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Reviewing Best Practices for CRM Usage

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Mo Zahabi has been creating spreadsheets and analyzing data since he was a 10-year-old, observing his CPA mother while she was at work. For decades now, technology has been his passion.

That helps explain why Zahabi—who currently serves as director of product consulting for VinSolutions and Dealertrack F&I—is now so enthusiastic about streamlining dealership processes and eliminating issues like the double entry of data. Zahabi, who has been in the industry for 22 years, spoke with Fixed Ops Business this week and offered advice for dealers who hope to optimize their customer-relationship management (CRM) systems.

In order to utilize best practices with regard to CRMs, Zahabi notes that it’s first helpful to take note of common mistakes to avoid, and to review processes on a quarterly basis (and especially toward the end of the year).

“Because, if you don’t have the proper process in place, you won’t get what you want out of it,” the industry veteran explained. “And, if the data is no good, at the end of the year you can’t really utilize it to market and pull customers back in.”

With regard to CRM usage and data, Zahabi said dealerships often make the following two mistakes:

MISTAKE NO. 1: Inputting Dirty Data

Zahabi feels the double entry of data occurs all too often at dealerships for myriad reasons, such as software platforms not being integrated, or processes that aren’t consistently adhered to by employees. Whatever the reason, oversights like that can lead to costly time drains (for example, marketing pieces may end up being sent to the same customer multiple times).

“I want to make sure that I don’t over-message my customers,” Zahabi said. “So, if I have Bob Smith, Bobby Smith, and Robert Smith—and they’re all the same guy—I need to know that that’s one person; I can’t let them get into my system three times so I end up sending three messages. Because that costs me three times as much, and odds are that customer is going to opt out, longterm.”

MISTAKE NO. 2: Not Marketing to “Lost” Customers

Dealerships often foolishly ignore consumers that have submitted a lead to their facility in the past but eventually bought elsewhere, Zahabi said.  

“The fact of the matter is, you might have lost them, but they purchased somewhere, right?” the director of product consulting noted. “So, once you’ve already paid for that data from a lead provider, why wouldn’t you utilize it in a secondary way and shift that back to service? Because, even if I run a good Internet department, I might only sell 30 percent of my inbound Internet leads, that means that 70 percent of those customers might go buy somewhere else, but the truth is 100 percent of my leads can be marketed to for service.”

Zahabi suggests that dealerships keep the following tips in mind—above all else—when it comes to CRM processes:

TIP NO. 1: Turn Customer Data into Precise Marketing Pitches

It would behoove dealerships to concentrate on building robust collections of customer information, according to Zahabi. Because capturing key bits of information, even about a client’s personality, can help fine-tune sales pitches or email blasts down the line. For example, Zahabi says it’s even beneficial to learn the favorite sports teams of customers.

“Because,” he explains, “at that point I can start to use those segments and ‘personas’ to really start to market differently and engage my customers in a better way.

“The better I personalize my content and personalize delivery of that content with a customer, the better success I have overall—not only in opens, but in click-throughs, and driving down things like bounce rates and opt-outs.”

TIP NO. 2: Give Customers Some Excitement

In Zahabi’s opinion, today’s dealership clients deserve an “experience” when they hit a showroom, service department, or collision-repair center. Inputting ample customer data into your CRM system can help in that regard.

“They chose you for a reason,” he said. “So, for service, for the body shop, I think it’s very important for them to understand what your history is at that dealership. If I have a customer that’s consistently coming into my dealership and they bring people in here—family members buy cars—that’s going to be very beneficial when it comes to maybe goodwill in the service department.

“Success should not be measured in dollars,” Zahabi argued. “It should be measured in retention. Because, if I retain customers, what does that mean? It means I’m profitable, right? With retention comes profit. And I think that’s what more people need to concentrate on when it comes to CRM.”

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