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When I think about dealers who are really successful, especially in their Internet and BDC operations, there are certainly many common denominators. They have great people, sound processes, exciting tactics, accountability and a clear-cut CRM strategy.

But the lynchpin in all those attributes is CRM. It connects the people and the processes, provides and supports conduit for great tactics and measures everything making accountability easier and more relevant to what matters.

Our industry needs some things to happen, here are five to consider as you think about customer relationship management and what it means to your prosperity.

1.Education is the keystone. As much as you try to keep things simple in your operation, CRM can be complex. It is difficult to train your team and instill the discipline necessary to be really good at it. Learning how to use your CRM tool is just the first step. Getting your team to use it correctly can be a bigger challenge. Your problem is your managers are analog but their business is digital and they haven’t come to terms with that.

A couple of things need to happen. The CRM providers need to do a better job training you how to use their tool to accomplish your goals. On your end, you need a CRM champion and ongoing CRM training, benchmarks and that yucky word accountability.

2.It’s not CRM, it’s CRM. Answer this question, “What is your CRM initiative?” If you named your CRM provider you got it wrong. If you said it’s how we manage the relationship with our customers you got it right. CRM stands for customer relationship management. (Note “management”) CRM is a management program.

CRM is not a thing but a way of conducting business. If you don’t have a clear cut strategy for managing the customers and prospects in your database then your CRM solution is just going to help you wing it. Customer retention, prospect conversion and your ability to be timely and relevant with both is critical to your success and continued success. Your vendor offers a solution to execute that strategy.

3.Do your homework. When choosing a CRM solution or evaluating your current tool, you should be asking “can it do this?” instead of listening to your rep say “look what it can do.”

I mean really, have you ever seen a bad presentation? The CRM providers are pro’s at presenting. But the demo should be about fulfilling your initiatives. Know what you want with your CRM strategy and make them show it to you in the context of their solution. I’d ask a lot of questions about DMS integration, live data, importing lists, personalizing marketing campaigns, inventory integration, mobile application, social integration, reporting and ongoing support and education.

4.Get serious about CRM in your store. When you think about CRM as a strategy and not a tool, you realize you are talking about your entire enterprise strategy. Because your game plan is centered around customer relations the CRM tool becomes the facilitator and your game plan is centered on customer relations in the true sense.

A quick story; I have a cousin who is a regional sales manager at a national wireless company. We were talking shop and I explained to him the problem of dealership employees uneducated, unwilling or unaware of the CRM strategy. With his jaw agape, he told me if you worked for his company and didn’t properly use their software, you no longer worked for his company. Can you hear me now?

This is what I mean by getting serious. Stop letting the tail wag the dog. Connect CRM use to everyone’s pay and it will be handled, end of story.

5.Everything is track-able. For years we’ve been tracking stuff on our logs, excel sheets and dry erase boards. Fairly accurate data for sure but also very limited. You need to keep evolving. I can remember using a Stuker box, then we evolved to excel and finally a web-based CRM solution.

The data was limited because we were only tracking results and not behavior. Since results are the product of your behavior, doesn’t it make sense if you can track and measure behavior, and improve it, you can improve your results?