Best Practices

Your customers and employees are gone. You’ve lost Control!

BossFrustratedWhen speaking to traditional car people they make analogies of the Internet being a pesty animal that crawled in through the back door when nobody was looking. The funny part about this critter was that it didn’t come alone.  It didn’t just walk in through the back door either.  It came through every crevice in your house on the back of every individual on this planet!  To continue calling it a creepy little pest is just sad.  If you’re one of these people I feel sorry for you.

To make matters even worse, you’ve lost control of everyone because of the Internet.  Your customers are free to say what they want to hundreds if not thousands of people in as little as 140 characters.  Your employees are friends with all of your customers while displaying photos of themselves smoking a cuban cigar and drinking rum on a vacation in Costa Rica.  What a Public Relations nightmare!

How do you get everyone back to the good old days? You don’t.

Without control we’re scared little business people, but we’re missing the bigger picture.  It is a new world where the rules still have not been defined.  Sure, we can write company policies that prohibit employees from using facebook at work or stopping them from participating on blogs, but what does that really gain?  People are always going to find a way to do what they want.  I say nurture it!

Instead of throwing the Fourth Reich at people, why not implement the Second Declaration of Independence.  Teach your staff the best way to communicate online.  Help your happy customers find the review sites and facebook pages that best let them tell their great story about you.

We are very fortunate in the automotive business to have sites like DealerRefresh and companies like GOSO, DealerRater, Pasch Consulting, and many others who will help us find the best way to nurture people into advertising machines for our business.

If you think you’ve lost control, this is how you get some of that control back.

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
Another fine Snyder moment. Love your material Alex! This is spot on.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • February 19, 2010
I knew this article was going to surface! Love it.

"Teach your staff the best way to communicate online." - This needs to be part of your dealer training. Place HR in front of this, send them out to training for employee and business reputation management.

It is a new world and the defined rules of the old sometimes clash with the new.

Will 2010 be the year you start training your staff how to be "social"?
  • G
  • February 19, 2010
Facebook specifically has issues. With the ability to allow any application onto your machine there will be repercussions. I disallow facebook mainly for this reason, the apps have too much freedom.

Once Google Buzz gets facebook integration I'll allow that, and tell everyone to check their status that way.. Hopefully there will be better computer control with that software.
This may be a post length comment so bear with me :) First off Alex I agree with you almost 100%. I hate agreeing with anyone 100% so I only say almost. The almost part is the last paragraph. While the sites and third parties you mentioned have been great at getting the wheels in motion (pun intended) dealerships need to do a better job of capturing customer sentiment and reviews via their own sites and blogs. Third party sites will always be there and dealers will always need to have inventory there but dont put all your eggs in that basket. Create a customer review blog. Drive those comments to places that directly land searches at your site, not 3rd party sites. RSS Feed that blog onto your main site. Create a separate You Tube channel for reviews. Post those reviews and pics on your Facebook page. Dont stop there though. Friend your customers (on your personal or new semi personal page) and tag them in the videos & pics. Let the testimonials spread virally to their friends. The possibilities are endless.

Ghen disallowing Facebook is a bad move in my opinion. Facebook now allows people to comment on posts and inbox messages through their email. Unless you can block your employees personal web based email providers you will never be able to fully block Facebook. Embrace Facebook and you will be embracing the platform that your customers play in on a daily basis.
Dead on post, we've just past the 700 review mark with a goal of 1000 for this year! We've been working on getting more of our people to build their "Digital Footprint" starting with the easy to set up Google Profiles and of course we have salespeople becoming more active of sites like Facebook or Linkedin.

As more of our people leverage the evidence of the customer experience at Acton Toyota we will see our business continue to grow regardless of economy, recalls, credit,inventory or whatever the new excuse of the week becomes.
  • G
  • February 19, 2010
Here here! Alex- short succinct and to the point! There has been a paradigm shift in the business world of late, and that is the shift of power and influence from the business to that of the consumers, and to a great extent the employees.

By enacting the Fourth Reich, employees will act out and bash the organization at every opportunity. Look at what happened last year in Iran with the protests. People were Tweeting and youtubing the demonstrations in the street. Horrific violence and killings took place.

The point: The threat of losing my job pales in comparison to the threat of a tyranny telling me what to do (or what NOT to do) when taken in context. By "outlawing" blogging or F-booking, interest will only be fostered and grow like wildfire.

Embrace it, nurture it and roll it out as a part of the company's new culture. Change is not all that bad after all, is it?
Great article. I agree with everything you had to say. I think that we all need to be social and keep our names out there. I also think that as we start to interact with our consumers on facebook and Twitter we should learn to be smart with the content we put out there. My dealership has a facebook, staff members, car people, and customers are friends with the profile. I discovered one of my girls from my interet department with sold wild pictures. I completley gave her a hard time about it. I was teaching her how she needs to have a good image. You never know who will see you your pictures. You never know what kind of opportunities you can miss in life over the content you up. I learned that lesson a lot as I got older and made mistakes on facebook in the past. You must use discretion at all times. It will keep your image positive and it will make you a more serious person in life. This is so true. I love the social networking stuff as most of the people reading this know about me. However, I devote a small portion of my time to facebook and Twitter. I devote another portion to having the best reviews possible and keeping a nice image for my huggable dealer. For such a new dealership we really have leveraging reviews and they do help us produce results. Dealerrater has taught me well and the value of it. I like to spend the rest of my time getting down to the nitty gritty Koch is getting the people in and producing large amounts of traffic in the showroom. I use these tools to leverage how I get people in. But at the end of the day phone skills and salesmanship is the most important thing. In my opinion I believe that we need to have a balance of priorities especially as ecommerce directors where the job has ever increasing responsibilities. I still believe in growing the networks and being very active. We must be humble, very careful, and master using the technologies but not forgetting what is most important for our buisness at the end of the day.
I relate to Alex's frustration over the ignorance of old school dealers who ignore the fact that change is a constant in the auto industry. The Internet represents the natural evolution of the buying and selling processes that fuel the retail auto industry. Technology has always accentuated human nature which is another constant that should be embraced, not challenged.

Specifically, marketing platforms that integrate social networking engines into their online solutions are already being introduced to allow dealers to market to social networking communities from the inside out vs. from the outside in by engaging the customers in the process. Ask a Friend/Tell a Friend functions that initiate C2C comments vs B2C comments are allowing dealers to leverage their current traffic to their virtual showrooms by spreading a viral message to increase their top of the mind awareness to sell more cars. Given Google's recent announcement that they are weighting real time social networking in their search algorithms it is critical for dealers to tie into this SEO tool. This process is not new, it used to be called networking and selling to your spheres of influence. The Internet and the new applications that have been built to maximize the R.O.I. for the dealers that are using it have simply provided efficiencies and scalability that could not be replicated in the real world.

As far as the salesman's role in social networking and the potential abuse that Alex and previous replies so correctly pointed out, once again new technology has provided the solution. New applications allow a dealership to empower their staff to sell themselves as well as the dealership to friends, family and new customers by hosting individual websites for their salespeople. These sites extend the SEO of the dealership through direct links with integrated meta tags, headlines and search words allowing the salespeople to host their own online "Why Buy Here" book that links to the dealer's inventory as well as Facebook, MySpace and the other social networks that the salespeople can and should access to extend their family of friends - real and virtual. More importantly, all of their online activity is captured in an R.O.I. analytic tool that allows the dealer and his managers to monitor their activities so they can inspect what they expect from their salespeople when they are online.

The point is that the controls that are needed - as suggested by this post and the replies - to monetize social networking and the Internet are already here for those dealers that get it! As for those dealers that don't, no worries; they won't be around long enough to matter!
While there is nothing to disagree with in the post or comments; it is all dead on. Dealers do need to realize that even though the medium has changed and the volume of people that are exposed to news about your dealership (positive or negative) has greatly increased, that the basics of business are still the same. Create an environment that your employees are proud to tell their friends and family where they work. With NADA having just taken place in the land of Disney where image is everything. The "cast members" have always been happy and willing to to lend a hand well before social networking. Disney has done this by creating the "happiest place on earth" for the employees and the guests. This kind of work place is contagious and viral because it creates positive employee moral and self esteem which in turn creates great customer experiences.

So create your Social Networking strategy from the inside out with the basics and you will be successful.
Many businesses including the auto industry are wrestling with how to handle all that is being thrown at them social media wise. The bottom line is that we can either continue to attempt to communicate with our customers the way we always have or join them in communicating the way they prefer to.

Last week I got a message on facebook from a service customer that had a magnetic sign damaged in our car wash after a service appointment.

This customer’s first form of contact to address the issue was through facebook!

She did not do it in an open forum where it could have taken a negative spin, but I am willing to bet if I had not handled the situation to her satisfaction she would have taken it to the wall.

The old way of talking at our customers is all but over. We now have the ability to stay engaged with them in a social manner, have a dialog with loyal customers, potential customers and yes the disgruntled customer. The key here is to be a part of the conversation, just be a good party guest.

The average facebook and twitter user knows better than most car dealers how to behave and communicate via social media so don’t fear them. Customers will reach out to you for any number of reasons. You will find yourself answering credit and finance questions. They will ask you about recommended service and warranty questions. Sometimes they will IM you and sometimes write them on your wall. This is where your customers are and this is how they choose to communicate.

Come on in the waters fine.