually belongs to them. They can buy and get service when they need and they can buy hosting if they wish and they can buy training if they like and they can buy their own upgrade that they want not the one that fits all. Think about a truly tailored CRM to your needs, that your people get to adopt and the cost can be managed based on your need. This is the business model for CRM of this age, a free source CRM. Although the tool is basically designed for Automotive and is highly rich functionally; it can be upgraded and changed as you wish. You can buy training for it as you wish or train your own trainer on the tool. You have still not eliminated the fact that with CRM continuous proper usage is the key, but you have taken many of the stumbling blocks that make users shy of CRM out of their way and it is only by hacking away at the rock mountain one chip at the time that we can hope to succeed.