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Lessons from a teen lead to aid of CRM

Neil Pascale, Columnist
October 5, 2012
Filed under Columns

I’ve learned you have to be a parent of a teenager to really appreciate one of the finer parts of life.

If your child hasn’t quite reached this stage, let me educate you. See, when the teenage years dawn, our youth suddenly become quite succinct when asked to perform certain duties. Say taking out the trash or cleaning their room. Every parental request, no matter its ease of doing, is met by an exasperated reaction and finally, a single word — “Really?” But that single word is really just the final play of an entire act. It starts with a multitude of outward facial reactions and numerous inward, unspoken thoughts. And you can just envision the latter, can’t you?

Like, “Sure I’ll do that … I live to serve you.” Or better yet, “Will that be all, or can I go polish the ball and chain wrapped around my ankles?”

Parenthood is wonderful, isn’t it?

The funny thing is we, as parents, are told that our actions in the home lead to the eventual actions of our children. I’m not so sure it’s not the other way around.

Want proof? During a recent exercise where I asked dealers to help us with product development, I used the wonderfully expressive word “really” numerous times.

See, we were in the midst of developing a CRM program that we wanted to make plug-and-play. Plug the system in and just let it work for you. Not the other way round. We didn’t want a program to create extra work for dealership staffs that often are overtaxed as it is.

But to do that, we had to create a consumer management system that made sense — a system that touched consumers in the right way and at the right time, both before the unit sale and after it. That led me to dealers to ask them some pointed questions. Like, how pushy should we get in our pre-purchase emails to consumers? A consumer came into your store, shopped around a bit but didn’t buy. Thankfully your salesperson collected their contact information, and we can now touch them multiple times over email. But if they, the consumer, don’t respond after a couple of days, should we then email them a second time and say, “We have had quite a few other customers interested in the same vehicle …”?

Not a good idea, one dealer told me. Don’t like it — it’s too pushy.

“Really?” I asked.

Yeah, the dealer said. It’s too aggressive of a sales tactic. You risk losing that customer with whom your salesperson spent considerable time because of an old and unreliable threat.

But it could be true, another dealer told me. And you would hate to see the consumer lose his or her unit of choice because we weren’t being honest about the level of interest in that particular vehicle.

Wow, tough choice. And here I thought getting the trash taken out was difficult. But the challenges didn’t stop there.

“How long do we continue the pre-purchase email campaign?” I asked one dealer. You know, how long is a consumer going to shop around until they pull the trigger?

Maybe three weeks, one dealer told me.

“Really?” I asked.

“No,” another dealer said. “Guys are spending a longer time shopping around today. Weighing new vs. used. Weighing all the different models out there. I would do it for maybe 45-60 days.”

“Why not for six months?” a third dealer asked. “What if that guy put off buying a new bike until he got some more cash for a bigger down payment?”

Suddenly the teenager issues seemed trivial.

“What about after they buy?” a dealer asked. “We would want our parts department to contact them within the first 30 days to see if we can’t get them back into the store to buy additional parts and accessories.”

“Makes sense,” I said. “What kind of offer are we going to give them to get them back in here?”

“10 percent off,” the dealer says.

“Really?”

“No,” another dealer says. “Not enough. Twenty percent off garments, and let’s specify exactly what garments.”

And so it went. Multiple discussions, with multiple points of view. The volume of notes I took even impressed the teenager. Fast forward a couple of months and those discussions are now engrained into a customer management product that is now being used by dealers.

With one exception.

“As you can see, we took a lot of the dealers’ ideas and inputted them into the program,” a colleague at Dominion Powersports told me. “But we did something else ….”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“We made it so each dealer, if they so choose, can customize it, make it their own.”

Wow. As I look back on the volume of notes and the sheer number of viewpoints they raised, this idea of customization should’ve seemed a slam-dunk to me. Of course, at the time, all I could do was flash a couple of the teenager’s exasperated reactions and of course, mutter the word.

“Really?”

Neil Pascale is the business development manager for Dominion Powersports, the parent company of Dominion Insights, PowerSports Network, Cycle Trader, Traffic Log Pro and Ziios. He can be reached at neil.pascale@dominionpowersports.com.

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