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Turn your data into profit

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Turn your data into profit

Dave Vogel says most tire dealers are sitting on a pile of money. And ignoring it. Their computers might as well be stuffed with cash, and their filing cabinets overflowing like a triple-cherry slot machine jackpot.

All because of this common scenario: A consumer comes into a shop; a technician does an inspection and finds repairs that need to be done; but for whatever reason — the common refrains are the consumer doesn’t have the time or the money — the work isn’t done right away.

“But those things still need to be done,” says Vogel, vice president and general manager of ASA Automotive Systems Inc. “This goes on all day long. Thousands of dollars of service a day gets recommended.”

Before the digital revolution, those paper tickets might have landed in a filing cabinet. Today, digital tickets are housed in computers or in the cloud. The important lesson is to not let those recommendations get dusty and buried in cobwebs.

“If we didn’t have our dentist or eye doctor tell us it’s time for our appointment, we wouldn’t remember.”

So Vogel says dealers need to remind consumers of the maintenance work that needs to be done.

“They needed that work to be done. It could cause them more problems. It’s better for end-user customers. It’s better for shops,” says Vogel. “It’s probably one of the more overlooked things in a shop. Anytime you talk to someone in a shop about this their eyes light up.”

The trick is, retrieving those past recommendations has to be quick and easy. “Sure, they could run to the filing cabinet, but that would be cumbersome.”

Point-of-sale systems offer users the ability to mine the ticket data, and searching for declined services is a good way to uncover some of that untapped potential. ASA Automotive Systems sells TireMaster, a program that features pop-up alerts for declined services when a consumer returns to the counter. Vogel says TireMaster groups vehicles by household, meaning even when a mom brings in the sports utility vehicle for new tires, she’ll be reminded of the brake job previously recommended on her son’s pickup.

Vogel says his company knows those declined-service alerts are “a differentiator for us. It’s been a big contributor to our success.”

But even if a dealer still is running a pen-and-paper operation, technicians are looking for and recommending other services to consumers. It might take more effort to keep track of those recommendations without a computer database, but Vogel says it’s still possible.

“Look at all the money and effort it takes to get a new customer, and this is your own clientele that already likes you, and you’re not maximizing your effort with them,” Vogel says.

Use your system to the max

One detail stands in the way of dealers recouping those lost sales, says Jay Adams, president of MaddenCo Inc.

“Make sure that they capture good data. When a customer comes in don’t create a cash invoice, or just say ‘Jay’ or ‘Joy’ at the top,” Adams says. “Capture the address, phone number, email. Even though that takes a little more time and keystrokes at the counter, in order to data mine properly you’ve got to have good data.”

The customer information, paired with other tools such as a license plate look up service, can help a dealer “attach good customer information to good vehicle information.” And while there are apps and tools to use to search for phone numbers and addresses, Adams stresses that telephone lookups in particular are getting trickier as more consumers rely solely on cell phones.

With all of that information in a dealer’s database, there are endless ways to reach out to consumers, but Adams admits he likes “emailing and texting because they’re free.

“You can send a thank you note, a service reminder based on date or mileage — but that’s depending on your guys capturing mileage,” he says. “It’s about using your system to the best of your ability.”

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Adams says the “vast majority” of MaddenCo customers who use its Tire Dealer System are hiring a third party company to send customer postcards and letters, even though dealers can do it themselves.

Graham Tire Co. is one of those dealers who uses MaddenCo’s system and turns its data over to a third party to reach out to customers. Lyle Christensen, vice president of information systems for Graham Tire, says the stores in South Dakota and Nebraska rely on KeyMotive LLC and Jerry Terrasi, its sales and marketing director, to do more than send emails and postcards.

There’s one Graham Tire location that hosts an annual customer appreciation pancake breakfast. Invitations are sent, but they’re not directed to every customer in the database, Christensen says.

“He can mill the data, get the higher spending customers, or customers that have the certain number of visits, which shows loyalty,” Christensen says. “(The pancake breakfast) is a selling event for us. We have lots of product available to sell and special deals and special opportunities to save money on tires and service.”

By fine-tuning the invitation list, the store connects with, and ultimately rewards, its most valuable customers.

Graham Tire reviews its data on a daily basis. With 28 stores in four states, Christensen says he can look at car counts or tire sales company wide, or focus on a single store. He can drill down to a specific market, and if there are multiple stores in that same market, see if one location is under-performing compared to the other.

When customers come in with a promotional item, whether it’s an email or postcard, the dealer tracks it, giving Graham Tire real data to show whether oil change reminders are more successful than other service reminders, or if emails are reaching more people than postcards. (Some might dismiss postcards in this digital age, but Christensen says the four-color cards remain effective. “It puts us on the kitchen table.”)

“It’s very valuable. We cannot be that effective managing it ourselves,” Christensen says. “He’s an expert at it. We may be very good at servicing a customer’s vehicle. We are not data-based mining people.

“We try to utilize it. It is our customers. We want to be cognizant, have we lost customers? Do we have lapsed customers? We try to do some sort of action to follow up to that customer. We invite them to contact us. Some of them leave because they might have been upset by an event. We invite them to share back if they were dissatisfied with something.”

Don’t give up on the telephone

With all the focus on websites, online selling and digital databases, it’s easy to overlook some of the “old school” tools of the trade — like the telephone.

Katherine Worwa, a marketer for Century Interactive LC, says “everything revolves around the phone.”

Century Interactive is a call-tracking company, with 50,000 real people listening to incoming and outgoing phone calls at businesses. At first the service was geared only toward sales, especially at car dealerships, but its Service Setter product focuses on that “other” side of business.

During a call, the monitor hones in on how consumers discover a business, whether it’s from a television commercial, a listing in the Yellow Pages or a Facebook ad. The monitor gauges how well employees are engaging customers on the telephone, tracks the kind of information callers want and measures how often callers aren’t routed to the right person. If a call doesn’t go well, it sends an alert to the dealer or manager who can then try to recover that sale or service appointment immediately. Managers can see which employees aren’t performing well and offer them tips. Service Setter says as employees improve on the phone they’ll be able to convert more calls to service appointments.

Worwa says, “It takes on average seven to nine outbound calls to reconnect to a customer that maybe left a voicemail or a message with the receptionist, so connecting that inbound call with the resource is important.”   ■

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