Go Fast and Break Things

The title of this blog post originated from a thought-provoking interview with Chad Mitchell, senior director of digital communications at Walmart. In the interview he lays out a philosophy that every industry – especially automotive – should embrace. The main point he makes is that our digital and physical world is evolving at light speed and, the car business especially, tends to find itself far behind leading brands when it comes to customer experience, communications and…well, adopting new things.

As an industry we tend to sit back and wait for “new” things to be proven before we even try them. That “sit back and watch” strategy typically finds us scrambling to catch up when that new thing punches us between the eyes and we realize that we need to be doing (or adopting) this “thing.”

Think about it — there was a time dealerships didn’t believe they needed a website. Now we’re arguing the effectiveness or necessity of social media platforms, advertising, online sales and F&I transactions — along with in-store technology designed to expedite transaction times. And while we do that, the competition is embracing these new tools and attracting consumers.

Mr. Mitchell isn’t suggesting that businesses drop their tried and true core processes, but states that they should, “try things quickly and be willing to shift and go in a different direction. Don’t be afraid to take chances and learn.” For a leader in an organization as big as Walmart, one would think that perhaps caution would be the better part of valor and, the most prudent business decision. One can only imagine the challenges an organization as large as Walmart experiences when it comes to customer experience, loyalty and reputation. With so many locations, customer touchpoints and the sheer volume of customers, Walmart has challenges on a store-by-store level and overall as an organization. It’s certainly possible that employee interaction and the customer experience at one location can differ from another, simply due to management, staff, location and resources. Well, the key to success, according to Mitchell, is to determine what new endeavors require more care. And, in the retail business, he states that the one thing which should be at the top of the list is customer experience and loyalty.

As consumers get groomed by major brands to expect certain types of transactional experiences, they naturally expect those same frictionless experiences from other retailers they do business with, including auto dealers. Conquesting the competition is sure to become more prevalent for forward-thinking organizations that adopt new technology and offer an easier customer experience and transaction. That’s why most major automotive groups produce and roll out technology, products and services designed specifically to nurture customer loyalty.

It would be a wise decision for us all to pay attention to what’s going on in the world and not drag our feet when it comes to trying new things. While change can be scary, it’s also inevitable. It’s much better to be leading the pack than trying to catch up with it. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon the things that have earned customer loyalty. Core values and tried-and-true processes that your customers love should always be handled – and changed – with care.

Mitchell makes a great final point in the article where he states, “We don’t want to break the heirloom china; we want to break the paper plates.”

Don’t be afraid to try new things, adopt new technology or change processes. Just be prepared to react and alter paths should you find something either failing or succeeding. By doing this, your business should be more future-proof and in-line with customer expectations and, in turn, enjoy greater customer retention, loyalty and acquisition.

The post Go Fast and Break Things appeared first on Digital Dealer.

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The Path to Greater Profitability via Customer Service Improvement

The Path to Greater Profitability via Customer Service Improvement

The First Ever Digital Dealer Live Session – Webinar
Date/Time: April 11, 2017 at 2:30 PM ET


// Webinar summary

Most dealers have a BDC, or HAD a BDC, but still have issues managing response times, quality responses, and CSI scores that have a negative effect on profitability and reputation. By viewing the journey from the customer perspective, you’ll be able to identify opportunities within your current operations. These opportunities already exist and will allow your team to create a more positive customer service experience, which will help increase manufacturer earnings, CSI/SSI scores, and greater profits across all departments. By focusing on three management tenets: effort, skill, and trust, you’ll be able to drive the right message from within and gain improved ROI from all facets of your team, department, or entire store’s operations.

// Key takeaways

• Learn how measuring EFFORT will lead to greater employee happiness and productivity while providing the accountability needed for growth.
• Learn how to identify SKILL to increase the ROI of measured effort, and find the best opportunities for improvement via continuing education.
• Learn how to build TRUST to inspire confidence from employees and customers alike with transparency and how to set appropriate expectations.

Chris Sondesky
Executive Director, CF Search Marketing

Chris has spent the past 17 years learning every aspect of the retail automobile industry. From his time as a wholesale buyer responsible for 50+ units/week including transport and reconditioning, getting his hands dirty working as a technician, managing sales department operations as a GSM and later a GM, to building one of the largest single point Business Development / Internet Departments on the east coast for large franchised dealerships, consistently delivering over 800 fresh sales opportunities monthly. He brings that experience to key national accounts at CF Search Marketing as he’s developed a one-of-a-kind process solution just approved by FCA Digital.

The post The Path to Greater Profitability via Customer Service Improvement appeared first on Digital Dealer.

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NAFTA, Donald Trump & the Chicken Tax: History Has Come Home to Roost!

The election of Donald Trump has created a mixture of hope and trepidation amongst dealers, automotive manufacturers, parts suppliers, and in the whole automotive ecosystem in general.

Will the Trump administration lower taxes, deregulate the industry and usher in an economic boom time? Or, will the auto industry be subject to massive upheavals in terms of its manufacturing centers, tariffs, and tax policy creating a period of instability?

I could speculate on what will occur, but that would be a fruitless enterprise.

Instead, I’d like to focus on chickens. Yes, chickens — And not just regular chickens, but American chickens with a ticket to ride to Germany.

One of the great truths about history is that it is indeed stranger than fiction. How does our modern day political and economic situation in the auto industry relate to chickens? Well, as it turns out, there is a direct and integral link between the modern automotive industry and chickens.

For the past couple of decades, up until the emergence of Donald Trump, industry insiders had thought that this automotive ‘chicken’ connection was no longer a factor in our modern world. They were wrong.

Ok, so what’s the deal with the chickens?

To know, you have to get into a little history. Back in the 1960’s, Germans (West) found themselves in a sudden and deep love affair with American chickens. After World War II meat was scarce in Germany, and even by the early 1960’s widely available and affordable meat in the German marketplace was a foreign concept. Enter the world of the American chicken industry. Starting in the late 1950’s American chicken exporters began to flood the German market with cheap, American-raised Chickens. Other European countries also got into importing American chickens en masse, such as France, Netherlands, etc.

German families were ecstatic to finally have an affordable every day protein available and this seemed to be a perfect economic win-win. Except it wasn’t. German chicken farmers who were boxed out and outpriced by the American chicken glut complained to the West German government. In 1961, along with their allies in France, Netherlands, and other Common Market countries in Europe, they imposed sudden and steep tariffs on American chicken exports.

This reduced the American chicken export market by nearly a quarter overnight and ignited a mini-trade war between the U.S and many European countries. At the same time as the chicken fight in Europe, Volkswagen, along with a few other notable European automotive manufacturers, had begun exporting pickup trucks and other cargo vehicles into the U.S, and they were becoming extremely popular.

In 1963, after a breakdown in negotiations, the government of Lyndon Johnson decided to penalize European truck exports and imposed “The Chicken Tax.” The American Chicken Tax wasn’t actually targeted at chickens of course, but instead was aimed at vehicles that could be used to transport goods. This meant pickup trucks, commercial trucks — anything with a flat bed or cargo storage capability. Worse than that, it was a massive tariff — 25%! And beyond the retaliation to the German/European Chicken Tariff, the new Chicken Tax was aimed at all vehicles not produced in the United States.

In effect, the U.S government took the European chicken trade war as an opportunity to protect American vehicle manufacturers from all worldwide competitors in the pickup truck sector. The Chicken Tax had a wide-ranging effect in the U.S auto industry. American trucks had a clear advantage for nearly 30 years, allowing them to dominate the space in the 1980’s, not having to compete with lower cost Asian exports. The Chicken Tax provided a cocoon in which the U.S truck market flourished. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s, Japanese and other manufacturers were able to avoid the Chicken Tax by assembling and building vehicles within the United States, but this was considered a victory for the U.S economy as it brought jobs and resources to the country.

After NAFTA was passed in the mid 1990’s, the Chicken Tax was suspended for vehicles manufactured in Canada and Mexico. This set the stage for the huge influx and production boom of truck assembly plants in Mexico from automakers all over the world, including U.S. manufacturers.

Indeed, much of the political rancor related to the automotive industry from the 2016 election was centered around the concept of American manufacturers who’d moved production to Mexico (seeking lower cost production), potentially being penalized by the Trump Administration for doing so. In fact, many U.S plants would likely have never moved if it were not for NAFTA extending protection against the Chicken Tax for companies operating out of Mexico.

What a tangled web we weave! An American tariff law that helped build the U.S dominated pickup truck industry which was voided in the case of NAFTA countries, is now the primary mechanism and threat to U.S manufacturers should the Trump Administration remove the NAFTA provisions altogether.

Truly, the long term decision making moves from some of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers could be severely disrupted should NAFTA be canceled.

It would seem that the Chicken Tax, in all its glory, has returned to relevancy after several decades of loopholes rendered it inert. Could it be that Donald Trump and his administration are rabid Chicken Tax supporters?

Have the chickens come home to roost?

The post NAFTA, Donald Trump & the Chicken Tax: History Has Come Home to Roost! appeared first on Digital Dealer.

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Is Less, More?

Sometimes even asking the question sounds strange. Is less, more? I guess that would depend on what we are talking about. If we look football the more touchdowns you have is better, but in golf the less strokes you have the better you played. When it comes to working with a company to build a website for your car dealership then I would have to say that Less is More.

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Indifference, a website’s worst enemy

When a car dealer, or any business for that matter, does not care about the performance of the their website then they don’t care about the business. Saying they don’t care…, Wow, that statements sounds harsh doesn’t it? The problems that the independent car dealers deal with on a daily bases is vast. I understand. Most dealers will just find a cheap website development company that offers other services and let them put it together for them. There is no plan and no search engine optimization. But is it because they don’t care or is it because they don’t know any better? I think it is mostly that they don’t know any better. That is why I want to give you a few pointers when it comes to websites and how they can be effective inbound marketing tools.

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3 steps to create a marketing strategy in your blog


3 steps to create a marketing strategy in your blog

A few weeks ago I wrote about Best Practices for writing a blog. Now it is time to take that info and push it just a little be further. We want to look at how to come up with quality content that is going to help your blog grow your web presence.

If I just started writing blog posts without some idea of how it would help my website or my online presence then I would never get anywhere. If all I wrote about was baseball when I sell football gear I would not have relevant content for the search engines to pick up on. That is why I want to have a plan for marketing my dealership on my blog. When I use the term marketing I am referring to the selling of yourself, your dealership and your inventory. To do that you need to be found by search engines. 

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Online Reputation

Do online reviews and testimonials really matter to car dealers? Will reviews and testimonials help you sell more cars? Should car dealers care about their online reputation? I feel the answer is clear. Unequivocally Yes!! Of course it matters. But, If that’s true then why do so many independent dealers not care about their online reputation or posting testimonials?

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Single Page Vs Multi Page Websites for Used Car Dealerships

When it comes to website design there is no doubt that responsive websites are the wave of the future . There are two main designs that are out there right now, the traditional multi page design and the single page design. Most car dealers don’t care about how it looks. They just want the website design that works the best. No doubt there but which is it?

We will take a look at what both designs are best geared for then you can make up your own mind.


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Responsive Vs Mobile Websites

I work for a development company so I have been asked asked by Car Dealers the difference since I started. What is the difference of a Responsive website to a Mobile Website and is there any benifits of one over the other? There is a difference but before we get into what is better for you and your dealership, I think it is important to understand the different features between a Mobile Site and a Responsive Site.

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