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Managers, Are You Leading or Just Passing Through? Every dealership I have visited lately has the phone calls tracked or not, going to the switchboard or BDC. Then they round robin to sales staff if the ISM is busy "We know that never happens;" The problem...

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About Kim Clouse About Kim Clouse Kim Clouse has been involved with automotive internet sales and process for over 20 years. He was a charter member of the AAISP while it existed and winner of the Lemons to Lemonade Award...

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About Kim Clouse About Kim Clouse Kim Clouse has been involved with automotive internet sales and process for over 20 years. He was a charter member of the AAISP while it existed and winner of the Lemons to Lemonade Award...

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Can You Define Car Dealer Reputation Management? I would like to go on record and say that the term Reputation Management for Automotive is a misnomer. Vendors can only  teach Car Dealers to discover, report, and maintain their hard earned reputation...

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Car Sales Still Require Professional Selling

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Dealer Process, Helping Car Dealers and The Auto Industry, I Love Sales | Posted on 13-06-2016

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I have been pretty much silent in the realm of automotive digital chatter lately. Perhaps it is because I needed to learn more or discover what has changed on a real sales floor. Since July 2013, I have been back at Carl Cannon Chevrolet in Jasper, Alabama discovering first hand again what challenges lie ahead for professionals in this field.

This is where the digital journey began for me with GM Buy Power and Autobytel in the last century. I know we all realize what has transpired since then with technology. What I have found that has not changed is; The fact that without professional sales people who have been properly trained to greet, speak, listen, and evaluate, fewer cars get sold. Whether online or in person the big numbers just do not happen. It truly seems that the more we learn, the less we do and that is the reverse of what is necessary to get to the top. This is just a quick “hell yes I am still here” shout out. Those of you who get after it all day, every day, are winning and deserve it. Those of you who are taking shortcuts and using technology to cherry pick your prospects need to find another job because your success is temporary. Stop wasting your dealers time and money and get dedicated.
If it were easy, everyone would do it!

Sell well,

KC

Car Dealer Reviews Must Be Verified

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Dealer Process, Dealer Report Cards, Helping Car Dealers and The Auto Industry, Reputation Maintenance | Posted on 26-11-2015

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I found this article very interesting. If you are a car dealer you should read the whole thing in the link below. Oh, and you reputation management consultants read this too because your days are numbered. The term Reputation Management is a misnomer. I know, I have used it too but now I have decided it should be changed.
Who can predict how any employee will feel or act toward a dealers automotive customers on any given day? Reputation Maintenance is more accurate don’t you think? I also think Car Dealer Reviews should be from verified customers instead of disgruntled employees, cheating BDC reps, competition down the street or those who created a bad situation for themselves and want to blame everyone else. http://dealerreportcards.com version 2.0 is complete
and is flawless so far. Email Kim for more info –  kim@dealerdimensions.com
http://www.webpronews.com/just-how-bad-is-yelps-fake-review-problem-2014-01

Car Dealers Need To Think About Their Review Process

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Dealer Report Cards | Posted on 04-05-2012

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Dealer Report Cards is not your everyday rating and review platform for car dealers. When Dealer Dimensions set out to design and build a solution that enabled car dealers to evaluate customer issues and respond accordingly, we decided to start with the one thing that all dealers needed to know about, their true customers experience. We understand that prospects are customers too, but CSI for most manufacturers of automobiles, is dependent on how an individual or business felt their experience was up to and at the time of purchase. After that purchase, the future service experience needs to be understood as well, and this is where Dealer Report Cards differs from all other reputation management solutions.

The fact that we focus daily on deals that are closed in finance and RO’s that have been closed in service allows us to cross reference all relative customer and employee data to automate the review process. There are companies who provide dealers with templates to send to customers and they work well but automation and a controlled posting environment yield better results. If you can control where reviews are posted and make that data cache above all other search results for “Dealer Name/Reviews”,  you are much better off. Here is an example.  If you don’t think so, go to all of your current review sites and see for yourself. With one or two exceptions, every single rating and review site that is viewed by your prospects has a complete listing of all your local competition, complete with links to their websites. It is like owning the billboard on your property and asking your local competition to put their ad there. Why would any dealer or group allow links on their websites that enable the customers they are paying to attract to go directly to any of their competition?  This alone proves how important reviews have become in todays automotive environment. Car dealers have been duped into thinking their reputation can be managed in this way.  Small problems that used to get swept under the rug have become paramount to determining monthly CSI and reputation because everyone is carrying the internet around in their pocket. Why not use it to your advantage?

Another thing, if you were the customer how likely are you to create a username and password and sign up for a service to review your store? I promise, when the OEM review gets there they may not bother with it even if they love you. We all know what happens when we only get four or five responses for a reporting period and two of them suck. On the other hand, if their experience was marginal they will get right to it. Wouldn’t you rather be pro-active and handle the issue before that happens? You need Dealer Report Cards   

There are no extra usernames, passwords or sites for the customer to sign in to and create an account just to tell the dealer they had a good experience or a problem. They get an e-mail, click on their answers to five questions and click submit. Then dealers get the results with the ability to respond and ask for a review update.

So, a review webpage for every employee who interacts with your customers, SEO, video, reporting and notification or, your competitors ads?

Sell well and be professional.

Kim Clouse CEO – Dealer Dimensions

Automotive Internet Evolution and Car Dealer Reputation

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Helping Car Dealers and The Auto Industry | Posted on 28-11-2011

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Quite a few years ago, I remember working in my secluded office at the local Toyota dealership. I had chosen that office specifically because it had a private entrance and was once the “alternative finance office”. At that time in e-commerce it was the best place to control the entrance of the internet shoppers because we felt that they had to be handled differently and we were right. I know lots of you out there remember different articles and posts on the early blogosphere about it. Some of them were funny, some terrible, most were really good because the guys writing them were selling cars. We shared what worked and what didn’t because it was a new frontier and you did not want to be the outcast.
For those of you who aren’t as old as some of us, we had a word track to keep customers away from the showroom before you greeted them. Mine was, “Remember to pull in on the service entrance side when you arrive. If I am not waiting for you, walk to the service desk and say I need to see Kim”. That way, they would avoid being mugged by the vulture crew on the floor. And believe me, there was no limit to what I would do for those service writers. Lunch, keep their computers clean, whatever. As long as they pointed at the door right behind them, they had me in their corner. This was part of our early internet training because there were no internet departments yet, just guys who knew how to follow up and wanted to be part of what we thought was inevitable. Then there were those who were the only ones that could work with windows, and they were told to “just handle it”. We got paid for selling cars and just like most everybody else, straight commission. The early days were bad for a lot of great sales people because once the growth started and personal computers became more popular for the entire dealership, they had to deal with all the problems. Remember no pay plans, only commission, and now their workload was increasing. Since they depended on leads and repeat or referral business their pay was decreasing because they were changing ink cartridges or chasing network cable for vendors. I wonder how many truly awesome sales professionals departed automotive because of it.

Early on, if a person had a computer and sent a request it was platinum. Computers cost 3-5k and only people with money or credit owned one. There were very few e-mail providers so you knew if it was a company address to ask permission before you just called. We learned early on the importance of what we now call lead deconstruction.
There have been several different thoughts on this but if a request said e-mail only I did not call until we answered all of their questions and got permission. A lot of very good trainers have always said “if there is a number, call it.” Would you want a call if you asked for an e-mail response only? What about calling someone at work that is not supposed to be on the computer or phone and they do not answer, but their supervisor does. Oh yeah, we are selling two cars now right? Nope, they got reprimanded and your prospect is gone. Here is where it gets funny, the follow up call keeps showing up on a fancy to do list and you keep calling. The company employs 1000 people and has 200 delivery drivers in 3 surrounding states. They have their vehicles replaced every 24 months and they use your brand. How is your reputation about now? Just calling the number if it is there does not seem like the best decision to me.

This is the sickness that we deal with every day.
Let me say what I truly believe again: Dealers are responsible for their own reputation!
The GM, GSM, F&I, Parts and Service managers are trusted to make sure it is managed by the people who interact with prospects and customers daily. I know a lot of you out there have always taken the necessary steps to train employees and keep training them. Your repeat and referral numbers show it too. However, there are still far too many revolving doors at these stores. One of the 15 year professionals I spoke with the other day said it was like a war zone. He did not even want to know their name until they had been there 6 months. What can this possibly do to help dealer image in the community? How can a reputation management company change this?
They can’t.

I only use the term reputation management because of SEO. If you do not have it in your keywords, all of the people who read about it every day will not see you. They have been convinced that reputation management is a must have process that is new and somehow different. Selling cars is the same thing it has always been. In this age, internet requests are cherry picked because everybody has a computer. They carry them in their hands and since they have been taught to read every single thing they can about automobile purchasing; the reputation management, rating and review statements are read by whom?  It is like we are feeding piranhas for our favorite fishing hole, then throwing them in with our fish. We fish and all we catch after while are those piranhas.

Would you agree what we really need is reputation maintenance? Something that says, “Hey, here is a problem that needs addressed.” Then you let everybody see you acknowledged it. If it was a problem you handle it, make the customer happy, and show that too. It is called an “honest exchange.” The other side of this is useful when the customer is not being truthful or reasonable, show that too. Invite them to engage and be transparent because they have been taught to study automotive before they make a decision. The good thing is showing you make mistakes. It touches human emotion, is realistic, and believable. Dealer Report Cards allows you to do all of this.

There are a lot of opinions about reputation management.
Here is mine: If your dealership is doing the right thing, you are managing your dealers’ reputation and you should be. If not, you need to find another place to work because nobody can change the damage bad habits do to grass roots marketing. If a reputation management company tells you to get rid of dead weight and who it is, I am cool with that. If they are hiding customer remarks online and delaying the response for you to do better, how are they keeping them from talking at the barber, beauty shop, the mall, or when someone asks them; where did you get your new car?
They aren’t.
Then they are stealing your money.

I had a BDC manager tell me the other day” We just tell people to go to Google and write a good review about us.
Who tells them, who is we? The sales people might, but they may make follow up calls too. F&I? When they are tracking 40k and it is the 3rd week of the month, yeah right. The BDC? If there is a problem, how do you know? Who caused it? What day? Is it fixed? They are trying to develop business by maintaining reputation?

This is what happens: Go to Google at your convenience, and give us a good review please. For 2 weeks every day in an email until it gets dropped. If they have a problem that is when you will get most reviews in this scenario. That is because you follow up and ask “Did you go to Google and review me?”  I think there are customers who will brag about a great experience even without being asked. Which do you think is more likely?  

Why were these rating sites created?  Share your opinion if it is different than “money”.

There is a better way, come find out at www.dealerreportcards.com .
Other great stuff at www.dealerdimensions.com and it will keep coming.

SMALL CHANGES FOR BIG RESULTS IN MORALE AND PROFIT

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Dealer Process | Posted on 14-08-2011

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Over the last few years, I have been away from writing my usual opinions about processes at car dealers. Of course, we all know that I have been a champion for dealers to practice over the top customer service. It was the topic of several of my speaking engagements at various events and I would like to thank those of you who attended those events to listen to me rant. Several new buzz words have emerged over this time from the flood of new automotive consultants and vendors. I thank them for making my previous points about customer satisfaction and employee retention valid.

 

It seems the more things change, the necessary adaptation by dealer principals, general managers and fixed operation managers is getting better. We really had no choice; every single entity who listed our inventory, labor time guides, and overall manufacturer information, listed it with everything available they could get their hands on. It was also advertised on those manufacturer sites, social, and every available PPC slot money could buy. There is nothing wrong with that because once the consumer got a sample of how they thought us dirty car dealers and sales people were stealing from them, they starved for it. Thinking about this is what tossed me back into the world of voicing my opinion. Those of you who know me know how much I love sugar coating and snake oil. In a bit of a twist, I decided to land on our customers for a change just this once.

 

This kills me and we have all heard it; you have other invoices (although it is printed on the sheet they arrived with,) the internet says my car is worth another $2000.00 (we lie if we explain, even though it is like new, we have to inspect it to sell it.) The dealer across town offered me a better deal, on and on. Fine; if the customer does the math for just a mini deal paying sales $200.00 minimum and with the special rates finance gets $200.00 without products. A 10 car month yields the salesperson a whopping $2000.00 plus any bonuses. Wow, we are really taking advantage aren’t we? Sure, there are dealer incentives and management driven spiffs but not enough to raise wages to the next tax bracket for a sales person or perhaps even management. Most people who are complaining about this would never work for the money they are demanding we settle for. That brings me to the title of this post about small changes.

 

Money motivates people, even small amounts. Just put up a $10.00 spiff for verified appointments that show and see what happens to traffic. If we work the formula at the dealer principal and general manager level, we can determine how many extra cars we need to sell above our average to offset any amount of payroll increase. If we do this in small increments over time and adjust to the trends we do more than spend money. Our sales go up and overall morale right along with it. Good morale translates to better customer service which translates to more word of mouth and increased sales storewide. More sales, more profit, more money = better morale for everyone involved. On the other side of this coin, if I am a general sales manager, GM or used car manager there is no way I am sharing my income with the asshats that just wait all day on something. Fire their ass, quit hiring people that can’t type or at least spell check. Make your veteran salespeople train the ones you need to keep to earn the extra cake. If they do not take to the training or the Pro’s do not want to teach, do not give them incentives. Make it mandatory! Process and policy are nothing without consequence, good or bad. They are just more words that pass right through their head. I feel these small changes will improve the overall status of your store. Then we can display it on Dealer Report Cards.com to prove it.

 

KC

Managers, Are You Leading or Just Passing Through?

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Dealer Process | Posted on 28-05-2011

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Every dealership I have visited lately has the phone calls tracked or not, going to the switchboard. Then they round robin to sales staff if the ISM is busy “We know that never happens;” The problem is either the GM, GSM, or phone king, will not make it mandatory that the salespeople have inventory, incentives, and information open on their desktop all day. They all have computers but they refuse to use the data or, the login to pertinent data is top secret. I knew it, gotta have a 4 square right?

Managers who keep information from sales staff are practicioners of Bovine Skitology period.
We know all of our customers are online. We know the manufacturers and everyone else who can gives them data that is, for the most part correct. Below is what I hear when I listen to calls. But are all of the walk in customers immune to the data flow we are feeding to the universe?  It is simply impossible. Be ready or stay away from customers, period.

Thank you for calling ABC motors: ” Yes new car sales please” one moment: “new car sales this is Joe Bob,”
“kelp ye?” (Yes seaweed) ” I am calling about the 2006 Camry you have listed on usedcars .com, gold with tan leather, is it still available?”
“Yep sure is” ” can you tell me anything about it?” “I think it has been marked down to $21699 but I can beat that a little” “Really, online it says must go $14650.00 out the door” That’s a typo” Oh, okay do you know what it should actually be?” ” Naw but I can git with the manager and call you right back, whats that number?”   click:

And they tell everyone about this highly professional individual.
The other thing is “get this now,”  we have started slipping away from the basics again. I know  it is hard to believe, not us.
Now that people are selling cars we are right back to the shortcuts. If you are always looking for the easy way out, get out of
the car business. You are the reason we we have obstacles with our customers and they have a hard time respecting us.
This is our problem. Get rid of the dead weight and start practicing customer service.

Either way you loose the deal.

Does anyone else see this? If you are doing this, do you need to be at Burger King saying, “would you like some fries with that?”
When phone prospects buy 85% of the time, why screw it up? If you do not know what you are doing or you do not feel comfortable,
stay away from the phone, pay attention and learn.
Managers, do not lose focus on the fact that you are responsible for taking up slack. In a store the other day I watched in amazement as a lady
who had lost her vehicles in the recent storms call back 3 times to get to someone. Instead of just taking the call, the managers had to find a sales specialist
to do it. Yep, five more minutes observing fault instead of contributing to leadership.

I’m just sayin!

Sell Cars, Have Fun. It is still possible.

Kim Clouse

Social Media Policy Question from Julie Powers – Lia Auto Group

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Helping Car Dealers and The Auto Industry | Posted on 13-11-2009

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What’s the best way to develope a social media policy for employees without sounding like “big brother” or defeating the purpose of an “open conversation”?

Julie,
I find that it is best to research and find specific negative social content and then allow them to see the damage potential it can have personally. This will help demonstrate how that will affect them professionally. Then, have a special day for the creaton of the process and policy of the company in regard to social media. Invite, in fact “make it mandatory” that everyone attends to help create the process, policy and the “consequence” for breaking the rules. Make it fun, have lunch brought in or have a day away so they feel involved. Then you can moderate and get their thinking channeled to the severity of the consequence. This will let them understand you feel the need for a policy but want their input to write it and that you are serious without the big brother approach.
People usually live better by the rules they help create. They also tend to monitor it better themselves if you give them the power of pride.
From there, have a monthly review day to get their input and check progress. Also make sure every new emloyee understands and ask them for ideas they may have. Be sure to include the company e-commerce and social marketing review day in your employee pack.
Empower them to make the rules, then require them to adhere to those rules or suffer the consequqence you all created together..
In my opinion, this works best.
KC

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