Preparing for Customer Retention

Preparing for Customer Retention

Before buying a new computer application for your dealership, it is important to make sure it will have a great chance of success. Not only must your key people buy into the acquisition, but the application must quickly perform so all involved dealership personnel can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the fruits of making the correct choice.

There are a number of essentials that must be in play for successful application execution. The in-dealership processes have to align themselves with the way the application works (or vice versa) and the data being used must be current, accurate and validated. The more sound data the application has to work with, the greater the opportunity to leverage this data and produce superb result and benefits.

Let’s take using e-mail addresses for a CRM application as an example. What the application needs is, firstly, valid e-mail addresses and, secondly, a steady stream of additional applicable e-mail addresses. Since the sorting and option capabilities using this data field are very powerful application features and because valid well-mined e-mail addresses – when properly used – generate incremental business, it becomes imperative to have a process in place that captures and validates this information.

At NCM, I feel privileged to not only work with and have access to some wonderful dealers, but also to be able to draw from the company’s internal resources to help share “the best of the best practices.” Scott Ross, formerly the Fixed Operations Vice President of one of the publicly listed auto groups, has joined NCM and I recently spent some time asking him for ideas or suggestions on how dealers can not only effectively capture e-mail addresses in the service drive, but also validate that information.

Here is a rundown of Scott’s suggestions:
“Jeff, the best process to capture e-mail addresses goes something like this:”

1. On every customer pay and warranty repair order there is a space specifically allocated for the customer’s e-mail address.

2. The service advisor must ask each customer for his active e-mail address or confirm the authenticity of the e-mail address that appears electronically on the repair order. Please notice I use the word “active.” This is important because many of our clients have multiple e-mail addresses and we want to be sure we get the most actively used address.

3. If the customer, when asked, indicates that he does not have an e-mail address, the entry into the computer is “DNH” (Does Not Have).

4. If, on the other hand, the customer has an e-mail address, but does not want to give it to the service advisor, the letters “WNG” (Would Not Give) are entered into the computer.

To make sure the system is working and there are no loose ends, I suggest a simple procedure involving the service cashier who, when closing out a ticket, scans each one to ensure that one of the above final three steps is in place. As far as making sure the service cashiers are on top of their game, they receive $5 each time they catch a blank e-mail entry and this spiff comes directly from the service advisor’s pocket, not from the dealership! Something else we do is to make sure the service advisors are confirming the accuracy of the customer’s physical home address at the same time they are accumulating e-mail addresses. Cashiers must be trained to confirm physical addresses as well, as having a valid physical address is critical if the customer’s record is marked with either a DNH or WNG.

Incidentally, the pay plans are not entirely slanted against the service advisors. If they capture more than, say, 200 valid e-mail addresses each month, they receive a $50 to $100 spiff. This amount seems to move the needle.

It is the responsibility of the service advisors to input the customer’s data into the dealership computer system, after all it is part of their job description. As for catching invalid e-mail addresses, any good Internet-based CRM application has as part of its software an embedded validation routine that will quickly identify invalid e-mail addresses. In addition, a well designed CRM application will also segregate the e-mail from the non-e-mail database and offer a direct mail solution as part of the program design. That way, all customers in the database can be contacted via the best method available, with no cross over.

I think you will agree that Scott’s ideas are easy to understand and implement. If you compare his suggestions to what you currently have in place at the dealership, you will find it is imperative that you create a process that enables the system to show its paces. If you don’t, the application will sooner or later collect dust.

This article by Jeff Sacks originally appeared in Dealer Magazine.

Jeff Sacks, president of Jeff Sacks & Associates, is an auto industry speaker, consultant and trainer and is actively involved with dealership and OEM consulting and training.
His website is and his phone number is 800-867-2160.