Past perfect

2014MayCSI

This one has been hanging around for the past month, and I’ve been meaning to share it.  Another 100% 90-day customer satisfaction score blend.  Blended, because it’s an aggregate of seven questions on the purchase-and-delivery survey:

How satisfied were you that you were treated in a professional and courteous manner?

How satisfied were you with the sales consultant’s willingness to take the time necessary to thoroughly understand your vehicle needs?

How satisfied were you with the sales consultant’s knowledge of GM vehicles?

Were you offered an orientation tour of the dealership, including the service department?

How satisfied were you with the explanation of your vehicle’s features and operations?

Based on your overall purchase/lease and delivery experience, how satisfied are you with the dealership?

Based on your overall purchase/lease and delivery experience, would you recommend this dealership?

Not sure why the use of underscore for the conjunction; it tends to draw one’s attention and places unnecessary emphasis — the last two questions serve to summarize the requested information and are traditionally considered the most important in the inexact science of indexing a customer’s satisfaction.

Anyway, the photo above is my score for May, 2014, showing customers purchasing in January, February and March, surveyed through April and reported for a 90-day rolling average, and a corresponding 12 months of purchasers surveyed for the 12-month rolling average.

I finally got a less than perfect score from an April, 2014, purchaser, which brought my June, 2014, 90-day rolling average down to a 95% top-box score.  Still respectable.  My record stands at five months of purchasers in a row who responded to the survey scoring me perfectly.  No one’s perfect.

by Joshua Michael Friedman

Being a player. Being a manager. Being a player/manager.

I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by @LawsonOwen — the topic, implementing a business development center (BDC), i.e. call center, where you have specialists in a dealership for on-ramp activities (inbound calls, lead-response processes and outbound calling throughout the relationship cycle).  Specialization and technology within the auto dealership continue to re-shape tradtional roles and departmental structures.  That said, unless you can put up with slouches, everyone at the dealership has to make it their priority to provide awesome customer contact, as in being a player/manager, and actually step up to the plate.

pete-rose-001295159

Pete Rose not only taught the next generation how-to, once he became a manager.  He stayed in the lineup, got on base and put runs on the board every way he could.  I can’t recite Lawson’s analogy word-for-word, but made it clear that in the auto business, a manager doesn’t sit behind a desk and tell people what to do or say (manage a desk) — he or she gets in the game, and he/she has to account for his/her performance, one-on-one, with customers.  Just saying.

As a matter of fact, I’m certain, the sales meeting — once the hallowed domain of the sales manager and the obligatory motivational speech — is highly over-rated.  Myself, I’ve learned I’m much more effective with sales people, one-on-one.

I come from a long line of managers.

My grandfather had to start over when the depression dashed his hopes of entrepreneurship and became a highly sucessful, highly respected agent for Metropolitan Life and devoted his senior years to benevolent organizations, known by his integrity and descretion in matters of charity.

My father was a research scientist in defense department labs, but rose to senior levels within the National Institutes of Health, known for his ethics and respect for the discipline of science in the review and award of research funds, no matter how politicized the environment.

I’ve got a younger cousin managing on a much more visible stage, known for his wit, intellect, calm under pressure and ability to relate to younger players.  Not precisely a player/manager — twenty years as a catcher takes a toll on the body — but as close as you’re going see to a player/manager in uniform, at least this year, in baseball.

(see: http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2014/04/07/tigers-led-by-cool-calm-and-collected-brad-ausmus/)

2013-14-tsr-hot-stove-3a-brad-ausmus

 

So what’s with all of the sport/car-business analogy?  Last week, I finally watched Moneyball — loved it — so I know why the Internet side of the auto business could relate, inviting Billy Beane to keynote the Driving Sales Exec Summit in 2012.  The tools of technology and their true believers bringing an aging, tradition-bound business kicking and screaming into the 21st century, for starters.  If they just let us show them how it will work, it will work wonders!  And by virtue of Truth, with a capital “T,” therein lies life’s deeper meanings.

 

Moneyball

 

 

I’d be the first to tell you that sports metaphors are just that: metaphors.  Many a lazy sales manager has filled a motivational sales meeting with grafted content from the game of the week.  But I also grew up in a family where said father and grandfather worshipped the Red Sox, and baseball was an excellent way to make conversation that bridged a myriad of generation gaps — as with my own son, a bay-area tatooed vegan who’s allegiance to the San Francisco Giants is unshakable, there’s more life lessons on the road ahead to be modulated by sport.

by Joshua Michael Friedman

Again and again

It can happen again and again.

 

90-day rolling average of customers purchasing in November, December and January, surveyed through February, reported in March (highest possible Top Box score, 100%; highest possible Index score, 4.00)

March-CSI-1

 

 

 

Followed by: 90-day rolling average of customers purchasing in December, January and February, surveyed through March, reported in April (highest possible Top Box score, 100%; highest possible Index score, 4.00)

April-CSI-1

by Joshua Michael Friedman

sunday

 

New Bright Idea

I love to take photos (and these are some of my travel photos, from Montreal and the lake region north of Milan) but that’s not, strictly speaking, on topic for this blog.  Sure, it’s Sunday, and I’d much rather share an artifact from a non-obiligated sphere of interest.  Normally, upon waking and shaking out the cobwebs, my Sunday is also a day of work.  It’s the best time to respond to the 24/7 requests that come in — both as a matter of respect for my clients own time, and to gain advantage over my competition.  Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.

However, tomorrow (Monday), I’m in class.  I won’t be at the dealership to continue a conversation that I start today (Sunday).  So I won’t be — what I value above all — truly helpful by reaching out today.

Baveno Archway

Just one of the many incremental changes going on in my professional life.  It’s not a one-man effort to serve our customers online any longer.  My role is to be just as helpful to my coworkers as I have been to our shoppers, in getting them confident and productive in representing our business online.

Today, I’m experiencing that stunning glimpse of the obvious: I can’t do this all by myself.

Guide Dogs

 

by Joshua Michael Friedman

to be likeable

Max: “Simon the Likeable?  Who’s he?”

Chief: “He’s KAOS’ most irresistible agent. A man so unassuming, so modest, so sweet and warm that you take one look at him, and you like him.”

http://getsmart.wikia.com/wiki/File:Image.jpg

Chief: “That man is the most ruthless, cunning, evil and treacherous KAOS agent in the entire world. And a heck of a nice guy.”

waitress

Waitress: “I get off at three o’ clock.”

Simon: “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m busy this afternoon. Maybe some other time.”

Waitress: “There won’t be another time, I’m gonna kill myself.”

Simon: “Don’t do that.”

Waitress: “Ok, whatever you say.”

Max and Simon

The car business is changing for the better.  Proof positive, I can’t remember how long — it’s been a long, long time — since I worked with any Sneaky Petes or Slick Willies.  The men and women who’ve remained, persevered and succeeded (at least the ones who work with me) are the Simon the Likeables.

Jack Gilford was Simon the Likeable.  And Simon the Likeable was Jack Gilford.

First stop, Wikipedia.org:

Gilford was born Jacob Aaron Gellman on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His parents were Romanian-born Jewish immigrants Sophie “Susksa” (née Jackness), who owned a restaurant, and Aaron Gellman, a furrier.[3][4] Gilford was the second of three sons, with an older brother Murray (“Moisha”) and a younger brother Nathaniel (“Natie”).

Gilford was discovered working in a pharmacy by his mentor Milton Berle. While working in amateur theater, he competed with other talented youngsters, including a young Jackie Gleason. He started doing imitations and impersonations. His first appearance on film was a short entitled Midnight Melodies where he did his imitations of George Jessel, Rudy Vallee and Harry Langdon. He developed some unique impressions that became his trademarks — most notably, one of “split pea soup coming to a furious boil” using only his face. Other unusual impressions he created were a fluorescent light going on in a dark room, John D. Rockefeller Sr. imitating Jimmy Durante, and impressions of animals.[citation needed]

One of Gilford’s specialties was pantomime, and this talent was put to good use by director George Abbott when he cast Gilford as the silent King Sextimus in Once upon a Mattress (Off-Broadway, 1959). Gilford shared the stage with a young Carol Burnett in this production, and reprised his performance with her in two separate televised versions of the show, in 1964 and in 1972.[citation needed]

Gilford’s career was derailed for a time during the 1950s and McCarthyism. He was an activist who campaigned for social change, integration and labor unions. He was quite active both socially and politically in left wing causes, as was his wife, Madeline Lee.[1] The couple were implicated[clarification needed] for their alleged Communist sympathies by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Gilford and Madeline were specifically named by choreographer Jerome Robbins in his testimony to the HUAC.[1][6]

Gilford and his wife were called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953. The couple had difficulty finding work during much of the rest of the 1950s due to theHollywood blacklist. The couple often had to borrow money from friends to make ends meet. He found work towards the end of the 1950s and during the early 1960s with the end of the McCarthy era. He made his comeback as Hysterium in the 1962 Broadway musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He co-starred in the play with his close friend, Zero Mostel. Ironically, this particular production was also choreographed by Jerome Robbins, who had previously testified before HUAC in 1953.[6]

Gilford became successful mostly through roles on the Broadway stage, such as Drink To Me Only, Romanoff and Juliet, and The Diary of Anne Frank. He later enjoyed success in film and television, as well as a series of nationwide television commercials for Cracker Jack.[6]

Growing up, it became commonplace for my mom to name-check the people on tv as her friends and acquaintances, whether it was McHale’s Navy (Jane Dulo and Billy Sands), All in the Family (Bea Arthur) or Get Smart, such as “that’s Jack Gilford. He is really the nicest person you could ever meet.  I met him and his wife.  She was just as nice as he was.”

Each of these links provide a window on the experiences my mom had with the Dramatic Workshop and the Tamiment Playhouse, a who’s who of mid-century American acting and comedic talent:

http://www.amazon.com/Every-Week-Broadway-Revue-Contributions/dp/0313279969

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamiment/sets/72157612246692049/

http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-366

http://www.amazon.com/The-Piscator-Notebook-Judith-Malina/dp/041560074X

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramatic_Workshop

There’s a book on the shelf my mom kept, gift of Rod Steiger, when they were classmates along with Tony Curtis, Harry Belafonte and many other recognizable name and faces.  And a production script for All The Kings Men, which I still haven’t read but can’t wait to start.   I remember hearing that Harry Belafonte had more talent in his little finger than all the others put together.  And Tony Curtis was pestering someone to get off the phone so he could use it.

What sticks with me most was something she was most impressed with, that the most talented had the least ego.  They were the nicest, kindest and most generous with their time.  And Jack Gilford, I take it, was so nice, the Simon character was likely invented just for him. (And in subtext, there is a real tribute to a real man who endured and kept true to himself and his gifts.)

I want to be Jack Gilford nice, Jack Gilford kind.  To have all the powers of enchantment, like Simon the Likeable, but use them for good, CONTROL rather than KAOS.

Get Smart, created by Mel Brooks with Buck Henry, screen shots from “And Baby Makes Four”

by Joshua Michael Friedman

100

CSI

More than 11 years ago, I purchased a new home, built by the local Centex (now Pulte) division.  That’s a long time ago, but one event feels as if it happened yesterday.  We had been in the home for a few weeks, and the “punch list” team came in to remedy those small problems that remained after we closed on the newly built property.  You know, a crooked molding here, a crack in a drywall seam there.  Small stuff.  The biggest deal that I recall was a door that didn’t quite fit in the frame, so the bolt didn’t quite fit through the strike plate, and the wood tended to stick in the upper corner of the door jamb rather than swing freely when opening or closing (although that symptom varied).  My fear was that the whole house was built crooked, but from corner to corner they cheated so that it all fit, except all of the imprecisions met up at an impossibly non-right angle in this room that no door would ever fit.  (What do I know about home building?)

The team showed up early in the morning, probably 8 am or so, as I was on my way out to start my day at work.  We briefly went over the items on the list, our plan was to let the workers have the run of the house, and I’d check it out when I got home at the end of the day.  Before getting started, the main guy in charge corners me and remarks that I work in the car business, so I know all about those darn “customer satisfaction surveys,” and, well, he’d really be much appreciated if I were to fill one out right now, before I left, telling his people that I was “completely satisfied,” and they’d get down to the work at hand.

Now, as a point of clarification, yes, in fact, as the sales manager/general manager of two Saturn dealerships over the preceding 10 years, I did have a great deal of familiarity with what Saturn called “standards” scores.  CSI was an “old world” term, and connoted just that kind of cajoling and/or arm twisting in order to get your customer satisfaction index where it needed to be.

Standards, on the other hand, were impartial measures of how well a Saturn retailer conformed to a thoroughly mapped-out process in both sales and service, and the customer scoring the retail facility was asked specifically if any personnel sought to influence the outcome of the standards survey in any way that felt less than comfortable — a yes score there was deducted from the statistical index produced by the other affirmative survey questions.

door

Needless to say, 11 years later, I’m not at Saturn any longer.  And my door still does not fit into its jamb, nor does its bolt clear past the outline of the strike plate hole.  Oh, it varies, from season to season, based on the physics of wood and drywall expansion and contraction due to differences in heat and humidity, I guess.  And at Chevrolet, we don’t have quite the same BS detector built into our “CSI” surveys that Saturn did.

All the more reason that I take pride in the latest CSI report, where I scored a “top box” 100% completely satisfied three-month rating.  I still don’t show anyone the “right way” to fill out the survey, or coach a car buyer that “anything less than completely satisfied is a failing grade,” or any other canned sentiment that rings falsely to my own ears.

Granted, I don’t want a mediocre score, either.  So instead of simly acting as if the survey did not exist, I keep mindful of it — I just don’t worry my customer about it.

What I do aim for is something I’ve been referring, for lack of a better description, to as being truly helpful, as a means of making a lasting impression, and from that a sale,  following up after the sale and offering non-stop good customer service along the way.  If I ever finish this book that Renee Stuart sent me, I’d probably find better words to describe that approach.  Jay Baer calls it Youtility, and here’s his book:

img-youtility-book

Essentially, it’s as its subtitle reads, why smart marketing is about help, not hype.  Or, in the context of our dealership’s understood need to see high levels of customer service throughout the organization, it’s about taking that one-on-one helpfulness that actually earns the highest rankings of CSI to the next level and providing services as a new and more trusted form of marketing, something other than self-serving, boastful claims.  Rather than taking the traditional Sunday full-color newsprint advertising and migrating it to a web page.  Or pushing television ads onto social media.

Instead, it’s about winning hearts and minds by actually serving in a welcome and memorable way.  Here’s a great review.

by Joshua Michael Friedman

Dear Mr. Shopper, If You Break This Chain, Expect 40 Years of Bad Luck

[ed. note: Starting a new career in internet sales? These fully customize-able “templates” are suitable for any dealership, any brand, any market, also available ¡en español tambien!]

 

As seen on automotivedigitalmarketing.com:

From: response.crm@abcmotors.com

To: carl.shopper@verisun.com

Re: Your Internet Price Request

Hello Carl,

Thank you for giving us an opportunity to earn your business! Our goal is to make your online shopping as easy and hassle free as possible. We are here to help you regardless of where you are in the process.

One of my Internet Sales Consultants will contact you shortly by email or phone if you provided a phone number. This will help us answer your questions, and allow us to present you with the best sales experience possible.

If you have submitted this request during our regular business hours we will send you a response within two hours or less. If your request was submitted during non-business hours, at night, on a Sunday or a holiday, we will get back to you within two hours of our next business day.

Feel free to contact me directly if I can be of any assistance and thanks again for contacting us!

Again, thank you for choosing ABC Motors.

Jim Johnson

General Manager

ABC Motors

(800) 555-1212

From: jfriedman.crm@abcmotors.com

To: carl.shopper@verisun.com

Re: 2013 Brand X 123di – Price Request

Hello Mr. Shopper,

This is Joshua Michael Friedman from ABC Motors. I have received your request for a new 2013 Brand X 123di.

This model starts at $12,345 and goes up from there depending on which model trim, colors and equipment you select. I do have several like this one here in stock.

I know this information is important to you and I want to make sure you receive it. If I don’t hear from you shortly, I will contact you again to set up your no-obligation test drive. Thank you so much for the opportunity to earn your business.

Sincerely,

Joshua Michael Friedman
Internet Sales Manager

ABC Motors
(800) 555-1212

From: jfriedman.crm@abcmotors.com

To: carl.shopper@verisun.com

Re: Good News

Mr. Carl Shopper:

Great News!!!
We currently have the 2013 Brand X 123di in stock if you would like to come and see us and get a full product presentation. If you need more product information please click HERE or I can send you a digital copy of a showroom brochure.

I also wanted to let you know that I am currently on fire, and it would mean a great deal to me if you were to schedule an appointment where you could douse the flames that are consuming me, in person, at your earliest convenience.

Contact me by responding to this email or call me at 800-555-1212.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thank you for your interest,

Joshua Michael Friedman

Internet Sales Manager

ABC Motors

(800) 555-1212

From: jfriedman.crm@abcmotors.com

To: carl.shopper@verisun.com

Re: Help Me Help You

Dear Carl,

We have been out of a contact for a while and I want to make certain I have provided
all the information you requested to make an informed buying decision. Our inventory has
changed since we last communicated, and I realize your needs may have changed as well.

If you have any questions, please let me know. My commitment is to provide
you with pricing information that is clear and direct, and to make your Internet
buying process hassle free. I welcome any comments or suggestions from you
regarding how I could improve my sales process.

My situation re: being on fire is still the same as it was when we first began this correspondence.

If you have purchased a vehicle elsewhere, just drop me a note and I will
update my records.

Thank you,

Joshua Michael Friedman
Internet Manager
ABC Motors

From: jfriedman.crm@abcmotors.com

To: carl.shopper@verisun.com

Re: Have you been shopping lately?

Dear Carl Shopper,

It has been awhile since you contacted our Dealership. Our inventory has changed
considerably since we last spoke, and if we did not have the vehicle you were looking for
before, it could be available now.

Also, our Dealership and Manufacturer Incentives change monthly so we might
be in a position to make you a much better deal than we were able to a month ago.

If you have any questions, please let me know. My commitment is to make
your Internet purchase anxiety free. Please contact me at your earliest
convenience and I will work up some fresh numbers that reflect our current
sales incentives.

If you have purchased a vehicle elsewhere, just drop me a note and I will
update my records.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you soon,

Joshua Michael Friedman

Internet Sales Manager

ABC Motors

From: bwendell.crm@abcmotors.com

To: carl.shopper@verisun.com

Re: Ddo you have a trade in?

Hello Carl,

Thank you for your Internet inquiry made several months ago. We are your complete buying resource – from information, to demonstration, to pricing and deliveryat ABC Motors. I do want you to know you will have an online automotive buying experience like no other. Please do not hesitate to contact me at (800) 555-1212, or simply reply to this email if you have any questions.

If you have a vehicle to trade in, my Pre-Owned Vehicle Manager will need to see and drive it in order to give the highest possible value to you. Please do not hesitate to contact me at (800) 555-1212 to set up an appointment for a test drive.

Used Vehicles are in short supply and high demand, so now is a really great time for us to give you top dollar for your trade, up to 125% of Kelley Blue Book value.*

Thanks for the opportunity to earn your business.

Sincerely,

Robert Begull
Used and Pre-Owned Sales Manager

ABC Motors

(800) 555-1212

by Joshua Michael Friedman

This is getting old.

A short history of the Internet, so far, as it relates to the retail automotive world.

This isn’t about politics.  What this is about is getting old and in the way.

Nor is this about Newt Gingrich, particularly, or phones, although smart phones were ostensibly the topic of this video-turned-Internet-meme, posted a lifetime,  i.e. 11 days, ago.  And smart phones are currently the biggest catalyst of change in the retail automotive world.  But this is not about smart phones.

In my chosen profession online auto marketing, business practices, as they relate to technology, need to be learned, unlearned and relearned at an impressive rate.  Continual changes of every kind, especially technology changes, drive rapid change in customer behaviors.  Not unlike the fast streaking comet-like trajectory of these kind of virtual water cooler conversation starters, such as the former national opinion leader above and his amazing lack of knowledge.

Case in point, most car dealerships discovered some time, maybe 10-15 years ago, that a key buying segment researched, shopped and bought via newly created “Internet” marketing channels; shopping online also meant you were  rejecting the traditional car-buying experience.

Not yet certain how many, or what share of, customers were “Internet shoppers,” dealerships tended to staff up this function with: a.) self-directed sales savvy individuals who thrived in communicating in the ways we communicate online, with skills that seemed to come more or less naturally, or: b.) misfits struggling in the sales force who showed great facility for unpacking and hooking up the dealerships’ computers and networking cables.

And those who ran the dealerships didn’t typically pay it much mind at first until they saw some of their counterparts knocking the cover off the ball, thanks to some gifted individuals in category a.

Category a. tended to profile younger, but not always so, and were more often than not a “new breed,” filling the ranks of car dealerships for the first time, while category b. was reserved for more traditional tinkerers, hobbyists and other retirees who often found their second careers inside car dealerships and who, in an earlier time, would likely have been sent off to the side to handle inventory trades.

Soon enough (i.e. three or four years into this sea change) dealer principals began to acknowledge that upwards of 60-70-80% or higher of all customers were researching online if not shopping and contacting their dealerships directly using tools of the Internet, and that significant investments in these tools of technology, along the major shifts in marketing and merchandising dollars spent, along with micromanagement-like control over people and processes were well-warranted.

Are you with me?

This is 40.  It’s the new 50.

I finally got around to seeing the Judd Apatow mid-life-crisis dramedy This is 40 this past weekend.  Through the eyes of a well-fed and nevertheless uncomfortable couple, I watched as each partner comes to terms with their lives not turning out as planned.  I was particularly interested in the story line of Paul Rudd’s character Pete who hitched his wagon to the dying record industry, carving an unwanted niche in the revival of 70s/80s/90s artists like Graham Parker, The Pixies and Ryan Adams, great artists who never quite got their due the first time around.  Rudd’s character’s miscalculations in the music business which long ago passed him by proved cringe-worthy, as did the realization that he was seemingly lost at the relatively young age of 40.  If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.  And Pete thinks he is forward-thinking.

Graham Parker, who’s a lot closer to Newt Gingrich’s age, ends up schooling Pete on the realities of the music business, enabling us at home watching this minor train wreck (great movie though) to feel a lot better about things.  Parker knows one key is maintaining a small nut to crack, so just selling one song to Glee makes his year, or as Willie Sutton once said, that’s where the money is.  Don’t worry about Graham Parker, Pete.  He’s doing alright.  Worry about yourself.

As time compresses, I imagine I can make a fair comparison to my industry, in that there must be Pete’s counterparts in the car business, fond of the first Internet age, holding onto their “Internet departments,” wondering why there are Internet customers who contact you online and some that don’t.  There are Internet shoppers who contact the dealership using the latest, greatest Internet tool a.k.a the smart phone to do what’s most immediate — plus, filling out static forms doesn’t work so well on the smart phone touch screen.  And there are shoppers who just get a great vibe visiting the web and feel, based on the way the store is marketed and merchandised online, comfortable about walking into the bricks and mortar facility, no appointment-setting ritual needed, ready to roll.  IRL.

All of which makes me think that an “Internet department” in this day and age is kind of quaint at best, and old-school thinking at worst should the Internet shopper walk in unaided only to find that the rest of the sales floor does not conduct business like it appears to be conducted online.  Or should the “Internet department” be grossly understaffed and the rest of the sales force untrained in the ways of today’s shoppers, it’s kind of an outdated concept.

One thing that hasn’t changed.  All things Internet are changing at a rapid pace.  Which makes the argument for staying flexible and adapting to reality irresistible.  There’s a name for that, but it escapes me at the moment.

by Joshua Michael Friedman