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Tipping The Scales. Against An 800 Pound Gorilla…

Have you ever tried skiing? Uphill? Are you one for SCUBA diving? In a wading pool? Do you get your kicks running marathons? On a treadmill? How does this grab you: are you a fan of water skiing? On a dry lake bed? It seems that the more you try to distinguish your dealership today, there's someone from the factory telling you that all of the franchises in your brand should be the same. Nice. There's nothing better than showing up to a gunfight with a knife, right?

Know that we understand completely the advantage for the OEM. The level of standards, compliance and requirements shows more (not necessarily better) knowledge and what's happening with endorsed vendors shows that there may be a desire for (less than acceptable) results. "But they're the factory and I don't want problems". Well, Dear John, that train already left the station and you're the one who gets to sell the customers…right? Don't look now but the factory guys, umm, they don't know how to sell cars and neither do their bosses. Shhh, it's a big industry secret!

So how do you win at the "I want to get ahead and they want me to be behind some imaginary digital line that they don't understand" scenario? With more effort, time, cost and resources you can get 'er done! Welp, that's the short, hard to swallow answer. Can it get done? Yes, the same way you eat an elephant.

Look, they're the 800-pound gorilla (or, if you've been to counseling, the "white elephant in the room") and it's usually ugly if you don't take the extra cars they're shoving down your throat. How can the conversation about why the website vendor is failing them or the fact that the social media/reputation management company actually doesn't do what they say they do with any competency go better? It can't…not until there are real conversations at the headquarters. And folks, they've not even started yet. And the people in the digital posts at your OEMs facilities? Yes, they were selling factory replacement parts to you, at best, six months ago. No, everyone with a smartphone, a Facebook account and knows that CMS is content management system doesn't understand digital. Newsflash: SEO is alphabet soup to them.

Our 800-pound gorillas (read: all of them, not just the "big 6") need a major intervention from you right now. If you're reading this, you're in the top 5-10% of progressive dealers in the country. And don't think for a second that by having them out for a heart-to-heart or flying coach back to the OEM HQ for a fireside chat is going to take the covers off your website, CRM and marketing secrets because we still don't have over 17,000 dealers on mobile-optimized websites yet. However it's a step in the right direction and then 90% of your brand brothers won't have to scream that they don't know what their digitalmarketingleadmanagementpaidsearchretargetingonlinereputationconsultinggurus actually do (yes, please hashtag that!).

Did you hear the feedback from NADA? Yuuuuuuuuup! We're sure you did. Are the OEMs the bad guys? Not in the least. However the combination comes from vendors constantly selling (and them buying, BTW), relationships winning over logic and thousands of dealers fighting the "digital machine" for way to long. When a franchise gets over 50% of their traffic from sources they've not looked at in over a year, someone has to get involved. So they're not public enemy #1, they're just one massive speed bump that wrote a blank check to the wrong address.

Tip the scales in your direction, one pound at a time. (No gorillas were harmed in the creation of this post, but some will be offended – and so will many endorsed vendors)

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

The Key To Everything? Customer Service (STILL!)

Customer service. The term is thrown out like freebies,
party invites, pitches and proposals at NADA. Customer support? Customer
satisfaction? Customer focused? What do your vendors call it? Does that come
after reviewing how many days or weeks they’re allowed after you open a ticket
for something that should be a 1-2 hour operation? Customer service should be
about the…wait for it, CUSTOMER!

What we call customer service has morphed over the years, likely more based on
scale, capacity, programming and software than the requirement to actually take
care of the customer. Very few businesses, still today, put the customer first
however their marketing screams service.

And not following any of the “blueprint” norms really comes
through. Does your website, SEO, SEM, mobile, call tracking and chat companies
really show an amazing zest for paying attention to you? And back you up? And
surprise you from time to time?

Recently my experiences with a couple airlines showcased, in
more detail, what happens to really separate customer service from promises of
service and marketing. With the changes that Delta Airlines has applied to its
SkyMiles program to qualify for 2014 status, the reduction of benefits for my
level (Silver Elite) of status including the amount of complimentary bags you
can check in (now one, so “bag” is more appropriate) and, seemingly, the
ongoing increase in SkyMiles it takes to book an award ticket, coupled with the
number of flights I’ve taken on Alaska (claiming Delta SkyMiles) over the past
couple years with great on-board experience the decision to switch programs
happened last month.

While I’m no social media superstar or influencer, Delta has
followed me on Twitter for quite a while and has, for the most part, responded
to my tweets and mentions whenever they happen. My tweets talking about my
switch to Alaska Airlines resulted in no mentions from Delta’s online teams
(including @Delta and @DeltaAssist) to keep me loyal, however Alaska Airlines
(@AlaskaAir) followed immediately and has mentioned back as well as sent direct
messages. And that is on top of the significantly better experience when flying
them.

On my last flight, Alaska’s ticket counter staff was fantastic,
accommodating my bag without question (my previous flight they accommodated
two, one more than Delta and I didn’t have MVP status on Alaska!). My bag,
which was checked in 32 minutes before the flight made it and the gate agent
addressed every customer when boarding by their first name. Class acts for sure
and to top it off, the counter agent matched my Delta status on Alaska
effective immediately; One person, empowered to make that happen, however the impression
and experience did so much more. With a smile on her face making me smile and
thinking about how to make our customers’ experience even better.

So what does this make you think about? Your investment, or
lack of, in customer service? Whether you have a satisfaction agent or not?

Many companies wrap themselves in customer service; however
when was the last time they paid you a visit entirely based on anything but a report,
pitch, upsell or because they were asked to?

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results