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Turning Customer Data into Business Insights

Strategically organized customer data provides a guideline for how to better serve your customers.

When you think about data as insights into your customers based on past interactions, you become aware of how much data you have available just from conducting day-to-day business at your dealership. The next step, though, is understanding the significant impact this data can have when you leverage those insights to better serve your customers and, ultimately, grow your parts business. In fact, dealerships that are exceptionally good at processing and analyzing customer data consistently provide high-level customer experiences that result in an improved sales performance.

While understanding and acting on customer data can have a wide range of benefits, both large and small, here are a few of the key areas that see the greatest impact when you use data to serve your customers and inform your business:

Retention

If you have a lot of customer data, it’s probably a sign that your team provides strong customer service. So, great work! The next step, however, is using that data to enhance your parts department and benefit your customers. Sounds great, right? The problem is that data can quickly become overwhelming and difficult to wrap your brain around. That’s why many parts departments implement business intelligence tools (known as BI tools).

BI tools help high-performing dealerships develop proactive relationships with customers and offer responsive, data-driven service by tracking buyer trends. BI tools create easy-to-access data and provide information that allows the parts department to strategically engage customers. This allows the parts manager to understand buying trends while also giving parts personnel an ability to be proactive when there is an unusual change in those trends. Did a customer stop buying or reduce their typical purchase amount? If so, a parts department rep can reach out and see how they can help.

Have you ever had a customer, someone you’ve done business with several times, just sort of vanish and stop ordering parts from your dealership? In hindsight, did they maybe give you subtle hints that they weren’t happy or were maybe going somewhere else for parts? Reduced their orders over a period of time? BI tools powered by your sales data can help you pick up on these subtle (or not so subtle) trends and your team can reach out to fix or reestablish the relationship.

Relationships

No one knows your customers like you do. In fact, you’ve probably worked with many of them for years. But accessible data takes customer knowledge to a new level. When data is organized, parts departments know what and when their customers are buying parts, and, more importantly, when they’re not buying. Parts department personnel likely know these things… even if they don’t know they know them. That said, having clear and accurate data to support – or remind – your team of this information is a whole different ball game, allowing the business to be adaptive rather than reactive.

Business intelligence solutions can (or should) function as a data analytics tool and a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), unlocking customer insights and helping your team manage customer accounts, like monitoring communications, tracking notes, and assigning responsibilities. Parts sales, as you know, are often about relationships, right? But it’s hard to maintain a relationship when there’s minimal or no communication.

The competition is notorious for reaching out to their customers, developing relationships, and, in the end, growing their sales. The dealership side of the business? Well, it has some room to grow in order to better maintain regular contact with customers. That being said, understanding your data and closely monitoring customer relationships is a great way to get up to speed with the competition. Having a BI tool and CRM that are powered by data allows parts personnel to take responsibility for customer relationships, such as scheduling check-ins or calls, which will likely have a positive impact in the sales column.

Revenue

If you’ve seen a sales spreadsheet, you know the numbers get large (which is good!). They can also get hard to read and difficult to process, especially if you’re wearing several hats around the parts department and developing the sales strategy is only one of your responsibilities. This makes business development difficult and it means you can miss critical information. Maybe you’ve heard this before, but data – a word often associated with numbers – actually tells a story when you’re able to analyze it easily and productively.

Data can tell you where you have the most opportunities, where you don’t, what’s working, what’s not, and so on. Understanding this can help you target your leads and customer interactions in a smarter, more planned out way. No one likes wasting time, certainly not when you’re busy, and the data analysis that’s made possible by BI tools allows you to allocate your time in the most productive way.

When you use a BI tool to process sales information, you get greater access to the “story” behind the data, which allows you to grow the business and improve customer relationships. Dealerships that are already using BI tools typically see significant, game-changing increases in sales revenue and gross profit. However, this is only possible when the parts department can access refined, holistic data (i.e., the story).

Quick recap

The benefits to analyzing data, specifically with a BI tool, are the following:

  • Know when to talk to your customers – This isn’t about cold calling; it’s about understanding when there’s a shift in buyer trends (up or down) and the parts department needs to engage. This helps retain customers, grow stronger relationships, and increase sales.
  • This is a relationships business – BI allows your team to track communications and schedule follow-up check ins, keeping your customers connected while not overburdening them with touchpoints. The parts sales business, as you know, is one that’s heavily influenced by solid relationships and having a CRM gives you one more way to establish, and maintain, strong working relationships.
  • What story are you being told – Yes, the numbers tell a story and it’s probably a story that your team is familiar with, but until it’s spelled out in an easy-to-process way, it may be hard to grasp or act on. What are your strengths and where are your opportunities? Knowing that information can provide a massive boost to your business.

It’s All in the Data

Whether you know it or not (you probably know it, though), you likely have a ton of data on your hands. But, and here’s the kicker, organizing data in a presentable way that provides the greatest benefit to the dealership? That’s more challenging. It’s not a simple task to make sense of rows and columns of data while also trying to perform your other responsibilities, like selling parts. This is why many parts departments implement a BI tool that produces easy-to-process information that the parts team can act on (you know, the stuff your team needs to grow your business) that leads to strategic customer interactions that improve the parts sourcing experience.

As a last note, parts managers want to make sure their department is a consistent source of revenue for the dealership. The impact a BI tool makes on customer retention, relationship development, and sales can all lead to making the parts department one of the cornerstones of the business. It’s not a secret that in nearly any business or industry, high performers often get better resources – because they’ve earned them! – so it’s critical that the parts department and parts personnel have the tools they need to get the job done. It’s a benefit that can be seen around the dealership and one that extends all the way down to the vehicle owner.

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