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Ross Hodgins, Dealer Principal at RV City, and his staff have prided their dealership on the experience they’ve been able to create for the customer and the long-lasting relationships they’ve developed along the way. Now, with the implementation of IDS Astra CRM, the 2012 RVDA of Alberta Dealer of the Year and his team have brought database integration and customer service to a entirely new level.
Continue reading to see how Ross and CRM Manager Jasmine Montpetit have developed successful procedures in regards to customer follow-up and have enhanced the quality of the sales process…
IDS: What do you consider to be the strengths of your business compared to most other RV dealerships?
Ross: “I think it’s our attitude and desire of knowing that they only thing we have full control over is our customers’ experience. Our customers’ experience starts with our staff experience. I’m not saying that we’re the greatest employer in the world because there’s always room for improvement. I believe it ultimately comes down to attitude and passion to provide our customers with the best experience possible.
Our business is also respect-based. That’s the relationships we try to garner with our suppliers whether it be IDS, Jayco, Pleasure-Way, etc. We choose manufacturers and manufacturers choose us based off the level of respect in the relationship. I have parted ways with what are considered strong companies because of the lack of respect in the relationship.”
IDS: How long have you been using IDS Astra CRM and what prompted you to implement the product into your business?
Ross: “As soon as IDS introduced CRM we got it. We were one of the first beta customers. We had it about a year and a half before any other dealers got it, so we’ve been using it since 2008. At first it didn’t have some of the functionality we were accustomed to with the Astra system, but now it has so much more and has an easy-to-use interface that is salesperson friendly.
One of the features I really like, that has been enhanced in the most recent CRM version, is the ability go into the customer contact screen and look up their purchase history. You not only see what unit they purchased, you also see their service and parts. Often times you’ll be talking with a customer and they’ll say that no one ever got a hold of them on their service. So these features allow for interdepartmental support because the person that’s fielding that call can see all of the information. With the size of our dealership, that’s key. Before there was doubt because you couldn’t see all the activities, and it’s virtually eliminated now.”
IDS: How did the implementation and the training go?
Ross: “CRM itself is very easy to learn. The biggest thing for existing and new IDS customers is understanding the CRM structure is like using two file cabinets. Leads and customers are now in two different databases. Without coming to that epiphany, you’re lost because the lead is one file cabinet. When you take that lead into a contact environment, you push the one drawer closed and open up another drawer.”
IDS: What features do you like best about IDS Astra CRM?
Ross: “The one thing I’m most happy about the CRM product, that IDS previously didn’t have, is that the status of our customers does not change in the CRM module and we don’t lose their history in the database for our mailing lists. When a customer is sold, they stay in the system as sold. By having a contact become an opportunity, that’s great. If you lose the opportunity, fine. But their identification in the system as a sold customer doesn’t change. In the old system if you had an existing customer that came in as active and they didn’t purchase, the natural action was to make them inactive and then you lost them in the database. I can’t think of how many customers we’ve lost prior because of that, so this feature has made a world of difference.
You guys have done a great job developing this product and listening to our suggestions. The ability to search by customer number, phone number, email, etc. is huge. The system also allows for less chance of duplication and makes customer merge accounts much simpler. When we first implemented CRM, we merged nearly 60,000 records, so having those capabilities is huge. The one serious advantage of the IDS CRM system, that we maybe take for granted, is that you can take all of the data and history you want to retain for someone and keep it. I really like the fact we don’t lose any customer history.
I also really like the products module. It’s outstanding! It gives our salespeople access at their fingertips as to what’s in stock, on order, available, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s included in the Pro version that we’ve signed up for in November with regards to the ‘customer wants’ and ‘just arrived’ module.”
IDS: In what ways has your business improved since implementing IDS Astra CRM?
Ross: “We actually understand follow-up now and are able to follow up with our customers. The email campaign system is nice. We could do more of it, but we don’t want to inundate our customers. However, we are confident now, as a business, that we are corresponding regularly with our customers. Our salespeople are more confident with the follow-up now and use the templates. It took a little bit of time to get them up and running, but they’ve figured it out. We just have a lot more confidence in our customer database because IDS CRM forced us to clean up our database. I have more confidence in the quality of our database and the ability to data mine exists.”
IDS: How has IDS CRM helped you in maintaining return customers?
Ross: “It goes back to the ability to consciously contact customers, have a follow-up process and a follow-up game plan. It ultimately comes back to the individual doing the work. It’s a heck of a lot easier to accomplish it if we have a plan. The follow-up templates are great. We’ve customized them to accommodate each salesperson’s ability and desire. It’s allowed for automation of our customer follow-up. We can easily go into the dashboard and analyze each salesperson’s performance.”
IDS: Can you give us an example of the type of follow-up you conduct with a customer and how you utilize IDS Astra CRM?
Ross: “This system allows the salesperson to have steps that have an action. It sounds simple, but for a sold follow-up, rather than having the salesperson input each individual timeline process, it automatically defaults follow-up emails, calls, etc. based off of the parameters we’ve set up. For example, if the system asks for a 30-day follow-up via phone, our salesperson knows to call them. It’s our need, as a business, to follow-up and this system gives our salespeople the heads up to do it thoroughly.”
IDS: In addition to a good CRM, having a well-trained sales staff is critical to success. How do you ensure your team has the proper training and utilizes your CRM properly?
Ross: “Our CRM manager, Jasmine, has recently put a CRM buddy system in place. We’ve discovered some employees are really strong at utilizing CRM and some aren’t, so having a solid system in place where someone who is comfortable with CRM helps someone who isn’t. If you aren’t computer savvy, it’s not easy.
We’ve learned that this system allows you to make you bigger than yourself. If you record your information properly and are gone on vacation and your customer comes in, the system allows another employee to step up and pick up right where you left off. If we didn’t have the sales processes recorded, the customer is re-inventing the wheel and it makes us look like we don’t know what we’re doing. Our processes also allow for the salesperson to be attached to the customer and have proof of their activity. It makes it easier for the salesperson to demonstrate that they have done their job properly. The system supports our culture, but one of the challenges is the skill set of the individual. It’s a balance because the best salesperson isn’t always the best at entering information and vice versa.
When we’re hiring new people, we actually have the ability now to show them how they are going to track their customers with IDS CRM. When we bring new people in, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel of training them on the entire system. They just have to embrace the CRM system. How do we ensure they have proper training? It comes back to attitude and commitment to do it and we’ve had to create Jasmine’s position to ensure proper follow-up is done. There are certain times of the season where our salespeople have the time to follow-up, but at other times they need help.”
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IDS: In addition to CRM, which features in the IDS Astra product do you find most beneficial and how have these features helped your business?
Ross: “The Finance and Insurance module, FI Point, is outstanding! It’s helped our business by giving us the ability to provide customers with a low-pressure, non-threatening environment to make a choice based off of their needs. The menu-selling system is awesome because it’s a softer selling approach into supporting the customer and their decision, and the choices we can provide as a dealer. It enhances and increases the professionalism of our business.
As far as Astra G2 is concerned, the inventory module is still the best. It’s strong and it gives us flexibility. We like the way we can work the information.
As far as service is concerned, Astra G2 is a much easier system to teach a service advisor who has a good understanding of Windows. It’s also easier to understand the sales quotes in the G2 system. The sales quote drives what the customer is expecting. It supports positive communication on the service side. All of our service techs have monitors at their workstations so it allows for increased efficiency because they can do all of their punch in and punch outs and parts lookup from their station. It also helps them close work orders more efficiently.”
IDS: Finally, what advice would you give to someone that is looking to buy dealer management software for their RV or marine business?
Ross: “The one thing that’s interesting is that I’ve recommended IDS to some dealers and they’ve ended up making their decisions mostly on price. They’ve ended up buying other systems and then I hear them complain about the lack of features and functionality in their systems that are standard in my IDS system. It’s a great system! You need to understand what your needs are and then go one step further. The major benefit into having IDS Astra G2 and CRM is that you guys work to make good products better. We had to make some big decisions and our employees had to embrace the software to make it worthwhile. It’s a matter of looking at what a dealership wants to do and to understand the importance of database integration.
Another thing you have to decide is how hard you want to work. Do you want to put a lot more time and effort into your software, or do you want it to do the work for you? We’ve had other software systems where we’ve had to do a lot of the work but with IDS, it’s more streamlined. That alone makes the system worth it.”
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