Auto-mating Customer Relationships at Car Dealerships

According to a recent survey by Wideforce Systems, auto dealers across the U.S. say they are losing sales due to lack of customer data and, consequently, the inability to follow up on customer visits. Years ago, Brent Magouirk was having the same frustrations. “I tried every paper and automated system there was and tried to make them fit what I wanted to do,” says Magouirk, founder of AutoClick. “But paper systems were too cumbersome and too difficult to maintain. And the automated systems weren’t designed to work with the way we did business.”

In mid-2001, 23 years after he first outlined the concept on a ledger pad in his dealership, Magouirk rolled out AutoClick, a Web-based CRM system for auto dealers that captures key walk-in customer data and enables timely follow-ups. Each installation is customized to the dealer, since AutoClick’s technical staff maps its system onto each dealer’s selling process. “In the past, things were recorded on matchbooks or slips of paper,” says Magouirk. “Now we’ve been able to call customers a half hour after they left the store because we had their cell number and turned up a great deal for them.” Magouirk, a dealer himself, says he has been able to quickly sell both trade-ins and new cars because he now has an automated record of the people looking for that type of car. “We were a 60-unit store and have increased that by 30 to 40 percent over the past two years,” he says, noting that he now sells more than 100 cars per month. Another AutoClick customer, he says, recently reported a 40- to 50-percent increase in sales since it began using the software.

Among its capabilities, AutoClick prevents salespeople from grabbing another salesperson’s client; it gives salespeople multiple options for communicating with a client; it lets salespeople record conversation details and prices quoted so there’s a seamless interaction with customers; and, if a sale is lost, the reasons can be recorded and analyzed. “The system might tell us we’re losing customers because we’re not stocking the right color car or we’re under-appraising trade-ins,” says Magouirk. “There’s level after level you can drill down into to learn how you can better do business.”

The cost to acquire AutoClick varies from $500 to $2,500 per dealership, depending on size and number of users. It typically takes 30 to 45 days to roll out the solution. After less than a year on the market, the company has almost 60 customers using its software, with another 70 to 80 in the pipeline. Within those 60 customers, there are 300 to 400 end users and Magouirk expects that number to grow to around 4,500 users in the next 12 months.