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Dealers and manufacturers urged to focus on CRM to retain service business

Dealers and manufacturers need to continually re-examine their customer relationship management (CRM) strategies to stop servicing work drifting away from franchise dealers to independents.

Dealer management software specialist Pinewood believes the recession and gradual aging of the car parc is leading both fleet and retail customers to consider non-franchise SMR.

Neville Briggs, Pinewood managing director, said the dealers and manufacturers that were most successful at retaining servicing work were those that continually questioned and modified their CRM approaches.

He said: “Servicing and repair, especially of fleet vehicles, is a key area of profitability for franchise dealers, and most are very aware that they face a fight to retain business against increasing competition from independents.

“From looking at how our customer base and how they use our DMS, we can see that dealers and manufacturers who take a continually proactive approach with their CRM, revisiting and revising strategies, are the ones who are most successful.”

Briggs said servicing needed to be set within a CRM approach that also included all other dealer services including other elements of aftersales, and new and used cars.

He said: “At its core, good dealer CRM is about continually feeding the relationship that you have with customers, ensuring that it remains beneficial to them and to you.
“If there are concerns – typically, at the moment, about pricing – then you need to be able to respond with initiatives that tackle issues head on. This is where it is important for manufacturers and dealers to work together to create solutions such as servicing offers or loyalty schemes.

“The beauty of taking this route is that dealers and manufacturers can respond very quickly to changing market conditions. A new offer can be conceived and sent through communication channels like text and e-mail in minutes.”

Briggs said that as falling new car sales caused the car population to age, it was likely that more customers would consider using independent garages, especially given the ongoing tough economic conditions.

He said: “A key point that dealers need to communicate to fleet and retail customers is that they remain good value for servicing even when it comes to four and five year old cars. Some manufacturers have schemes in place especially for these and CRM should be used to make customers aware.

“In a lot of ways, franchise dealers need to shout about their advantages much louder – many can compete on pricing with independents in all kinds of areas of SMR plus they have a higher degree of technical capability and the full support of the manufacturer. CRM should be used to make customers continually aware of these benefits.”

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