By Steve Johnson
It was not all that long ago when dealership systems were centred entirely on meeting statutory requirements and financial stewardship.
Accounting, stock control and vehicle admin took priority – with basic customer/vehicle records and prospecting facilities tagged on.
Today, CRM is at the fore – and rightly so.
DMS tools, which enable a dealership to co-ordinate all customer interactions, are at the heart of most systems.
And without being shackled by obligatory must-haves, CRM applications have enabled DMS developers to design a whole raft of process-based functionality, and arguably distinguish their products from the competition.
At the same time specialist companies, concentrating on CRM and sales-centric products, have entered the market.
Manheim (eGoodManners), Marketing Delivery, GForces and Contact Advantage among others have responded to fill gaps in DMS can-dos and have been nimbler in embracing new technologies with innovative and creative applications.
Their presence has livened things up for automotive IT as a whole and certainly made things more demanding for the DMS sector.
Right now, many dealers, leaving aside any manufacturer requirements, accept the challenges of running a DMS and a specialist CRM system and, it would seem, achieve greater benefits by doing so.
This feature sheds some light on the situation from IT and dealership perspectives.
Choice means a healthy competitive position – each dealer wants a CRM system to suit their specific requirements and there’s currently no one-size-fits-all solution.
Jon Skinner, Gemini Systems head of business development, said: “Key criteria when choosing a CRM system should include return on investment factors such as cost saving and efficiency opportunities.
"With email being free and SMS messages around 90-95% cheaper than a standard first-class mailing, direct marketing costs should be dropping through the floor.
"Automated processes can free up vast amounts of time that can be used more effectively in other activities.
“Scaleability, internet functions, call centre and sales environment compatibility and manufacture integration should also be considered.
"Systems should be chosen based on future product roadmaps alongside current features.
"A good starting point in the selection is to consider existing processes and then see how a particular system can improve them – too many people still believe a CRM is a magic wand.”
Modern integrated DMSs now have functionally-rich CRM capabilities. ADP’s Autoline Drive, launched a couple of years ago, offers marketing tools to automate dealer response to customer enquiries via the website, email or SMS. The system also has a complete campaign management suite to provide a single point of visibility of all customer activity.
ADP marketing manager Adam Palmer said: “In a forthcoming release, Autoline Drive will also offer ‘call-tracking campaign allocation’ capabilities, enabling dealers to monitor inbound call volumes for a campaign and provide KPIs to determine the cost of enquiries and cost per sale achieved.”
Hendy Group recently switched to ADP Autoline Drive, replacing a DMS and a showroom package.
Mark Busby, sales and marketing director, said: “The move has provided us with a single customer view – a tremendous step forward, resulting in us having much more accurate live data. We took the approach that it was better to adopt the processes built into the system and develop our activities around the DMS structure and not the other way around.
"Our contact centre team takes the lead on managing the quality of data and we make full use of exception reporting to identify gaps and potential inaccuracies.
"By effective segmentation, understanding our customers better and developing behaviour profiles, we aim to predict purchasing decisions to a higher degree of accuracy. CRM is all about doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right customer.”
Cambria is successfully harnessing the capabilities of its Ebbon Dacs DMS and Marketing Delivery’s SmartMail.
Ian Goldbold, marketing director, said his systems were providing benefits ranging from repeat website traffic, increased service retention and reduced database attrition to higher referral rates, improved CSi scores and higher lifetime value.