When I had the opportunity to move into the role of internet director at a Ford dealership in Escondido, I was excited about the responsibility, and of course, the pay raise. Not wanting to screw things up, I spent a good amount of time learning from the approach of other successful dealerships, specifically their email templates, phone process, and follow-up routine.
My first week was a blur of meeting staff, learning a new CRM, setting up the structure, and revamping all follow-up templates. After a month, I felt I had crafted a creative campaign, and our store soon became number one in closing percentages on the West Coast region of our dealer group’s 16 stores! Metal was moving. Paychecks grew fat. We worked customers until they told us to get lost. I’m not a braggart, so I’ll get to my failures next.
Looking back on this scenario after moving from a dealer group of 167 to 4, there were tons of resources at my disposal. And there were managers managing managers who managed other managers. The responsibility to the shareholders of a public corporation to improve the bottom line was at the forefront of everything that happened in and around the dealership.
If I wanted a fully coded email blast sent out to customers that owned a purple hat, it was a few mice clicks away and part of the services provided the dealership. If training on the CRM tool was needed, an in-house guru was flown in to train the staff. Daily reports of lead response time, closing percentages, ROI, etc. were circulated up to the president of the corporation. This was a well-oiled machine that needed very little grease, and I was simply a cog contributing to the movement. Sure, I had a hand in its success, but not without a lot of help.
When the GM changed the manager’s pay plan for the third time to our detriment, and I realized that I could make more back on the sales floor, I realized it was time for a change. So, back I went to my original dealership – Courtesy Chevrolet in San Diego – in the role of internet director, which has grown to now include used car manager. I am treated fairly, enjoy coming to work, and the only change in my pay plan was a huge raise. Life is good!
One little problem – I hadn’t been happy with the results since being here. I am used to a four to five percent higher closing percentage on internet leads.
Although our closing percentage was lower than where I felt it should be, I couldn’t put my finger on why. We have a highly trained three-person BDC to handle appointment setting and lead response, in addition to an all internet sales force who work all leads when the customers arrive. They send the same emails, templates, and personalized quotes that were a success for me at the Ford store. The response time is under a minute with a lead dialing service we use called CallDrip. By all bird’s eye viewpoints, we were doing a much better job than my previous store. I thought to myself, we should be killing it!
I am embarrassed to tell you what I found out next.
A couple weeks ago, I channeled all my wordsmith genius into an email that I sent to a customer on behalf of a salesman that was off. It was a work of art. You could liken it to the scene in the movie Castaway when Tom Hanks stands back to admire the fire he created on the lonely beach after crash-landing in a FedEx plane, and being marooned to a deserted island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Thankfully, this email made it to the customer, and he now responded to a phone call from the BDC.
But what transpired next was an eye-opener. He said that he responded to the email, but we did not see anything come in. I looked in every bucket I could think to look, including the catch-all. One problem – the reply email address I used did not work with our CRM. This led me to create the checklist below, which increased our closing percentage by four percent in two weeks!
1: Accurate and working emails within your CRM. Every CRM has its good and bad points. One CRM that I’ve used in the past was intuitive when I wanted to send an email on behalf of a salesperson. However, our current CRM requires you to hand-type the salesperson’s email and name. The problem is – our customer satisfaction manager creates the emails, and he uses the first letter of their given name, but this doesn’t always line up with the name they go by. Solution? Take the time to create a real list of salespeople’s emails if you are going to reply for them. Otherwise, you’re going to be answering a lot of questions for these customers if the salesperson never sees their replies.
A deeper dive revealed an even bigger problem: three salespeople and one BDC agent had non-working, in-active emails. Their passwords were input incorrectly either on our server or in the settings of our CRM! That means my BDC agent had sent hundreds of emails in his first month with us that NEVER MADE IT TO THE CUSTOMER! How is this possible? Easy – when someone else sets up the backend side of your CRM, and you don’t inspect what you expect, that’s what you get.
2: Settings align with the intended email response strategy per campaign. In my situation, salespeople emails were the tip of the iceberg. It turns out, you could have hundreds of campaigns for follow-up running in your CRM at the same time. So, even if you fix your internet lead response campaign, what about your fresh-up campaign? Or your phone pop follow-up? Previously sold and service customers? We had reply emails set to go to people who had quit the dealership five to six years ago!
3: A proper response route. You have a person who actually wants to buy a car, but when they call, it goes to service, fleet, or the worst – a VM during business hours. I took several hours and tracked down every number on every website where we advertise. I called every single one. Thankfully only three numbers were routed incorrectly, but I wonder how much business we lost as a result?
4: A path of least resistance. Here is an important question to ask yourself: Is it hard for customers to contact us? I surveyed my chat leads, third-party response emails, and tried to look at every angle of how a customer could get ahold of us. The question I kept asking was, “Is this the path of least resistance to get a quote, inquire about availability, answer questions, and get people in the door?” It’s the same idea I try to convey to my staff – are we removing every barrier and roadblock to the sale, or are we creating our own resistance?
It started with a customer who was upset that we didn’t receive the email he sent to us. The broken link in the reply email because of one wrong letter almost led to a broken relationship. After my D-review of our dealership’s CRM, I wonder how many deals we may have missed? I’m pretty sure some of you reading this will be pondering the same thing.
About the Author:
Jesse Miller is the BDC/used car manager for Courtesy Chevrolet in San Diego, CA.
Author: Contributing Writer
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