DealerSocket CEO Sejal Pietrzak wants to break the perception that the company is simply a provider of a customer relationship management system.
The company's foray into digital retailing could help change that view.
The industry has been moving toward a future where dealer websites evolve from digital showrooms into commerce hubs where shoppers can get accurate pricing projections that go beyond traditional payment calculators — or even complete transactions at home before having vehicles delivered.
DealerSocket's response to this era of transactional websites is its Precise Price tool, which launched at the NADA convention in 2017. It allows consumers to structure deals online before coming into dealerships to close. The pricing offers generated through the platform take into account dealership incentives and fees, trade-in evaluations, taxes as well as down payments and other factors.
Pietrzak, 46, who took the CEO reins in August 2017, spoke with Staff Reporter Vince Bond Jr. about DealerSocket's move into digital retailing, what she's learned from dealers and her goals for her second year on the job.
Q: Last year, you said one thing you wanted to do was get out there and talk to dealers to see what they had to say. What have you learned from them?
A: One of the things I've definitely learned is how important relationships are in our industry. No. 1, building those relationships, creating great relationships and then being a trusted adviser for our dealers. That's what we've really focused on.
How have dealers and consumers responded to your Precise Price tool?
Precise Price gives the ability to have digital retail as more and more consumers are going online to do their research. It allows them to do as much as they want at home online, and then go into the dealership to finish up the transaction. Previously, Precise Price was tied with our DealerFire website [platform]. We've recently unbundled it. For dealers who don't utilize our website, they can still utilize our Precise Price tool. It ties into our CRM and desking. We've had great success and we're working with a number of dealers as well as automotive OEMs to talk about what we're doing and how much we're continuing to innovate in digital retail.
What's the next step for you in digital retailing?
We're continuing to innovate [with Precise Price] and continuing to get it out to our dealers, talking to OEMs and sharing that digital retail product with them. We're also spending quite a bit of time doing research on how we want to continue to go to market with it and how we're going to launch an even bigger piece.
What is the biggest growth opportunity for you?
We have four major product lines. Within CRM, we have so much functionality, including our equity mining tool, which we call Revenue Radar, desking and service. Then we also have the website, the DealerFire product and our inventory product. For us, the growth and opportunity is to continue to innovate, but then share with the industry and our dealers that we are much more than CRM. As we become their trusted adviser in one of the products, we're finding that more dealers are saying, "I'd like to learn more about what else you offer." We're doing quite a bit to try to focus our communication and our marketing around the fact that we truly are an integrated suite of products.
Has anything surprised you about this job?
As I think back to when I first started, I don't think I knew how much of a family business dealerships really are. You think about family businesses, a lot of dealerships have been passed from generation to generation. It's really endearing. My family has been in automotive. My uncle has worked at General Motors and Ford in engineering. My sister is at Lyft, my cousins work in sales for the automotive industry. When I joined [DealerSocket] a year ago, I got lots of texts [saying], "Finally, you joined the automotive industry." When I go back for family reunions, it's a family business in a different way. It's been great to make that connection between the automotive industry, and how much of a family it is, and how much it's a part of my family as well.
What are some of your goals for the second year?
We're pushing a lot of innovation in our software. We're looking at AI and [machine learning] to be able to offer insights and analytics that can really change the game for our dealerships. As the industry evolves, our mission is to drive the future of automotive. We want to be partners with our dealers in figuring out the best ways to be able to evolve ahead of the industry to make them the most successful they can be and help them grow. Ultimately, we're focused on ensuring that everyone understands we're more than a CRM, we're launching our innovations, and we're continuing on being that trusted adviser.
What have you done in the past year to fortify customer service?
There's so much that we've done. Making sure that our implementations are done with the level of quality that our dealers deserve to ensure that as they get a product from us, that software is configured and the workflows are working for them. Then you talk about our customer success managers, they are supporting our dealerships, being a trusted adviser. We are moving our customer success managers to be even more focused on the value-add. The utilization and training on our software, ensuring that our dealerships are utilizing it to the best of the software's capabilities. Then in our customer support, when you call in for support, we've been growing our teams. We've been expanding, we've added a lot of staff in implementation, customer success management and support.
We're also hearing from dealers that they like self-service. They like to be able to go to a knowledge center and quickly get information, so we launched chat. Now, we're in the process of creating a knowledge center, so if a dealer would like to do some self-service and get an answer to a quick question, we've got our DealerSocket University where they can watch three- to five-minute videos to be able to see something.