KANSAS CITY, MO – Customer-relationship management software lets car dealerships to systematically do all sorts of things, including targeted marketing, tracking where shoppers are in the buying process, following up with them and keeping in touch post-sale.

It’s a powerful tool – when employees use it right. The problem is many dealership staffers don’t. “It keeps me up at night,” says Mark Vickery, senior director-performance management at VinSolutions, a Cox Automotive brand that provides CRM software and services to dealers.

To address the problem and presumably sleep better, Vickery at a recent VinSolutions conference for dealer clients here did a presentation entitled “Five Mistakes You are Making in CRM.” (He says he almost talked himself out of making the presentation, but decided to go ahead anyway.)

Mistake No.1: Not following an established process that’s been proven to “fire up customers,” he says. “Process is more important than ever.”

Mistake No.2: Letting staffers off the hook. “People want to be held accountable. They want to know what’s expected of them.” It helps if they know they must log on the CRM system to record all customer contacts.

Mistake No.3: Using an unrealistic or complex process. “If 5-car Fred is assigned to do five calls per lead times six leads a day, that’s asking the impossible. If you are going to call them, you need more people.” Otherwise, it could lead to cherry picking leads. “That’s disastrous,” Vickery says.

Mistake No.4: Failing to enter into the system every sales contact and opportunity, including walk-ins, phone calls and emails. Who’s typically not entered? A shopper whom a dealership staffer deemed isn’t ready to buy. “But who’s making that costly decision?” Vickery asks, noting the risk of losing sales because of such judgment calls.

Mistake No.5: Not using the CRM after the sale. Staying in touch digitally with sales and service customers “is an opportunity to interact with thousands of people in an inexpensive way.”

But dealers needs to send customers personalized messages which specifically appeal to them, based primarily on purchase histories. “It’s not good enough to send e-mails to every customer saying, ‘We’re dealing through the ceiling.’”         

sfinlay@wardsauto.com