Auto group takes CRM platform for a drive

The Phoenix-based Earnhardt Auto dealer group has standardized its customer relationship management (CRM) operations on the DealerSocket platform, according to FireSocket, a CRM software vendor in San Clemente, Calif. The move affects all departments at its nine Earnhardt automotive dealerships, including its Ford, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, Lincoln, Mercury, Mazda and BMW operations, said Donald Speen, vice president of IT Operations at Earnhardt Auto. The dealerships, which together realized just over US$1 billion in revenues last year, are located throughout Arizona and Texas.

Earnhardt selected DealerSocket as its CRM platform in January after trying out other products that fell short of the company's goals, Speen said. The Earnhardt organization needed a CRM system to operate as a complete interdepartmental system between customer service, marketing, floor sales, internet sales and automotive parts and service, Speen said.

DealerSocket was the only CRM partner that could effectively offer global management tools to report, compare and identify growth opportunities among dealerships, not just departments. Today, more than 500 employees work on the deployed system, he said.

"We're a high-volume dealer and we sell a lot of vehicles. We were doing really well with our presence on the Internet and our Internet sales with a product that we were using.... It was just geared toward Internet sales and follow-up but that's all it did," Speen said. "We ... realized that we weren't really getting the benefit from all the information we were getting and transferring that [information] to our sales floor, our normal sales staff and [the] service and parts department."

When the Earnhardt group decided to expand into the other areas, Speen researched different companies and settled on FireSocket.

"Now, we can market to our service customers in a different way and really follow up with the people that physically come into our stores," Speen said. "And our corporate team is able to get a bunch of information from each store at their fingertips through DealerSocket. So they can monitor the day's events in our stores."