Being second place in a competitive market is a goal many dealerships would love to be able to claim for themselves.
For Kendall Toyota in Miami, Florida, however, that’s simply not acceptable.
For many years, the dealership sat atop the perch in Toyota sales in their marketplace. Through changing circumstances — including the opening of its sister store West Kendall Toyota — Kendall recently slipped to the second spot. This served as a wake-up call for the dealership’s management to examine their processes and methods and to put plans in place to regain that title.
“We’re getting ready to go through a rephase starting in September,” said Ryan Hall, GM of Kendall Toyota. “South Miami is a very competitive market and our sister store made things a little more challenging, but we’ve always consistently hit our objectives by far. We sell a lot of used cars. There’s a lot of activity around us.”
Still, Hall said, there’s always room for improvement — especially if you’re committed to being No. 1. “Competition is extremely high, which serves up its own unique opportunities in terms of marketing,” he said. “Everything changes when you have the level of competition we have. We have to be creative. Customer service is our No. 1, primary focus — that’s how we differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. Our mission statement is ‘Deliver on every customer’s expectation, one customer at a time.’ We focus on our clients, making sure they’re happy, and making sure our processes are followed within the store.”
Helping Staff to Help Customers
Part of focusing on the customer comes from having a knowledgeable staff ready to help them in their purchasing and servicing process. “We have a lot of tenure on our staff, and we hire for the long term,” Hall said. “We let our team know that, if they have the right attitude and work ethic, the sky’s the limit for their earning potential.”
The dealership is constantly evolving to help its team members meet their customers’ needs and service expectations. “Based on the way the market has shifted over the last two to three years, mostly our clients go online,” Hall said, “so we have staff in place through our BDC who are trained and well-versed in Internet communication to answer questions. We know we have a very short period to answer the customer’s questions.”
Achieving Top-of-Mind Status
Kendall’s marketing and online efforts, Hall said, are aimed to be helpful and get the customer into the store where the staff can fully serve their needs. Catching car shoppers early in the buying process is critical. “We spend a lot of time and effort on positioning ourselves online through third-party vendors so that people will give us an opportunity first,” Hall said. “Then, once we get them in the store, we put them with a manager right away. We make them feel at home and make sure we identify what their needs are so we can transact with them.”
And those online efforts have been paying off. “We have a big focus on online reputation,” Hall said, “because that tells us the customer’s voice. It’s something we’ve really focused on for the past year. Our scores and most measurable categories are at 4.7 and above, which is huge. For our Google review penetration, for instance, we have more than 2,600 Google reviews, which should rank us as one of those at the top for Toyota.” They also take the CSI and Toyota surveys to heart, to see what’s going right and to correct any problems. “We have a 24-hour follow-up process within the store just to make sure everything was okay with the customer,” he said. “Regardless if they came in for service or came into sales to buy a car, we want to see if there’s anything that we can do to make sure that experience was what we expect it to be.”
One key to aligning all of Kendall’s marketing and customer service efforts was to combine those efforts into a seamless process. “About two years ago we had all these different tools in the store,” Hall said. “We had different components depending on the department you were in, so my goal was to have everything run through one source.” After researching what was available and what would work best for Kendall Toyota, the dealership selected ELEAD1ONE for its CRM and BDC needs. “They handle our service and sales activity functions,” Hall said. “Everything is funneled through the CRM, which makes it a lot better for everybody in the store. If someone’s in for service, our BDC knows. Our VIP department knows. Our salesperson knows. Everything works seamlessly when we’re all working out of the same system.”
Having one system in place only works if everyone in the process is able — and willing — to use it consistently. “Until we came across ELEAD1ONE, our biggest issue was finding one system that could basically serve everybody’s needs to their acceptance,” Hall said. “Certain things would do one job, but it wouldn’t do another, or didn’t do it the way we needed it to work. Our system now really is a very multi-faceted tool that we use, and it can be customized to the liking of a department manager, depending on what his or her needs are.”
The CRM also allows Hall to make sure customer service is getting the priority it deserves. “All our processes are organized and measured,” he said, “and it’s done pretty easily so in a snapshot I can see what the heartbeat and activity of the store is, and what the people are doing to make sure that we stay ahead of any problems, so things aren’t forgotten.
Service-to-sales conversions have become a growing part of many dealerships’ business models, and having an integrated system throughout the dealership has helped Kendall take full advantage of its opportunities. “Every department operated as its own business before,” Hall said. “Now, we tie everything together so when a client comes into our service drive, we are aware of them and if they are in an equitable position. We identify that through the ELEAD1ONE tool.”
That kind of information gives salespeople more tools to work with and customers more choices. “We simply approach them just to make sure that they are aware of what their options are if they would like to make a change,” Hall said. “That experience has changed drastically due to the simple fact that we have the new cars lined out right by the service bays. We have a team of people within the service department who approach them to give them their options. It’s not so much a sale as just to say, ‘Okay, if you’re in an X percentage rate and we could possibly get you down to this,’ or, ‘If you have equity in your vehicle, we can trade you out to get you into a newer model.’ So, it’s all about giving the customers options without the hard-sell approach.”
A Better Marketing Approach
An integrated system that ties customer information together for the entire dealership has also streamlined the dealership’s marketing efforts, as well. “Our system now offers us specific tools to provide our customers with a targeted message,” Hall said. “We can send a specific message to those people based on what we believe is going to drive them to take action. For example, we can see which ZIP code a lot of our sales come from. We then use software to see who’s going to be in the market. Through our ELEAD1ONE system, we send them a specific message based on what’s going to activate them as a consumer.”
Being proactive with marketing messages gives Kendall more options in dealing with the public, and allows a more friendly, helpful approach. “We like to provide information up front,” Hall said. “We don’t like to have the high-pressure sales tactics that dealerships are so known for. We just want to say, ‘Hey, here’s the information. We would like to do business with you. When you’re ready to do that, please come and see us.’ So, our hope is that people in the community see our different approach and, when they are ready to make that move, we’ll be the first thought in their mind.”
The new CRM system Kendall has put into action has also improved their telephone game. “We have trackable numbers, and our CRM offers a tool which gives our people goals to hit every day,” Hall said. “Each agent has a target. Let’s say it’s 125 calls a day, as well as taking their incoming calls. They know what they need to execute, and we can monitor that on a daily basis.”
The tool also allows management to listen to calls and look for training opportunities and ways to improve. “We can also see if we need to change our approach so we continually make sure that we are clear in the message we’re trying to send across,” Hall said. “Our goal, basically, is to touch as many people as we can to provide them information and to see if they would like to do business with Kendall Toyota.”
Team and Training
The CRM has been woven into the fabric of the store’s sales and service process. That, along with a low leader-to-team ratio, helps everyone stay focused and on task. “Our people are all held accountable to personal goals,” Hall said. “Each of our sales managers has a team of seven to nine sales associates. We keep the groups very small, so the manager can look at the activity in the CRM and assist them in any way he or she can. We almost operate as several little dealerships within one because we believe that’s the way we’ll grow to the level we want to. It’s a new process we’ve implemented over the last 12 months.”
Having a strong leadership presence and a robust CRM system in place also helps with the sales process when it comes to customers. “It’s crucially important that we know who’s in the showroom,” Hall said. “Managers, for instance, are able to follow up directly with the people who took a test drive and left to find out why they didn’t buy. We find that having those small groups with the manager close to the process helps the customer feel more comfortable because a lot of times customers or clients won’t tell a salesman something they may tell a manager. Because a manager can make a decision, we can often figure out ways to help them.”
Winning Back No. 1
Getting back to the very top of the field won’t be easy, but Hall and his team are dedicated to making it happen. One of the ways they’re looking to achieve this goal is by re-examining everything that goes into the customer’s purchasing process. “We’re looking to slow the process down to speed it up,” Hall said. “Customers want transparency. They want to come in, and they want to be in and out within an hour. They want their questions answered. If they’ve been interacting with us online, they don’t want anything to be different when they come into the store.”
By taking a good, long look at what goes into the transaction, Hall believes Kendall Toyota can be the dealership the customer both wants and needs. “We’ve created options and ways for customers to complete their entire transaction online and just come in and pick up the car,” he said. “We pay very close attention when someone has made that buying decision, and we do everything in our power to get them out as quickly as possible. These are the things we’re working on right now. We’ve made a lot of improvements, and we’re constantly working it every day. We want the customer’s time with us to be a good, memorable experience so that they tell their family and friends how easy it was shopping with us.”