Paradise Chevrolet-Cadillac in Temecula, Calif., has assigned a staff member to track follow-ups from the sales team. That includes names and numbers generated from on-site visits plus telephone calls to the southwest California dealership.
"That person makes sure no one is slacking when it comes to contacting people," says Todd Tracy, general sales manager.
The dealership uses e-mail to alert customers about sales news, such as last year's General Motors employee discount program. Tracy figures it works better than direct mail. But the staff must come up with good subject line headings or recipients skip the message, he says.
The dealership has the ability through software to organize contacts by letters and phone calls. "It's a powerful tool for salespeople," Tracy says.
Some dealers are turning to business development centers where sales and service-related data can be used to contact customers and potential buyers.
GM dealer Mike Dellenbach, of Dellenbach Chevrolet-Cadillac-Subaru in Fort Collins, Colo., has operated such a center for four years.
Dellenbach's staff began using customer management software from the Cobalt Group Inc., of Seattle, last May. The dealer says he doesn't expect to be able to measure its success until at least a year has passed.
Murray Motors Imports, of Denver, which sells Mercedes-Benz and BMW products, operates a five-person business development center that makes service appointments and records sales information.
"I think the center handled about 4,000 telephone calls in December," says General Manager George Pierce.
When a customer makes a service appointment, the salesperson is alerted automatically via software so he or she can make personal contact when the customer is in the building.
In January, Murray Motors began installing customer relationship management software offered by Universal Dealer Consultants Inc.
"There are two things salespeople dislike: one is making cold calls, the other is entering data into a computer," Pierce says.
He's certain Universal's program will be productive.
Once everyone is ramped up, he says, "It could increase sales by 20 to 30 vehicles a month."
Murray Motors delivers up to 60 new BMWs, 50 new Mercedes and 50 used vehicles a month.
Universal, of Irvine, Calif., began expanding its business development center software to include customer relationship management tools two years ago, says CEO Hans Van Order.
"Our software has one major advantage over most others: complete integration," Van Order says. "It manages business development center activities, showroom traffic and follow-up activities, e-commerce communications and marketing functions that include dealer management system data.
"It helps put everyone on the same page because they are all looking at the same data."
It's a Web-based product, he says, so it does not have to be installed on individual computers and can be easily updated.
Jeff Laethem, acting dealer principal of Ray Laethem Pontiac-Buick-GMC in Detroit, is about to choose a customer relationship management system. Laethem has been asking salespeople to call customers who have been in for service. He or his wife contact customers who purchase elsewhere.
The dealership gets some information from drivers' licenses when potential buyers ask for test drives. Laethem has a Reynolds dealership management system but does not use the company's customer relationship management program because, he says, it's too expensive.
"I'm looking for something to keep us in line all the time," he said.