You know the biggest players: eLead, VinSolutions, DealerSocket, and Reynolds Contact Manager, but do you know when they were originally coded? I believe the newest one of that pack came to market in 2003. Do you remember 2003? I think we, as an industry, were finally beginning to accept that the Internet was not going to be a fad and maybe we should start taking these Internet leads more seriously. And the biggest CRM innovation was to have a web-based system. It was an easier time.
Regardless of how much lipstick gets applied to the pig, or how many other technologies they acquire, there is no getting around age. Unlike people aging to become wiser, technology withers. It may get more feature-packed, but the original data model and technology backbones just get more and more stressed. Also, while aging, the original designers and engineers usually aren’t still working on the core product… if they’re even at the same company anymore. So, with age, the original design intent gets lost.
We all watched Microsoft struggle with legacy tech like Windows 98 and then Windows XP. We will probably watch Apple lag without the Steve Jobs passion. It is absolute fact that thousands of dealers are stuck in a time warp with outdated CRM technology right now. The crappy part for us in the car business is that few modern options are in the marketplace yet.
So, I want to take this opportunity to write about what I think a CRM in 2020 could be.
First off, it will be less expensive to host. Thanks to Amazon Web Services (yes, the one and the same Amazon you shop on) there is little need to build the expansive IT infrastructures that we all had to invest in not too long ago. Costs will be focused on integrations where dealers are being insanely taken advantage of. I’ll have to write more on that another time.
Second is SAAS (Software As A Service) examples do exist and are easy to follow. Very few automotive solutions truly use a SAAS model because they’re tied to legacy technology. To make the definition of what SAAS is simple: just assume that you could handle 99% of the configurations, setups, and customizations you seek anytime you want. The only time you’d need to call support is if you don’t know how to do something or the product is broken.
Support can be proactive. So many technologies incorporate tracking services that alert when something goes wrong. Think of Google Analytics Events that are already baked in to notify your CRM company when something didn’t work for you. Your CRM support people would call you asking if you need a hand with your exact issue instead of you being put on hold and going through all the explanation time wasting.
The UI (User Interface)/UX (User Experience) is probably the most important part of getting the sales and service staff to use the CRM daily. Well, we all know how strong that has been to date. A 20 year refresher is going to be quite welcome. This is where companies truly differentiate themselves.
Digital Retailing is a term I loathe because it has been incredibly abused. It also doesn’t really exist yet, so it is just a marketing term or a product name. In my opinion it will never exist and we should be thinking more about how to just move our daily in-store process online while mending the daily in-store process to better fit what the customer wants. I also don’t believe this is achievable without a technology to drive it. So, let’s say that “digital retailing process” will be a part of the future CRM to help achieve a cohesive online and offline experience.
Mobile is half the battle. All the CRMs mentioned above were originally developed at a time when early technology adopters were discovering their favorite Blackberry keyboard. Email was finally becoming something one could do on the road. A mobile website….HA! And WTF was an app? To say the current options weren’t written for mobile is an understatement. Even the bolt-on mobile apps are clunky representations of that understatement. The future CRM will acknowledge that 50% of the time people are using it from a smartphone and 50% of the time the CRM is being used on a device with a higher resolution. It doesn’t have to be an app.
Process plans are complex and unnecessary. OMG, if I could get the years of my life back that I put into building out email automation and task creation in CRMs… including the time spent designing them in the CRM I helped build. So much time is put into these things that consultants sell themselves just on this alone to car dealers. It is time for these things to die. Between the data, the fact that this industry still works customers the same way it did in 1850, and basic artificial intelligence the future CRM can make process plans with only the smallest amount of dealer input (SAAS input that is). This is also a place where future CRM companies can differentiate themselves.
Those are just a few of the pillars I see future CRMs being built on, but I saved the biggest pillar for last: there is no CRM. To continue on this path of the CRM existing as its own platform is ludicrous. Customer Relationship Management should exist in all your technologies. When you change the price on a car you are communicating with a customer. When you put a special on your website you are communicating with a customer. When you enter MSO information into the DMS you are setting the stage for a new customer journey. The only reason we think we are only working with a customer in our CRM is because these technology gardens have walled themselves off to short-sighted thinking in the pursuit of winning a quick dollar. With the right people at the helm, the future CRM solution won’t just be bound to CRM.