Putting the “R” back in CRM

Too often, CRM and direct marketing are used interchangeably. In so doing, focus on the “relationship” part of CRM is lost. I think we can learn a lot about the value of that relationship, and how best to foster it, by thinking about successful personal relationships.

If you expect to build a relationship with consumers, you cannot always ask for an immediate sale. This does not work in personal relationships, so don’t expect it to work with customers.

Speaking from experience, I know dealers respect vendors who rise above the immediate sale, but too many lose focus on this basic value in pursuit of this month’s goal.

The law of reciprocity is critical in building a relationship. If you want something of value, give something of value. No successful relationship is one way. If you want a consumer to set an appointment, value that appointment. If you want an email address, provide a real price. Look to sustain relationships between service intervals with invitations to special events, small gifts, or valued information. Are your communications reciprocal? What do you expect consumers to give, and what did you give in exchange?

To create a relationship, communication needs to align with others’ needs, not yours. Focusing exclusively on sales offers not only falls on infertile ground, but dulls the senses to your future messages, which may be relevant. For example, as avid Yankee fans, my son and I buy StubHub tickets every year to see a Yankee home and away series. Consequently, I receive offers for Braves, Orioles, and – insultingly — Red Sox tickets every week, drowning out Yankee offers. The logic being that the common thread in my behavior should make it easy to get my business. Whereas, the opposite effect is created.

Are you reading your customers’ signals? Are you analyzing that behavior and suppressing the irrelevant to allow focus on the truly valued?

And, if you are not asking for the order with each communication, how do you measure success?

1) Customer Knowledge. Good relationships require intimate knowledge. Let’s get back to personal relationships here for a minute; you cannot anticipate and respond effectively without knowing how to reach your friends, their needs and the context surrounding their situation.

Yet, many dealers do not audit or value their customer data. It’s wise to strive to know at least all contacts, all household members and all vehicles. If you properly valued this data, you could explicitly invest to grow your consumer knowledge breadth and depth. Many dealers lament that consumers do not provide email information. If we all lived by the law of reciprocity, this would be less of a problem. You could also reward based on CRM record quality, run safety clinics for soon-to-be drivers, or make other, similar investments focused purely on increasing knowledge.

2) Engagement. While we all have friends we see only occasionally, our strongest relationships are woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. Interestingly, a dealership’s product is critical to its customers lives, yet through their communications and interactions, many dealers have conditioned their customers to think about the dealership only for infrequent transactions.

With each customer you have an opportunity to form non-transactional bond — from auto dealer, to mobility concierge. For example, think about the complexity of vehicles today. Most customers aren’t enjoying their vehicles to the fullest. When is the last time you invested time in learning a new feature?

As your communication intents become more diverse, your measurements need to become more multi-faceted. Hold your communications accountable to producing the desired engagements – e.g. email open, website visits, clinic attendance – and then build models which link these engagement events to direct revenue drives, so that you can adequately allocate resources.

Building relationships with customers is a fundamental part of this business. No dealership will last long if it cannot develop rapport and make a connection with the customer. So, put the “R” back into Customer Relationship Management and start building real relationships with your customers. I promise you will soon see these efforts boosting your bottom line.