Stopping Internet-Phone Use In Your Dealership

by

Or Can You Make That Phone Habit Work For You?
Some Retailers Have. Here’s The Story.

It was the second day of a 20 Group meeting and the discussion turned to employee cell phone use. It was one of the hottest topics of the weekend.

“How can I stop my employees from spending so much time on their cell phones during working hours?” one asked. “They’re on the Internet all the time.” The question struck a nerve, and the discussion was off an running.

The consensus: Internet phone use in dealerships is out of control and there doesn’t seem to be any easy way to stop it. But do we really want to stop it? Using that ingrained habit has proved profitable for some retail operations like yours.

During the discussion, I turned to an outside consultant, one who was providing training to the group on how to use visitor traffic logs for followup sales calls. I asked if he ever collected social media info such as Twitter or Facebook accounts.

He looked surprised. “No. Should we be?”

“Probably not,” I suggested, “unless you want to reach the 18 – 34 year old market.”

Not one to miss an opportunity, this guy opened a Twitter account while I watched.

Which brings us back to the original question: Should you stop an activity that can enable your young employees to build relationships with your young customers and prospects, or should you encourage it as another marketing tool, one that costs you virtually nothing, and that can generate new sales?

Let’s say your young parts manager is devoted to Twitter and Facebook and uses them during working hours when traffic is slow.

Both Twitter and Facebook encourage a high volume of short messages. In fact, Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters. That’s shorter than this paragraph.

So, what if your Parts people set up a special Twitter account for your store and use it to send out one message each day about what’s going on in the parts department or what they’re doing? A new product, a new service, new pricing, a recent ride, a new accessory for her bike.

Or what about a similar program with your Service guys? New hours, service specials, new bikes they’ve seen, unusual problems they’ve solved, neat modifications, planned trips.

And it would certainly work for your Sales people. They could talk about new bikes, new promotions, upcoming events, recent events, special rides, and on and on and on. It’s endless.

And what if that generates one sale each month?

That’s 140 characters (2 minutes) to reach out to your customers and prospects in an immediate way that both parties feel familiar and comfortable with.

And there’s no direct cost to you unless you want to pay a portion of your employee’s monthly phone bill. Or, say, give each participating employee a $20 bill each month when they tell you how they’ve used Twitter to build your business. You could make it competitive by limiting participation to the first 10 employees who sign up.

Do you see the potential? And we haven’t even talked about Facebook, which lets your dealership create it’s own page and fan club.

It would be easy to start this program, I would think. Look around your store and pick the person who is most interested and most savvy about social media. Have them set up the program. In addition to the monthly payments, you could offer a quarterly prize of a new smart phone (about $200) to the best performer. That should get the competitive juices flowing with your young people.

Restaurants have been using social networking for some time. They’re similar to motorcycle dealerships in many respects: small staff, limited market area, many competitors, similar products and pricing, service oriented and dependent on repeat business from a loyal customer base.

In Minneapolis, social networking has become an important marketing tool for many successful eateries in a very tough economy. Many stores’ efforts are run informally by interested staffers, according to one recent survey.

Punch Pizza, a Minneapolis seven-store chain, is called a “social media legend” for its successful use of Twitter and Facebook. It has about 5,000 Twitter followers and 7,000 Facebook fans.

In a recent campaign using a digital coupon posted to the Flickr website, it gave away some 10,000 pizzas, with lines reportedly running out the doors. I don’t know if the promotion was profitable, but it sure was popular and really put Punch on the map.

Some spots have even created their own free applications that run on iPhones.

Another restaurant, the upscale Pazzaluna, let an employee start a social media program, and it now has more than 1,000 Twitter followers and nearly 1,000 Facebook fans… in a part time effort.

It’s not a hard sell operation. “I want to have authentic interactions (with customers),” the restaurant’s social media manger told a local reporter. “My MO is… to be a real person and an ambassador for Pazzaluna.”

The restaurant recently made several successful menu changes after gathering input from it’s Twitter followers. “Only on Twitter,” said a restaurant representative.

If this social media thing works for some of the biggest corporations in the world (just look at Google) and some of the smallest local restaurants, might it not hold some potential for your dealership?

What if we try to channel the interests of you young employees instead of stifling them.

Let me know what you come up with. JD

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7 Responses to “Stopping Internet-Phone Use In Your Dealership”

  1. Eric Slagle Says:

    Interesting idea. We use social networking alot at the store. I had never thought of involving our employees in it as well. It might be worth experimenting with it to see how it works. We do have strict policies on cell phones, I do not see those changing, but, who knows. If they are used for work and promoting the store….

  2. john Says:

    At Chaparral Motorsports, employees are not to have their cell phones on them at any time during their shift. Last week, an employee was fired for simply pulling out her cell phone. Very frustrating. Internet access is very limited, you may only visit approved websites. Seems a lot like High school

  3. Crystal Ashby Says:

    In reference to the comment above, as a representative of Chaparral Motorsports, I would like to say this statement made by “john” regarding an employee is not true. Many of our motives for resticting cell phone and internet use are for the protection of the employees and in the best interest of our customers. Chaparral Motorsports does have a strict cell phone policy because we want our team focused on customer service, not distracted by incoming texts and phone calls. From a customer’s point of view, it is aggrevating to see an employee of an organization on his/her cell phone while the customer is spending their hard earned money with them. It makes a customer feel like they are bothering an employee when they need their assistance. Why would you want to make a customer feel bothered to talk to a company representative? We don’t; which is why we have a cell phone policy.

    Additionally, we do restrict internet access to our team for their own safety. We restrict internet sites that contain profanity, sexual content, gambling, file sharing, are offensive, are discriminating in nature; all things that are unhealthy for the workplace and for a productive team.

  4. Todd Shafer Says:

    This is, at its core, a generational issue.

    I’m not trying to be flip about it, but if you’re older than 25 or 30 you’re going to have to change your opinion of what constitutes “polite” use of devices like cell phones.

    If you’re even remotely interested in this topic you need to spend a few hours and watch and read this:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/

    I couldn’t help but find a similar “feeling” to employer filtering and anti-cellphone policies and the response that China released about Google being forced out.

    China enforces crack-downs and censorship for the “protection” of its citizens. Employers enforces filtering for the “protection” of it’s employees and customers. Both policies are retarded.

    The issue is not the phones or the interwebs.

    Period.

    The issue is the quality, professionalism, and training of the employees and the degree to which management is comfortable that they have effective hiring, training, and measurement practices in place.

    Banning cell phones and playing the wack-a-mole game with internet filtering is pointless, counterproductive, and demoralizing.

    If you have an employee surfing porn instead of helping customers that are standing there, they are a bad employee. Fire them.

    If you have employees that can’t participate on social sites like facebook, twitter, flickr, you tube, etc. because they are “distracting” you’re holding onto the wrong end of the dog.

    Hire better people. Train them better. Incentivize and measure them using metrics that matter to the customer’s satisfaction level and your businesses profitability.

    If all you can do is spend endless staff meetings figuring out how to filter the internet or how to draft and enforce an anti-cellphone policy you’re wasting your time.

    You need to be figuring out how you can recruit, train, reward, and retain employees that can use all the modern information tools at their disposal to do their jobs better.

    Good people that can do these things stuck in a “lock down” environment will at best under-perform their potential and at worse go to a competitor that allows them to be a professional.

    In fact, I think I can create a litmus test that will tell me how well managed a company is by looking at how open they allow their employees to be. The more locked down and draconian the less real “control” management really has.

    It’s this generation’s version of “if it’s too loud you’re too old.”

  5. Matt G Says:

    Well Said Todd!

    Being of the “Older then 30” crowd my opinion was the same, at first. Now I’m an active Social Networking “geek” 3 twitter accounts, 2 facebook accounts, blogspot etc. I find connecting with customers are easier and the future benefits outweigh the present negatives.

    I 100% agree with:

    “The issue is the quality, professionalism, and training of the employees and the degree to which management is comfortable that they have effective hiring, training, and measurement practices in place.”

  6. Todd Shafer Says:

    @MattG
    I love it when I post stuff that I’m positive I’m gonna get yelled at for and someone actually agrees with me. Makes me realize I’m not always completely out of touch with reality! 🙂

  7. Part 3: Using Twitter to Promote your Business! - TheDustyNation Says:

    […] respect for what you are doing because of it. Check out this article in Dealer News by Joe Delmont http://dealernewsblog.com/2010/03/04/stopping-internet-use-in-your-dealership on the subject. This paragraph will bring the most discussion and I would love to hear what you […]

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