As I mentioned in part two of this series, many DMS providers make it difficult for dealers to download their customer database. In some cases, it’s because there are control issues arising between dealers and their DMS (or CRM) as to who actually owns this data. Another issue can be that a provider fears their dealers will take the data and switch companies. Any dealership’s database of customer transactions should be treated as pure gold and it would be a catastrophe to lose this data when a change of providers occurs. Dealers would be wise to develop a business case surrounding their data. It is important to understand how vital it is to clean up this data. The time involved in so doing will actually save money by increasing the effectiveness of any marketing.
Most providers have tools built into their system that can be used to access and download this data. All big DMS providers have report writers or generator functions with which a dealer can download sets of users. Dealers can use this to generate reports on sets of customers and can use these reports to start the process in bite size chunks instead of trying to tackle their entire database all at once. In choosing whether to do this from your DMS or CRM, I would start with your DMS data. Both are important to clean. But your DMS data is the most prominent. This database is huge and can be mined more effectively. It contains all the long-term customers from which continuous revenue can be generated.
If a dealership does not have anyone with the proper skillset to accomplish this, there are third party companies such as Authenticon and StoneEagle that can assist. These companies have built workarounds with which they can use to access a dealership’s data, even from the most difficult providers.
The following is a good road map to use to clean up the dealership’s database.
1. Look for duplicates. Just about every DMS has a report generator that allows a dealer to export these files into an Excel format. In this format, it becomes relatively simple to sort fields and identify duplicate entries. Look for duplicated names, phone numbers, and addresses and attempt to consolidate these duplications into a single record. Start with the oldest records and work backwards to the present. Once one group is cleaned up, proceed to the next group. This makes the task a little more manageable.
2. Once the database is consolidated and duplicates removed, there are then two steps that should be done with two different USPS database services to ensure 100% address accuracy. It is important to get the sequence correct as follows:
a) First run the entire database through the USPS’ National Change of Address database (NCOA). This can be done directly with the post office using their NCOAlink System, or through third party suppliers such as Melissa Data. They will return the database with current mailing addresses.
b) After running the database through NCOA, then take the entire database and run it through another U.S. Postal Service database called ACS™ Service. Many DMS databases have a portion of address correct. Such as the address is 120 West Main Street, and the DMS has it as 120 Main Street; omitting the West from the address. NCOA updates the address and then ACS fixes such inaccuracies as this. So it is important to do both, one after the other.
Here is a link to the post office program for both of these: https://www.usps.com/business/move-update.htm
3. Once all of this has been done, import the updated database into the DMS or CRM.
4. Then move onto email addresses. There are a number of independent services that can verify the validity of an e-mail address and acquire any that are missing from the database. These services can be used to fill in the blanks. Once this is done, then look for any that are still missing and have an admin call the customers to get updated information. Once this is accomplished, enter these changes into the DMS or CRM.
Whether the dealership chooses to do this internally, or to outsource to another company, usually depends on how messed up the database is, and the scope of work required. In some cases the database is not a huge task to clean up and dealers can do a very effective job themselves. Some, however, are so messed up that the task becomes overwhelming and it is better to seek outside help.
This problem starts from the top and goes down. It’s industry-wide and not just confined to dealerships. At PLG we once worked with an OEM who sent us a database of all dealerships and a list of their salespeople. This was a current list and yet we found that half of the salespeople weren’t even employed at the dealerships anymore. The tragedy in all this is that there is so much upside to knowing this data and having it clean. Look at grocery stores. They know what cat food you buy and use it to cross-market. If you’re a loyal Purina cat food customer and all of a sudden you start buying a new brand, I bet you that the cash register spits out a coupon for Purina cat food.
Dealerships have the ability to do this as well. If a customer has changed their oil with you for 6 years and all of a sudden stops coming in, you can encourage them to come back in with a relevant offer tailored specifically to that customer. This type of offer has proven time and again to be highly effective. The point is to have this customer data readily available and then use it to correctly target customers. However, most dealers aren’t doing this. I still get service reminders for vehicles I haven’t owned in 8 or 9 years. I recently bought a new vehicle and 2 weeks later I received an offer in the mail for new tires! It’s a new vehicle. Why would I need new tires? Sending irrelevant messages to your customers only alienates them and makes them less open to receiving and paying attention to future communications from you.
In part four of this series, we’ll explore what to do with the data after a dealer has obtained it and cleaned it up.