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Are you certain you do CRM right?

Updated: May 12

At Boost Auto we are prepared to have a small wager that most Dealer Principals do not fully understand their CRM (Customer Relations Management).

It is time for a quick quiz. These are all yes / no answers for speed and clarity.

1.     Is AutoPlay your CRM?

2.     Do you know where your lost leads reside?

3.     Do you know how you reach out to lost leads?

4.   Is your CRM and email platform integrated (i.e. no manual data copy pastes etc required).

5.     Can you name your email platform?

6.     Have you segmented your data in the lasts 12 months?

7.     Do you know when you last cleansed your data?

8.    Do you know how an existing customer’s information might get into AutoPlay for future prospecting?

9.     Do you have a written communications plan in your dealership?

How did you go? 5 or above, you are going ok, but have lots of opportunity. Less than 5? It's time to write some business rules, some process guidelines and set some expectations; you are letting customers down. 8 or 9. You know your stuff. For clarity, the answer to Question 1 is no.

 Photo by Rob Laughter on Unsplash

Just as you wouldn’t expect a DP to be able to service a car, you could reasonably expect them to understand the process that makes a workshop efficient and effective.

For CRM, you wouldn’t expect the DP to know how to send an email to their customer base, but you could expect them to understand the data flow between different systems.

Given that customer acquisition and retention is often seen as a dealership expense (rather than an investment) it is not surprising that many Dealer Principals cannot demonstrate the same level of expertise around CRM.

The heart of what is CRM done right, is two parts.

The customer expectation is that you communicate with them to keep them informed with interesting information about their car and your dealership, but above all that you demonstrate that you value their relationship with you.

The dealership expectation should be that you have a thoughtful and integrated communications plan to talk to your customers (past and present) in a personalised way that reflects their interests and also their stage in the ownership cycles. It should reflect the customer’s value to your business; this latter part is about recognising your VIPs.

The goal for both parties should be:

  • to cement your relationship with each other.

  • to make it easier to do business.

  • to integrate communications.


Think of your dealership’s customer communications in the context of a friend, who only contacts you when he needs or wants something. If you are only emailing customers because you want them to come in for a service or a winter check or to tell them about a used car special, then perhaps you are that needy friend, who probably wouldn't be at the top of your Christmas card list.

On the other hand, if you were the type of friend who is always willing to help out to lend a hand, or to share interesting information and to help you out then over time that relationship becomes more solid. Which kind of ‘friend’ do you want to be to your customers?


The challenge is often that the three parts of your business where data lives don't always work that well with each other. For example, AutoPlay is excellent at lead management, however it is not a CRM in the traditional sense. Once a vehicle is sold, typically that information about the customer and the vehicle is pushed from AutoPlay into your DMS. Now your DMS is meant to be your CRM?


For most dealers the CRM component is at best an integrated part of the DMS like, say, dealer socket for Pentana, or worst case is a third party third party piece of software like MailChimp without any integrations (where the marketing department has to do a data extract from the DMS, and paste it into MailChimp).


Consider in these instances how you are able to identify who are your most important customers, and whether that communication would be different to those customers.  How might you update customer information from say the service department through to your CRM.


As an exercise, take five random customers from your database and three lost customers from AutoPlay and now look at what communications have been sent to these customers from the start of their journey to the position they are in their customer journey now. Be sure to include anything sent out by the service department.


It's probably also time to have a look at the communications you've sent to a top 10 trade customers. They are included on your CRM planner, aren’t they? Now layout or print out these communications side by side to see if they look like they have been sent from the same company. Look to see if the tone and style is consistent across all communications and if it passes the lens that you have defined for your business, also take a moment to look at the formatting and presentation of the communications; are the footers and headers the same, are the fonts consistent?

Do you have a communication sign off process in place in your business, or do you let your staff communicate on mass to customers without a process an approval process.


Here are the boost auto top 10 steps to implementing a better solution for your customers number one.


  1. In excel create an annual communications plan with dates across the top row and departments and as well as products on the first two columns.

  2. Think about how many communications you want your customers to receive over the 12 months. Make sure you include any service or annual reminders or birthday messages in the plan. There is no right or wrong answer here.

  3. Ask each department to populate the sales or service or parts communication plan and review these communications in the same plan.

  4. As a DP also add in your VIP customer communications (it might pay to define what a VIP customer is, noting that perhaps 10-20% of your customers will be VIPs). Time to look at top spenders with your dealership if you haven’t done that for a while.

  5. Create a seed list. A seed list is a list of all recipients internally that you want to advise about the communication, for example an e-mail about a low price service should go to all service receptionists, and also the CFO before being sent to customers.

  6. Create a content and approval guide for each communication (EDM or Electronic Direct Mail – a fancy title for email) and include in the style guide, target audience selection, (don't send all emails to all customers),  what the purpose of the communication is, whether there is selling message in the e-mail, and whether there is a loyalty offer to your best customers, who is the signatory on the email. Don’t Always Be Selling in your emails.

  7. To sell or not to sell that is the question. Be mindful that if every e-mail is your business trying to sell or encourage your customers to buy something from you (even if it’s a special offer) they will soon know that you have become the needy friend rather than the trusted business who values the relationship.

  8. What's your give back? If you assume it costs you $100-200 to acquire a customer, how much do you budget for customer retention? If the answer is nothing, then perhaps you don't value your customers. Consider one or two customers give back emails per year, where you might offer something or invite your customers to something that demonstrates that you value them (and no, an invitation to a car launch or a sales event is not a real invitation!).

  9. Agree your sign off procedure. For example, Department manager to brief and review, marketing department to draught and create DP for final approval of finished item, and all staff on a seed list.

  10. Map your data flow. It won’t be one line from AutoPlay to your DMS to your CRM, because data should flow both ways. Pay attention to how customer email address or phone number changes are captured, as well as unsubscribe requests. Bear in mind you can’t keep lost lead data forever either, but of you have a lost lead communications plan you can’t own the opt ins (for further information about lost leads read our blog).  

We hope this article has acted as a thought starter to review your CRM, which after all should be your single most important marketing activity. Why? It's because you already have a relationship with these customers and therefore your objective should be to solidify them. It’s a lot better than the alternative.  



©2024 Boost Auto.

Boost Auto is an automotive consultancy working in seven main areas.

  • Sales Training

  • Sales and Marketing effectiveness for brands and dealers

  • Market Insights & Trends

  • Business planning and facilitation

  • Operational Effectiveness

  • Get Ready Automations

  • Go To Market strategies for emerging brands.

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