Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers seem to understand the value of software that helps them build an ongoing relationship with customers long after the sale.
But wading through a myriad of customer relationship management software programs can be challenging and time-consuming. Eighty such vendors were on the exhibition floor during the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Fla., in February. Many more were turned away.
FordDirect, the online shopping site jointly owned by Ford Motor Co. and its dealers, took on the software selection challenge for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers. FordDirect examined what it thought were the best products available, then decided that Reynolds and Reynolds Co.'s programs came closest to what dealers want.
So FordDirect struck an agreement with Reynolds to combine the best features of its two products: Salespoint Internet lead management software and Loyalty Solutions, used to create e-mail, direct mail and other marketing campaigns and track their success. Salespoint is a Web-based program now used by 3,200 Ford brand dealers.
Reynolds plans to have the new software ready by the end of this year, says Jill Gehrhardt, Reynolds' director of customer relationship management solutions. By combining and enhancing the software programs, she says, dealers will find it easier to move customer data from leads to campaigns.
Ford Motor's global marketing group had been responsible for evaluating and recommending Internet lead and customer management software for dealers. But Ford turned that responsibility over to FordDirect in May.
The new Reynolds software will be offered initially only to Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers. About 4,500 Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover dealers accept sales leads from FordDirect.com.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The new Web-based software will be included at no additional charge in the bundle of e-tools given to Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers, says FordDirect President Steve St. Andre.
Although some dealers will opt to use customer-retention software from another party, "FordDirect is acting in the best interest of the dealers and was looking for best-in-class software," St. Andre says. "There's a lot of confusion in this CRM space, so we're trying to clean that up."
You may e-mail Ralph Kisiel at [email protected]