Master your CRM | Ratchet+Wrench

Hi Jamar, this is Mike from Fox Run Auto Inc. letting you know that your 2014 Dodge might be due for its next oil service. Call me or text me to make an appointment! View this text message and get a FREE TIRE SPIN with any oil change service. One offer per customer. Not combinable with other offers. Reply STOP to unsubscribe.

This is an example one of the automated messages that Mike DeFino sends daily through his customer relationship management (CRM) system. Today there are 17 in the queue, but some days there can be more than 100, he says. While chatting on the phone with Ratchet + Wrench, a series of messages, which leave daily at 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., were sent.

“By the time this conversation ends, someone will respond to this,” DeFino says confidently.

Sure enough, a few seconds later, he laughs and says that one of his customers just answered.

DeFino, the owner of Fox Run Auto Inc. in Bear, Del., started using Kukui’s CRM system in 2016 to keep up with the times. Before, he didn’t connect with customers on the personal level that he is today; it was time consuming and he didn’t have the capabilities he has with his CRM. Now, he says it takes him about 15 minutes a day to connect with his customers.

“After you drink the Kool-Aid, you realize how easy it is,” DeFino tells those who haven’t yet invested in a CRM.

Many merchants today have a CRM system, but not all use it to its full potential. DeFino says his CRM has definitely contributed to the growth and success of his store because he knows how to use it to his advantage. Its 12-bay, 10,000-square-foot store generates just over $2 million in sales, saw nearly 6,500 vehicles in 2021 and welcomed 1,689 new customers.

Whether you use Kukui, Mitchell 1, Mechanic Advisor, Shop-Ware or another of the many CRM systems available, here are the keys to getting the most out of it.

Get support.

CRM systems have many features that can help streamline processes in your store, as well as communicate better with your customer, but it can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not tech-savvy.

Most CRM systems offer some type of support. Whether it’s a one-time training, a helpline to call, or a dedicated support person, you’re not alone when it comes to navigating the ins and outs. of your CRM.

DeFino has a monthly call with his support person. During the call, the two discuss what messaging should be like for the month. This is helpful because the support person looks after stores nationwide and has an understanding of trends and what is working well in other stores.

“He holds my hand and helps me through this,” DeFino says.

Take the time to save time.

A few hours a week are enough for DeFino to maintain quality communication with its customers. Before, he says he didn’t communicate with his clientele as often as he should. With SMS and CRM emailing features, it can automate messages and quickly send appointment reminders, appointment follow-ups, and upcoming maintenance reminder messages.

Spending a few hours a week or even a month setting up automated messages, such as the promotions you run, will make communicating with customers as easy as pushing a button. To get the most out of it, however, you need to make sure you update your CRM with your customers’ information and stay in the loop so you know exactly when Mr. Smith is due back for an oil change. , for example. Dedicate time each week to staying on top and it will pay off in the long run.

Involve your staff.

DeFino’s front desk staff and its service advisors all have access to the CRM. This relieves him of all responsibility and gives staff who are in contact with customers an easy way to reach out.

DeFino designs and sends the message. Then, service advisors and front desk staff respond to customer responses and also send photos and provide repair updates.

Mike Accursi, general manager of Fox Run Auto, says staff try to respond to as many text messages as possible.

“If there’s even a question from a distance, or something like ‘enjoy the weather’ or ‘have a nice day’, we answer; that building relationships is key to the whole program,” says Accursi.

Accursi opens messages first thing in the morning (the CRM can be programmed to send an automated text message letting the customer know it’s late) and continues to check throughout the day.

DeFino says that when he first started using CRM, his staff who needed access were involved in the training and if someone new starts, they have access to that training as well.

Common CRM Features

Customer relationship management systems can include the following elements…

  • Storage of customer contact information
  • Lead generation data
  • Automated SMS and email capabilities
  • Website Updates
  • Campaign management
  • Customer analysis
  • Phone call tracking
  • Shop Data Dashboard

Study the data.

Many CRM systems provide data that compares your performance to that of other stores using the system. You can find useful information, such as whether a first customer called from the website or from Google AdWords, DeFino explains. DeFino takes advantage of this information, which helps him see areas he might need to work on. For example, he knows that he is currently in the top 20% of Kukui customers, both for new customers and number of cars, so he can feel confident in both areas. There’s information on just about everything you’d want to know about your store, from car counts to parts gross profit to parts per sale.

“If you want a quick snapshot for the month, it’s available to everyone,” says DeFino.

Another feature that DeFino commonly uses is the ability to listen in on phone calls. He can critique conversations and dialogue with the front office on how to improve and attract more customers.

Communicate with customers the way they want.

Having a CRM allows you to reach customers the way they prefer. For the most part, it’s text messages, DeFino says. Its website landing page lets customers opt in to automated texting and there is a large sign in its lobby that lets customers know about the texting program. By collecting a phone number from the customer and gaining permission, CRMs can store this information and place customers on a text broadcast list, so sending offers and appointment reminders is as simple as pressing a button.

Not everyone wants to give out their phone number and be on a texting list. CRMs also allow you to collect email and personal addresses. So, if customers prefer, you can send emails or postcards, DeFino explains.

Personalize your email.

CRMs enable automated texting, and how much time and personalization you spend on those text messages is up to you. But the more personalized, the better. Using customer names, vehicle names, and a friendly tone can help customers feel like they are interacting with a real human rather than a robot.

DeFino says monthly calls with his support person have been a big help. Her support person advises on what works with stores across the country, and every month they change the ad and images on the website. They then take the time to write the e-mails and text messages. DeFino receives wording and receives final approval.

One instance where it helped was during the pandemic when Fox Run Auto had an outdoor waiting area. DeFino added this to his messaging so customers know some of the security practices he was taking.

About Ricardo Schulte

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