You can’t anticipate but you can motivate employees behavior

How do you get employees to behave in ways that differentiate your brand to the people that matter most to your business: customer prospects, clients, partners, colleagues, and recruits?

Too many companies are still trying to create thick manuals that lay out every possible scenario and a corresponding brand-appropriate response — an “if they do this, you do that” kind of approach. Very reactive.

With the world a messy place filled with unexpected situations, it’s just not possible to anticipate everything. (I’d argue it’s not even desirable.) So if you can’t script every interaction, what are some ways to drive a consistent customer experience from a diverse range of employees across an even more varied range of interactions? In preparing for a brand experience workshop with a retail banking customer recently one key element became pretty clear: You have to work from the outcomes back. And the best way to do that is to work back and from a single question: What do you want them to say after they walk away?

This is simple but powerful stuff. Let me illustrate.

I can tell my kids I want them to be honest, hardworking and well-behaved. But they — like your employees — can always ask: “What the heck does that mean?”

Instead, I can tell them: “I want your teachers to say you’re honest, sports coaches to say you’re hardworking, and grandparents to say you’re well-behaved. Not just think or feel it but actually say it.”

By flipping things around and being specific about the outcomes I expect from the various people they’ll encounter during their day, I’ve done a few things:

Changed the accountability. It’s no longer about ticking a box. Your responsibility doesn’t end once you’ve said or done something from a list I gave you. It ends when you’ve driven the outcome we’re looking for.

Accounted for the unexpected. If the focus is on what someone is going to say when they walk away, then it really doesn’t matter what the situation is that they’re walking away from. The consistency is not in the behavior but in the goal.

Activated their cultural knowledge. This is a big one. Everyone is different. And how you interact with someone to make them think you’re honest or hardworking or well behaved, may be very different from how I would do it. It’s the whole freedom-within-a-framework idea and puts the onus on them to figure it out.

Made it specific. By identifying the audience and the outcome, I’ve moved brand behavior from the land of the vague to the world of the concrete.

What did this look like for that retail banking client I was talking about?

Its leaders wanted their brand to be known for three things: ingenuity, simplicity, and humanity. So, instead of doing the usual — exhorting their employees to be ingenious, be simple, and be human — we translated those three things into what they should strive to get others to say about them (and, by association, the brand). Some examples:

“I didn’t expect him to do that, but I’m glad they did.” (Ingenuity)

“That was easy and well worth the effort.” (Simplicity)

“Wow, she gets it. She knew just where I was and what I needed.” (Humanity)

Of course, you have to supplement all of this with training focused on positive examples and parameters around what’s acceptable or allowed and what’s not. But by starting with the end and thinking about what you want people to say about your brand after you walk away, you’ve gotten a pretty good start .

So, @sarahlatman says let’s go to Siesta Key beach, which is 5 min from the house for sunset. Great idea that then turns into a photo shoot. Am I the only one who has to do this? I mean, I look good in all them :)

This is what happens when the best fried chicken and waffles get served at Made in Sarasota. Ridiculously good

Talk is Cheap, So is Lame CRM Software

I guess there is a fundamental division in the CRM Software space for car dealers. One one hand there are the”commodity” players (VINSolutions, DealerSocket & eLeads) and then there is iMagicLab. Why such a bold statement? Let me explain:

The commodity players all look (literally), act and process the same. They manage a lead from cradle to grave, they report to the OEM’s, they are huge with thousands of dealers and they have become, well, they have become entrenched in their own mess of code. They can’t write new code because it would be very expensive to change people and they can’t really change the old code because it would cause an uproar with their existing users. Essentially they are stuck in their own success and the fact that they are run by committee. 

iMagicLab is different, we’re small with 1400 dealers and we are clearly not afraid to make changes that lead the industry to another place. You knew I was headed to CRMSuite with the prior 400 words so let’s detail yet another difference between Suite and everyone else: Ease of use on a tablet or mobile device.

It’s not rocket science but on a small screen you have to think differently. You can’t shrink the screen to the smaller size and claim you are mobile compatible, you need to redesign everything for the finger instead of the mouse. Buttons bigger, pages need to flow and be smarter because on screen keyboards can’t be as efficient as real keys AND because people are used to using their tablets or phones very differently than their PC’s. In short, only new code can accomplish this and only a completely new thought process can deliver it in a format that people will want to use.

CRMSuite is a completely new product with not a line of code shared with DealerCRM (and that product is still growing and getting better by the day). If your dealership is headed to the new world, with phones, tablets, phones, wearable devices and wireless desking there really is only one company that gives you the comfort of starting with the most advanced, proven CRM (DealerCRM) and flipping to the newest, social-enabled, artificial intelligence driven mobile CRM ever built (CRMSuite) at any time. 

If you haven’t seen us lately, take a look…I think you’ll understand why over 140 new dealers have signed in the past 90 days…

Hail to the Cheif - Please Focus on Me

This morning I awoke to one of my old-school competitors pasting all over social media how my graphics team made a mistake on a hand-drawn spelling of my title and I, after laughing loudly, realized after 10 years in the business I had finally one (or is it won?). Let me explain:

My father was a professional baseball player so I grew up in a competitive environment to say the least. My favorite pitcher, outside of my dad, was this monster for the Houston Astro’s named J.R. Richard. Now this dude was, at the time, huge and on the mound? Well on the mound, the man looked like a figurative giant. He was larger than life, he was intimidating and, well, in his early days he was unstoppable because batters feared him before they ever took the batting rings off. In the on-deck circle they simply melted and that made him even better.

Now I’m nt JR and I’m not an imposing figure at 5’ 11” (I lost a bet to Sarah over that inch) but to get under the skin of the old-guard at DealerSocket just feels good. They’ve invested millions of dollars, countless man hours and hired hundreds of rotating people just to catch little old me. They throw huge parties, they give away trips to dealers, bought loyalty with discounts and all of it avoid having to build good software. I’ve said it before, this is the only industry on the planet where good old boy relationships trump real productivity and making money. Amazing, but it’s changing and they know it. Guess what guys, it’s too late: You lost because I’m in your head.

Why are they so nervous? Two words: We care. All of my competitors make a big deal that we’ve fired some dealers that were apethetic (21 at last count including Longo Toyota), that we are small (efficient and proud) and that they have more customers. I have a news flash for ya’ll over in California at Socket’s green chair factory: I don’t care at all about you, what you do or how you misrepresent your software in the marketplace. We’ve outlasted the attacks from AVV, BZ, then VIN and now we’ll beat you too. Yes, you will make more money because that’s what you care about but while my kids attend great schools, my beautiful wife gets to raise them and we live in amazing home here in Maryland and down in Sarasota while I get to do what I do best: Build industry leading technology that helps my dealers stay miles ahead of yours.

Let’s just be honest boys just between you and I: You guys don’t own your own company anymore and you work for a VC that owns Reynolds. Dealers know, we know and you know that your founders sold out. Car dealers who hand their stores to their sons know there’s building a business and there is building a investment vehicle. Ask our dealers which we are and you’ll know why you will lose like all the rest, you don’t care about anything except selling your crappy code and fleecing dealers. No worries, they enjoy the parties and freebies like the pencil and other engaging gifts you send out ( but you guys need to watch the clock, your future owner has grand plans for your revenue stream and the elimination of your jobs. Wanna know how many VIN folks have applied here since they sold out? 46.

I’m intentionally not spell checking this document because I don’t care about it. I don’t care about an NADA booth because we won’t have one and Digital Dealer? Well I’ll leave that to dealers that want to buy worthless Ninja’s to do nothing for big money.

It’s 5:30AM and I’ve got our new BDC to run so that we can eliminate another way dealers get their money removed by “friends”. Have a great day and talk about me as much as possible, it makes the phone ring.

Peace out.

iMagicLab and Third Party Vendors - It’s About Security Stupid

Every day we at iMagicLab get inundated with small companies that want to make a living selling dealers products or services. Usually these products or services rely on data that we hold in a dealers CRM tool and data that we’ve been paid to keep safe. For a lot of reasons, governmental and common sense, iMagicLab has made the decision to lock out all these companies that access data without a formal integration with us. Here’s our thinking:

1. We don’t want to get sued. It’s that plain and simple. iML consumer data records have credit reports, social security numbers, images of drivers licenses and a lot of other stuff that do not belong being shared with others we no little or nothing about. It just makes sense that we’d formalize the process, charge these companies for the work we do to integrate them and insure that they meet our standards for insurance and security. 

2. It costs us money to provide this data these companies make money from. The DMS companies, and to some extent the OEM’s, all charge us to be certified partners for the exact same reason: They want to make 100% sure we are not “fly by night” and they want to exchange data in a responsible secure manner. So, we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the data safely and then we’re just going to email it or let somebody we don’t know in India log in? Isn’t going to happen.

3. Dealers pay us to protect this data. We are going to do whatever we need to do to uphold beyond industry standards and secure every bit of a dealers customer info. Litigation if it ever came would name everyone and there is no reason to take a chance.

I’m positive many of these little vendors are going to blog about how we are trying to shake them down or how we are locking them out for profit and it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Would you let a strange mechanic use your service bay or maybe hand keys to cars to just anyone? Of course not, and we are not going to give access to any people we don’t know and there isn’t a formal agreement with. Yes they will have to “pay to play” much the way we do with the DMS/OEM companies but this isn’t about profit, it’s about common sense. Systems, architecture, lawyers and process planning takes time and money and we feel it’s only fair to share the burden.

Printing, data and security - Part II

Today iMagicLab introduced a new concept; you must enter data into the CRM in order to get it to print on a form. Seems simple right? Data goes into the system so it can be used again, tracked or otherwise used for anything a dealer wants. Then, once it’s in the system we all have a record of it and it helps complete a picture of our customer.

Today we made a change to enable printing without the need for Adobe and without having data entered by salespeople on a form that was never saved. Apparently throughout the country people were typing in data on forms, not saving it anywhere, printing it out and that was it. So the data never went into the crm, records went nearly empty and salespeople cut corners.

The right answer is all the data, all of it, stays in the crm where it is secure. If we are missing fields or if the data isn’t printing out, that’s an easy fix. We’ll handle our part for sure but this idea of just typing into a form and printing is ridiculous and had to end. 

Data, privacy and security is very important. This keeps dealerships safe in a very litigious and regulated world. This will help prevent dupes, will help insure compliance with lender/oem rules and of course, give dealers security in knowing that customer data isn’t sitting in printouts around the store.

Will we have a rough couple of days? Yes. Will it be worth it? Yes. We cannot stress enough, progress sometimes has pain, work with us and we will all be stronger for it.

Change is Never Easy, But This is the Start

Yesterday, as promised by texts, emails and other methods, iMagicLab rolled out its biggest change in 5 years; a new managers dashboard. OK, I understand what you are thinking, a dashboard? Yup a dashboard change and it’s been met with overwhelming, overwhelming, um, overwhelming hatred.

A blog post about a bungled update? Hardly, this is a blog post about an amazing update that will empower dealers to manage and demystify what’s happening in their dealership in ways they don’t yet understand. I’ve repeated the famous Steve Jobs quote many times “How do you know what you want when you haven’t seen it yet?”.

This dashboard moved some statistics from big pie graphs and from huge colorful line charts into words and numbers. It’s harder to read those stats now and, to be honest, that was exactly the idea. When people, or in this case managers, get used to seeing the same thing over and over in the same place they get used to ONLY looking at the same thing over and over. Schools that teach to the test don’t make progress, they get better at the test and when managers only watch a few items they only try to improve their staffs performance on those items. But I digress, let’s review the changes:

Bye, Bye Worthless Pie

So we used to have this pie chart in the center of the dashboard that was pretty but told you only the amount of new opportunities for the day. More importantly it didn’t tell you what happened with them, just that salespeople said they occcurred by entering in some data. It was an easy kink, don’t enter it and it didn’t happen and you were not measured on it and sales folks are not stupid. They began to game the system and managers just didn’t know or didn’t care.

Hello Real Internet Performance

We added an ugly funnel chart to showcase how the Internet leads that came in today were actually handled. Did people call? Did they text? Did they email? And because salespeople have been known to focus on leads they cherrypick, we limited the contacts to one per customer. Get 20 leads, send 20 texts to one guy you have a 20/1 ratio. Reality, for once, introduced into reporting.

See Ya Call Graph

We had previously dedicated an entire space to showing a leaderboard of who faked the most calls. Honestly, that’s what it was (Right Rick P in Virginia?) and it was becoming evident that people who actually made good strong calls against what was needed to be were looking bad against the liars who said they made calls that never happened. It had to go…

Welcome to the Communications Center

  • Average response time is critical to all of us, now it’s front and center for all to see for TODAY’s leads. Manage day by day and the month will take care of itself, worrying about yesterdays leads is a waste of time because that ship has sailed (yes there are reports for that too). BTW this is now a 24 hour clock because your customers are 24 hours and so are the OEM’s. The World of car sales is too competitive to stop at 5:30pm when you go to iHop.
  • Appointments for today is a sum today of how many you have today, it’s a very important stat that we never had, duh, we needed to correct that.
  • The total of calls NOT MADE by your staff on their workplans is another critical number. Do you relaieze how many calls your team is not making that you asked them to? Write a new workplan, hire more staff or add some management and get this as close to 0 as possible. What’s the purpose of assigning calls you never intend to insure get made?
  • Average Alert Open Time is one of the most important ones of all: How long does it take your staff to EVEN LOOK at the fact that a customer has sent them a lead, an email or a text. Not all of us live in front of their computer, this should be very, very low…
  • The next one? How many are EVER looked at haha. Why send alerts to people, why assign leads to people or why even let people work at the store who don’t intend to follow up with customers? Mind boggling because we are only counting actual customer reach outs here and this should be near 100%, where is your stores?
  • Dealervoice Call % is pretty self explanatory but if you arent’t using our phone systems you have no way to text, no way to measure real calls and no way to manage your staff based on reality. I cannot imagine in 2014 any dealership being so naive as to not want the calls measured and actually know that they were made. 
  • The final row is all about what hasn’t been done against customer requests: unresponsed emails, texts and leads. In other words, how much money is being left on the table.

Where is the rest of the Data? It’s all there, just look with your eyes before hitting support with your chats or complaints. Do you need to think in a new way? Yes. Are you probably happy? No. Turn off SportsCenter this morning or stop planning the Starbucks run and start thinking about what you were missing before this change. The market is too competitive to do things the old way, even if it works you can be doing better.

This is the first of many changes to management reporting and views as we refocus you on things that are important in 2014 to both your business and your customers. I only have one more question…

Are you texting every customer yet?

Do the math: Phone calls get 12% respponse, emails 14% and texts get 66%. Today your salesman are doing it from their phones, out of your control and out of your view. They leave and so does your customer list. It’s the biggest mistake any dealership can make and I bet 90% of you just don’t get it. Change this, like today.

More to come as always, I gotta go take my daughter to school and you have some thinking to do


Evolution is not limited to Earth’s creatures

This morning I’m sitting in Naples, Florida at a Starbucks (yes, it’s 6am) and a good portion of my support team is on the way here for a meeting. Why? Because we still suck at helping our customers and I will not rest until we are the best there is, in any business.

This is not about being good enough, this is not about being better than: This is about delivering on a promise that very few companies do well. I’ll give you an example:

Yesterday I was jumping on a plane, yes Southwest Airlines, and I received a text from my hotel here in Naples that they had a new “Mobile Check-In” service. Cool, button clicked, checked in and now I wait for another text that my room is ready. Hour or so later, pocket vibrates, phone says room is ready, I think “now this is cool”. Off plane, Hertz car waiting in spot 154, 45 minute drive to hotel, walk up to the “mobile” check in desk, excited. “Hello Mr. Latman, may I have your ID and credit card, sign here, how many keys, NOTHING DIFFERENT than a normal check-in. One word: Disappointed.

Was that a customer support failure? One word: Yes. 

See I don’t care that they executed their vision or that the texts went out as designed or that the room was ready. That expensive hotel let me down by not being what they could have been, what clearly they want to be and what they told me I could expect. iMagicLab has the same problem still; again, I’ll explain:

We sell software to people who don’t make software, use a lot of software and in a lot of cases, have very limited knowledge of how to run software. To be honest, we sell software to people who don’t want software; they want a solution to their problem without any overhead or work required. To put it in context, imagine if when you went to Starbucks they took your money then flipped the expresso machine around and said “ok, make your drink”. Like an iPhone, support begins with the first line of code in making a product so obvious, so intuitive, that it doesn’t need someone to teach its usage. 

Up to today we’ve tried a few different models; traditional and non-conventional and to be fair, the playing field is tilted toward failure no matter what. DealerCRM, like all good software, is an amazing tool with a huge amount of options. How many of you can really run Microsoft Word or setup advanced filters in GMail? I can read your mind: “I know what I need to know and I’m pretty good”. Ya see, that’s the rub, in a car dealership with turnover at 30% per year nobody is left that knows what they need to know. You’ve heard me wax on before, it’s a huge challenge.

This week we’ve introduced yet another attempt at solving this problem and it’s a mix of technology and human investment. Chat, phones, videos, learning systems and a lot of focus will not fix this I’m afraid, so everyone be patient please. Oh sure, we’re already better than everyone else in the CRM World but that isn’t good enough for me. 

CRMSuite launches July 1 and it couldn’t happen soon enough. Then you will all understand what I mean… stay tuned…

Stop Accepting Life as it Comes - Make it Yours

Oxford Dictionary defines “fait accompli” as follows:

"Definition of fait accompli in English:
fait accompli
Syllabification: fait ac·com·pli
Pronunciation: /ˈfet əkämˈplē, ˈfāt /

A thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept:
the results were presented to shareholders as a fait accompli”

Stop and think about how many things in your career, your home or your family that you just accept, that you just consider a fait accompli. In truth what defines great people is that they don’t believe that anything is every pre-designed or unchangeable. They look beyond the norm, beyond the obvious and they MAKE their lives amazing by going the extra mile to change what would otherwise be a fait accompli.

Let me offer a personal example, or shall I say a family example:

My son Michael and his girlfriend Iman are seniors at Friends School here in Baltimore. They have been exclusive for a long time, have a loving, wonderful relationship and as with all kids at this stage in their lives, prom is a big deal. There was no doubt, zero, that Michael and Iman would be going to prom together; it was a fait accompli. Any average person would have made the assumption, asked nicely with a little effort and gone on to enjoy what was obviously already going to happen. 

I said before: What makes people great, what makes people amazing, is that they don’t accept the path as it’s laid out. Over the course of a year, 365 days, while enduring the pressures of college acceptance, trying to figure out who he is and dealing with his crazy dad, my son made me so proud I can’t tell you. Watch the proposal he made:

When you start your day today ask yourself what you are doing to influence the road you are on. Bad can be made better no matter the odds, good can be great and great, well, great can be just like Michael and Iman; great can be amazing.