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Transparency, Marketing and Dashboards (But, But, But It Sells Cars!!!!)

There has been more attention to accountability of dealership marketing recently, which is a good thing, however it’s always been important and something we here at IM@CS have been doing for eight years. Simply put, you need all of your digital reporting to come down to your own review, independent of vendors and their dashboards.

History proves (and vendors demonstrate) that anything will be said to a dealer or general manager in order to sell a service, especially first-in-market, fear or competitive factors. Most dealers are unwilling to be  leaders, choosing rather to follow especially when it comes to technology. And the largest factor is lack of time and commitment. If you are paying for something, you must be able to measure it yourself. Yes, YOU must be able to do that, not simply trust a report.

Google Analytics is the best way to measure everything that touches your website, alongside ancillary technologies including heat maps, third party SEO and SEM software, as well as independent measuring tools. We use a fair amount of software monthly to ensure the work we do is correct, viable and effective.

We continue to see (the majority of) dealers that are having the wool pulled over their eyes because of not drilling down a little in reporting, rather relying on a smattering of PDF reports and sales rep visits with alligator smiles talking about how great their performance is all the way to 20 Group comparisons with mediocre benchmarking.

As a senior-level executive (not your Internet or marketing director), if you can’t open Google Analytics and have a basic conversation about performance, you are losing awareness and accountability on a monthly basis. There is no other place, including the sales board in your dealership, where more relevant data comes in, not even CRM (especially considering how underutilized that software is!).

So whether you take some company’s challenge, education course, class, or simply task yourself to learn directly within Google’s own treasure trove of resources, commit to a few hours a month and get serious about all of your marketing.

Recently we’ve seen:

  • Significant drops in effectiveness of Display Advertising, with mobile being a factor as well as incredibly poor content/call-to-action in the advertising (incorrectly bucketed spends = lower R.O.I., fewer sales)
  • More rogue/bot  traffic coming from target cities that have server farms, including Ashburn, VA, Dallas and Austin, TX, and Rome and New York, NY as well as Boston, MA. (click traffic from areas that don’t make sense = non-human clicks)
  • Seeing poorly managed paid Social Media ads/dark posts and resulting traffic/leads due to a complete lack of understanding how to deploy the ads/content (running ads on Facebook and not generating leads = wrong vendor)
  • Huge increases in incorrectly managed/sourced paid advertising campaigns, lacking all of the proper data, including conversions, tied to meaningless text/ads. Part of the is an increase in dealers finally spending on SEM and the greater problem is more companies (including many OEM-approved vendors) managing ad spends that don’t understand what they’re doing. This does not counting vendors that don’t marge AdWords accounts to dealers’ Analytics accounts

All of this staring dealers in the face with no challenge to the vendors selling the services and marketing. When you receive that monthly PDF in your inbox, don’t file it. Instead, print it out, call the vendor(s) to review and have someone in your office that can independently verify that data until you understand it yourself.

Stop buying from vendors, even reliable ones, who sell you a service off of how many more cars will be sold. You don’t need that! Most dealers can sell 20-50 more cars a month out of their own CRM. Your marketing can’t be segmented or in silos anymore so quit buying that way!

 

Do this before any factors present market issues or downward pressure on sales. With more dealers spending money, there are incremental increases in sales with a lot of companies are simply getting fat and happy, laughing all the way to the bank with you money. Call us to find out quickly and easily what you’re paying for and not receiving.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Broken Is As Broken Does…We’re So Frickin Broken!

Broken is the new status quo. Status quo is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs, particularly with regards to social or political issues. In the sociological sense, it generally applies to maintain or change existing social structure and values. The way things are done at dealerships has gone near-completely political and, oh my, are we broken!

Thoughts are always swirling is our minds here at IM@CS, and the current state of affairs something that we poke at a lot. It came around again last evening, looking at a page that someone had liked on Facebook. Going to the info tab on the FB page, we noticed that the company was “founded in October”. Excellent! Like us in September of 2007, a startup! Click the link to the website and the domain is not even registered, it’s available for sale. facepalm. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry…

Whether it’s many marketing or website or “digital consulting” companies now evergreen inside the OEMs, the state of broken that exists is staggering. Stupid is as stupid does, we know that from Forest Gump’s momma, so broken must be as broken does. And the industry accepts broken.  Enterprise website providers that aren’t completely responsive (or adaptive for that matter) fit hand-in-glove with marketing companies managing PPC campaigns that don’t perform while taking a management 20% fee (or higher)… Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Dealership executives have choices when it comes to what takes their time. We call it priority management. Many people at fly-by-night SEO and social media companies call it time management (that tickles us so much, we pee). Yes, there are many “subjects du jour” right now including customer experience and whether to go BDC or Internet department especially on the heels of the recent conferences. But one thing is clear, even considering how many are yelling about “owning the basics” and “doing what we’ve always done”: we are broken while many scream we’re great.

And it”s easy to blame the consultants and trainers who, quite frankly, spout off about expertise they don’t have and subjects they can’t actually tackle live in a business, but let’s hit on the responsibility that business owners and executives have. Are you in business or are you hoping to catch up still? Can’t wrestle that extra “marketing expense” out each month when it doesn’t get covered by the factory via co-op, so you decide instead to make the payment on speed boat number two?

We’re broken because we have dealerships that don’t own and manage their local citations, don’t expect everyone to use CRM and trust vendor promises over actual results.

Don’t be the company listing a website that’s not in existence. Don’t be the blind following the blind because it’s the path of least resistance. Don’t be broken and happy because you’re better off than 7 other broken dealerships in your market area report. It’s not easy and it takes more resources that you’ll likely be comfortable with. Don’t settle. No business that has ever been successful did.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

The State of Automotive Digital Advising: More Vanilla, Please!

Anyone who regularly reads our blog knows a few things. One, we tell it like it is. Two, we educate from fact and passion, not from the heart of from the pocketbook. Three, we do and cover what nobody else does across the entire scope of services. Four, we affect a sliver of the industry through the automotive social sphere. While none of these aspects alone are uniquely significant, it becomes more so when you consider what dealers are receiving from “advisors” today.

Recently we had a high-line dealer visit that also included a regional sales director from the OEM, which is a rare pleasure. They wanted to review the new digital assessment package from their third-party partner. While we were extremely happy that the digital marketing consulting company that had previously provided in-field services for the OEM and their dealers was no longer doing so, and there was clearly an improvement in the standard deliverables, frustration quickly set in.

In reviewing the report, it was clear that it took into account items that didn’t properly set up dealer expectations, or take into account how search algorithms have changed, especially mobile, contained improper SEO evaluation components (named search, for example) and wasn’t thorough (had both scoring and consistency issues).

So while the report was an improvement over the third-party and OEM agenda-only approach previously employed to advising the dealers, it showed that we are still significant;y off the mark when it comes to assisting a dealer in doing a better job online. While we’ll assume that the vendor’s intentions are completely altruistic, we once again see the misguided and completely subjective plight we’re in considering there are no “digital standards”, no “consulting certifications” and certainly no “results-based comparisons”.

What we do have is more vanilla. Yes, the OEMs to a large extent need the data; yes, there’s a much better way to go about it. And the challenge is how can you do that, counting on one or two companies, without true A-B testing, in a cost-effective manner? You can’t and all that happens is the dealers can operate off slightly better input rather than consultants taking ideas and bringing them back to the third party and OEM. Everyone loses in that scenario.

Yes, more money is being spent. And with that, more errors are being made. Stupid, unseen errors. How do you tell a dealer that 25-50% of their SEM spend is for terms they shouldn’t be buying, cities that are 500-1,500 miles away, with action-killing text and that 47% of their traffic is on mobile but 70% of their budget is going to desktop? Or that their website’s key pages have the same content as 100 other sites and incorrectly link to non-existent pages on their site? Or that their social media is a complete disaster that is not being seen, read or acted upon? OK, “tell them” you say. And then they bury their heads again or plead the “have to use what my OEM says to” line of garbage. No you don’t.

Stop getting vanilla. When the market drops again, and it WILL, there will be a larger dividing line digitally between dealerships. You can’t take an OEM digital assessment report, unfortunately still, and build better value, own more spots in SERP, turn your social media and social marketing around or answer your leads any better. You actually need to spend money doing that, using different vendors than everyone is using and learn how to understand this our evolving, digital world.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

 

DSES: Can You Feel Me Or Is It The Customer Experience?

DrivingSales Executive Summit 2014 is officially in the books. It was a sold out event once again that enveloped the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas for the better part of three days. Planned was a (digital) star-studded keynote speaker list plus some of the finest breakout speakers, many dealers, for those in attendance. Here's some highlights form the event from IM@CS' perspective:

Day One

Just as last year, there was a Canadian Breakout Session housing some of the top companies from our neighbors to the north along with some powerful presenters including Grant Gooley and Jeremy Wyant. Jay Radke and Brent Wees definitely brought the "eh" for a second time. Rumor is that next year will be bigger and better (and DSES will NOT be during Canadian Thanksgiving!).

After Emcee Charlie Vogelheim’s grandiose welcome of the attendees, DrivingSales' founder Jared Hamilton managed a uniquely powerful opening recognizing a few members of the car dealer community from stage for thie personal triumphs and celebrations. Most poignant was a heartfelt message and standing ovation for Courtney Cox Cole of Hare Chevrolet. Just completing her last round of chemotherapy a few days prior to the opening of DSES, her presence was missed however her spirit was felt.

The first keynote was Florian Zettelmeyer of The Kellogg School of Management hitting hard on data, telling dealership attendees to get smart on analytics. Well, it was more like "become data scientists", however put the message was clear. This year's Best Idea Contest followed and the audience was treated to some unique ways of approaching the "digital sprawl" that's occurring for dealerships (winner was a repeat of last year, Robert Karbaum). Add to that Mr. Vogelheim’s “costume” unveil, a cowboy shirt that was a present from CADA’s Tim Jackson.

Breakouts began and the session IM@CS attended was with Shaun Raines and Tom White Jr. As expected they hit their stride quickly offering specific actions to dealers that want to build a unique brand, market awareness and make customers the center of their world. Word back from other sessions was positive.

The Fireside Chat that followed had good information however it lacked some of the powerful punch from previous events (DSES and Presidents Club) that had the audience leaning forward or nodding/shaking heads in agreement/dischord. Jared guided Cars.com's Mitch Golub and DealerSocket's Jonathan Ord through a bevy of industry-directional questions and statements.

Day one's evening keynote was Brian Solis, who essentially is Altimeter Group's head analyst focusing on disruptive technology. As expected he brought insight, candor and a new perspectives to the majority-dealer audience, bringing up challenges and opportunities that the industry is facing now and in the near term. He touched on customer experience, the mobile audience, disruption occurring now that is effecting vehicle sales (Tesla and Uber were examples). He signed books immediately after as the reception began.

Day Two

 

Mike Hudson from eMarketer, a nicely-paced review of where the target is moving with consumers in regard to mobile, engagement, disruptive tech and how the sales funnel has move. Like Solis the evening before, he warned dealers and OEMs to stay up with consumer demand for information and provide only value-based experiences.

Breakouts followed and included such speakers as Bobbie Herron and Brian Armstrong in a joint session on utilizing a BDC or not and Jeff Kershner discussing the mobile-based shift for today’s showrooms. Then Jared hosted a fireside chat with two top executives from the newly-formed CDK Global (previously The Cobalt Group). The keynote before lunch featured Adam Justis of Adobe talking about how dealership marketing must be customer-centric and fully integrated, further pushing the “customer experience” drumbeat for the weekend.

After lunch it was Innovation Cup time and this year’s finalists covered a broad range of dealer services. Not all new however all had a updated take on what is essentially consumer engagement via their technology (NewCarIQ ended up with the win).

Then, it was time for speed listening with Jared Hamilton. His keynote this year, “Competing on Customer Experience”, was another blistering wordfest of reality and must-do strategy, followed by a first-of-its-kind video compilation of customer feedback on car buying experiences. The full study isn’t due until next year, however the teaser included a handful of truthful, hard-hitting testimonials that dealers must listen to.

Afternoon breakouts ensued, showcasing among others Eric Miltsch of Command Z Marketing on wearable tech, Megan Barto of Ciocca Honda & Hyundai on dealership culture, Mike Martinez of DMEautomtoive on putting mobile as your top strategy, Mario Clementoni of NADA on best practices and Joe Chura of Dealer Inspire on website/lead optimization. Chura gave out some valuable “freebies”, third party tips, software/programs and offers that included one from Google not previously known.

Closing our day two was a second-time speaker that couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Rand Fishkin of MOZ (formerly SEOmoz) dove right into what must-use best practices need to be deployed today for SEO to stick. Raising the bar he set two years ago, his presentation dealt with can-do/don’t-do advice and the Q&A addressed misinformation/misconceptions that many dealers hear regularly through auto industry sources.

Day Three

Charlie and Jared started the morning with the winners of the Innovation Cup then immediately into the 4th Annual Digital Media Debate hosted by Joe Webb of DealerKnows Consulting. A slightly different format than previous years, two retail executives, two consultants and two vendors addressed topics ranging from Adaptive vs Responsive websites to relying on third party leads, conglomerate vendors versus specialized suppliers and one-price stores versus traditional.

The last round of breakouts showcased Christian Salazar of DealerFire on how consumers are finding your website and content, Aaron Wirtz from Subaru of Wichita recapping how the store addressed their potentially damaging PR debacle and turned it into a complete positive (that ended up going viral) and David Kain of Kain Automotive talking about how to make memorable connections with your customers that last.

Closing the 2014 DSES event was Bryan Eisenberg of Eisenberg Holdings. His presentation, bookending Florian’s from Sunday, was an appropriate ending note on the customer experience “Cool-Aid”. Hitting right on topic after topic regarding analytics, measurement, impending trends in consumer shopping and more, Mr. Eisenberg pulled no punches in telling dealers how they need to change their marketing practices to match the consumer path.

Charlie then reintroduced Jared for the shortest closing remarks of the six years DSES has been produced for the industry’s leading dealerships. It was a fitting end to what surely was the most information-filled conference of the year.

Kudos to the DrivingSales team!

 

Best Practcies: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Consulting Conundrum: “You can do whatever you want, as long as…”

Yes, this is opinion. However don't take it as fable.

It’s the consistent vicious circle in consulting: do it all as long as it’s what is wanted at that moment, backed up by someone else, doesn’t bite back at the factory stance, mostly makes sense and when you can grab the proper attention. And don’t blink because all of that can change with one call or a visit from a nice set of pearly whites with a tan and a low-slung top.

In a dramatically fluid world, all of that is a constant.

Meeting with a dealer the other day, their factory (only) site has issues, their SEO/SEM isn’t close to completely transparent in work, reporting or results, their new CRM isn’t installed properly or completely and their sales team can’t seem to do their job. And the store is doing, what most would consider, fine.

In less than five hours, a solution to every hole that was shot in their operation was provided, a path to resolution (in some cases multiple) was drawn out and improvement benchmarks were communicated. All without spending a dollar more in vendors, leads, software or services. And everything was documented.

Very few of us in the consulting world face this; because most aren’t consultants. Most of them are resellers, reps, paid advocates, commission reapers, factory program overseers, old-school trainers with a new world attack and/or recently departed vendor/dealership staff. Consulting, ladies and gentlemen, is a craft rather than a hobby. True consultants create understanding, buy-in, advocacy and results, in that order. And they listen, a lot.

If your costs just went up north of $10,000 per month and you’ll see your consultant one day per month, you should check the other hand of the person you just signed a contract (warning sign) with and see if their fingers are crossed.

As the industry shifted slowly over the past ten plus years, it created a natural recommendation engine that exists more powerful than ever. Don’t believe me? Contact your OEM, ask for a solution or provider for a problem you have in any category, especially digital, and then ask about results for any one or a group of dealerships. And get that preferably in a report with before and after metrics, costs, process changes and net improvement.

Oh, and you might want to hold on to your four-leaf clover.

In a world where businesses still make decisions by how many “covers” or “articles” someone was been on/in or how many times they’ve heard of a potential partner during a golf outing or 20 Group, industry metrics are moving slower than the speed of solutions. Hellloooo, it should be the other way around.

There are no overnight solutions, silver bullets or cash cows, at least legal and/or ethical. Use tried and true sensibilities: ask for more recommendations than someone offers. Look at more live solutions than you are given, dig deeper before you spend deeper. Oh, and if it sounds too good………

Car dealers, do yourself a huge favor. Get a second opinion on everything as if you’d just received a heartbreaking medical prognosis. In both cases your life depends on it.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

What Tough Times Have Taught Us About Digital

Money. Lots of it! Tons and tons and tons of it! So much that for the first time, we're witnessing dealers that have been hands-on since 2008 starting to slip away a little from the stores and enjoy "away" time again. And that's great. Until, at least, you think about the last seven years again.

If "Digital" has taught us anything, it has demonstrated that small can become bigger faster, the big ones often look like Swiss cheese and that up and down markets don't care about much besides presence. After the last fourteen years around the Automotive Web and six and a half in dealerships, what is striking is that digital has shown ambivalence and opportunity at undeniable levels.

And most still ignore the power and upside. Making money can make us stupid.

Even with sales up 3% so far in 2014 and last year's finish around 8% over 2012 (our average client was up over 30% last year and tracking again), there still is a strong desire not to change anything. And most of what we see is still what could be categorized as "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-trust-me-it-works" stuff.

When a tough market hits again, and it undoubtedly will, will we collectively be in a better place or will we still be grasping at straws and dumping expenses to match traffic and revenue? As shared by Jared Hamilton at last year's DrivingSales Executive Summit, we still aren't tapping into service marketing and penetration opportunities right now via digital channels (really any to speak of) while aftermarket still dominates search and revenue save for dealers really paying attention to categories such as tires, Quick Lube and equity mining. Digital covers all of those if CRM and marketing integration is done properly.

Tough times, and the subsequent good times, have taught us that when push comes to shove, no answer and direction is as good as solid ones. Because nearly everyone that was able to hold out between 2007 and 2009 is making money. Yes, the smarter ones are making more, however most are nearly printing money today.

Digital is still the "back marker" in a nearly-completely digital world. And the statistics for the entire market simply don't matter when it comes to your market. So what has digital taught you?

Share what you can about your experiences, good and bad, that steers what you do and don't do in digital today…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

You Didn’t Care About The Cheese In the First Place, So Move On

Many today rant about change and how someone moved their cheese. The mindset of those who expect a static retail world show many who effuse about “the Good Old Days” while using mobile apps for airline tickets, ESPN Mobile for football scores and drive times delivered to their home desktops prior to leaving for the office.

The paradigm hasn’t shifted as much as it’s already taken the dirt nap.  If you’re not ready for consumer-based everything, it’s time to reassess where you fit into automotive retail.

As an industry, we fall grandiosely behind what consumers expect. Recently a friend of mine’s mother was shopping for a vehicle.  They caught an ad (yes, a newspaper one) and showed up at the dealer to find out that the stacked rebate offer was sold only the day before.  After reprimanding that they should have never looked at a newspaper anything, the shopper retooled and headed out via web-based information (the new 2013 vehicle was purchased yesterday, from an honest dealership).

Since the very-public FTC crack down (and resulting settlements) on dealerships just a couple months ago, it is easy to see that the cheese moving has nothing to do with our comfort zone, consumerism or reality. By and large, dealerships will continue to do as done: Get the customer in. foursquare them, throw the keys on the roof and keep them caged for a number of hours, lest they escape when the salesperson leaves for the “desk”.

A few weeks ago, at the Innovative Dealer Summit in Denver, my presentation included a statement: “given the chance, 75% of dealerships would turn off their websites tomorrow”. Frankly speaking, that’s likely not too far off from the truth. This is based on entering and speaking with hundreds of dealerships a year. What can be done to alleviate the burden from those that don’t want it?

Automotive retail must move at the speed of the consumer, not pull the wool over their eyes even faster!  The longer we live in year-1995 speakers and training, the faster customers will leave and push consumer-direct sales and other alternatives. Remember folks, 1994 was the year that Ford initially launched FordDirect.com!

The tools, data (for some- to most-part), capabilities and technology are available to us today. Let’s not bury the positive side of retail with 6-hour visits, bait-and-switch tactics, “we’re always here” mentality and less-than-deserved experiences because we are still waiting for the “up bus”.

If you aren’t ready for the cheese to be moved (newsflash: it already did), move on. Let someone else fill your position rather than having your sales staff ask a potential customer “would you buy it for fourteen-five?” when you don’t intend to come off of seventeen and back that up with an awkward T.O. only to find the customer gone in a minute! Consumers expect more, and damn it so do you, so why do it?

Maybe it’s time to forget the cheese and move onto whine… (Oops, meant wine).

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

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


The Year 2012 In Review? (What’s An Automotive Industry Nutshell?)

(Warning, 1000 words below!)

OK,
who's got their 2013 game face on? Nobody? Good, let's make things difficult!!!
2012 was one heck of a year: consumer demand is still up and growing for cars
(although demand still outstrips what sold), mobile use is skyrocketing (albeit
not remotely matched by dealers providing strong solutions), digital demand is
still growing at a breakneck pace (while use of traditional media by
dealerships is up), vehicle technology, especially in-car, is amazing and
overwhelming (while we still can't truly get a MPG sticker correct without driving like we're dying) and quality
is better than even with IQS improving (hand-in-hand with more
"media" coverage of massive recalls). Yup, 2012 was quite the year…

So ask
a car dealership what they're doing and about 16,500 answers will flutter
around "more _________ and less ________ while focusing on our key
strengths in _____________". And that, by the way, will be the answer
around January 5-15th because, unlike other industries that revolve around
retail, we seem to be focused on a date non later than January 5 to close the
year. Newsflash: 2012 is done. Make more calls, send more emails, offer more
dealer cash/rebates/incentives/consumer cash/financing discounts and leases and
you're still not going to sell more. Hello?!?! The "Oh, we pulled 10 more
from our competitor" crap doesn't fly. You'll sell what was essentially
already in the hopper and be happy with it.

Over the last twelve months we saw
highs and lows in the automotive industry, mostly driven by International
factors like economy, emerging markets, regulation, partnership and bankruptcy.
As a matter of fact, we are more tied than ever to what happens in Europe and
Asia, even considering how insular as we tend to be. Whether or not we get to
see a new Cadillac in the States depends more on what happens in Germany than
ever while BMW's success likely depends on what happens in South Carolina. 2012
saw the continued demise of storied as well as soft brands everywhere.

In the passing of this last year, it's
important to reflect on how we actually invited people into showrooms while not
making it any more enjoyable (except for the new showrooms which mostly made
the factory happy while getting better looking floor tiles and slightly better
tasting coffee to customers and some of those neat kids' play rooms we desperately needed). We
switched website CMSs, dealership CRMs, DMSs, SMSs and POPs but did satisfaction with
dealerships actually go up as much as 2012 IQS? Jaguar is still tops
(well, 2nd behind Lexus for 2012 models) on the list and they can't seem to
sell the damn cats…

What did 2012 deliver to your business?
If you've not asked your customers more than your factory reps, your
salespeople and your accountant, you will miss the boat by a larger gap in
2013. Yes, you will continue to sell cars next year and maybe, fortunately more
again, but where does that stop based on solely looking back or not at all?

Where your concentration needs to be,
right now, is around March 2013 because your next 6-8 weeks are already figured
out for the most part. No matter how many "cycles" we have, after 100
years of automobile sales most think that there is some magic to the last few
weeks of the year. Bullhooey.

If you want to succeed starting next
Tuesday, there is no other way to do it than be steadfast in every aspect of
your staff, processes, facility and follow through. Your greatest efforts need
to be put into place around the touch points (hint: it's not the cars!). Those
are showroom (real and virtual) and people. Nothing else matters without those. We are asked regularly how to "jumpstart" sales to the
effect that many talk about in the industry. If you've not been bombarded by
spam marketing and videos, it usually sounds like "100 to 500 cars
overnight with our processes" and "our sales events will have people
driving in from everywhere" and don't forget "our websites will
optimize so well (or drive leads so easily), no other dealer will be able to
touch your numbers, you'll dominate and just have to deliver cars". Rat
dung!

Get the best assets in your business
today that understand how everyday people use technology and expect to be
communicated with. If that means more green peas, then do it! Training?!?!
Tearing down your salespeople to build them back up means you have the wrong
people and wrong processes! It's not "that Internet thing" any more
than your cars are "those things that have engines and tires". It's
time to grow up and look forward. If you 15-pounder 15% of your customers, expect 50%+ of
your reviews to scream you suck.

If you want to look at things in a
nutshell, read another whitepaper about how great a solution is (6- to
12-months after it's relevant while you signed up to get marketed like mad by the
same company) and look backward. Our industry is depending on people who look
forward with only what's needed about past performance as indicators, nothing
else. Improve incrementally prior to making the huge, sweeping changes like we
hear about so much and maybe, just maybe, you'll see about 3-4 months that the
big stuff is not so big after all because you were able to move the needle
consistently. Overnight success is a short-term facade over impending disaster.
Count on it.

2013 can be great for many, even
amongst the raising concerns about economic and other pressures. The best
always raise to the occasion, it's just that it needs to be done in newer ways
more consistently. And remember to make changes with anything that you do by
benchmarking and recording first because so many will pull the wool over your
eyes and scream "we did it for you!". We see it every day. There are
some great dealership partners out there. Remember that opportunity is missed
by most because it comes dressed in overalls. It's work and most of the time
it's slow.

So relish in the success you've had in
2012, you deserve it! At the same time try not to look back all that much. It
will take longer to catch up than you realize. The automotive world moves at
the speed of retail. That is the only truth. So stop slowing yourself down more
than needed.

Much success in 2012 and thanks for
continuing to read…

 

Best Practices: Professional
Insight,
 Powerful Results