Damn Lies & Statistics? Business Data is Key to Growth

by Spader Business Management

RVBusiness May/June 2023

Much attention is given these days to business intelligence, to tracking data, and to knowing how the opportunities at the dealership are converted into actual revenue.  And rightfully so – good tracking systems in all departments of the dealership are invaluable, and hopefully everyone reading this has the basic mechanisms of activity tracking in place at their business.

As we visit dealerships, we are often impressed by the commitment of many dealers to collecting information about the activities at their dealerships. How many phone calls and emails did we get today? Who responded to them, and how soon? How many appointments were set, and how many actually arrived. And of those, how many did we close?

But that’s only the beginning. Very likely you are also counting incoming walk-in sales customers, and who talks to them. Dealers track how many demonstrations were given, how many of those were converted into a write-up, and how many of those were closed. Your service department is probably tracking retail hours per RO, plus daily and weekly tech efficiency.  And many dealers are also tracking service drive metrics, and monitoring service menu selling, upsell parts per RO, and ROs per service advisor. Not to leave out the F&I office, where in addition to sales and margin per retail unit, most are tracking sales of product type by unit category, gross per financed unit, and finance conversion, among many other metrics.

So, what’s the value of all this data?

In other words, now that most dealers have systems in place to collect all this this information, what’s being done with it? Sure it’s great information, but how committed are you to turning information into intelligence, and intelligence into action? Without action, all of this business intelligence is worthless.

Owners and general managers reading this are likely thinking, “How am I going to manage all of this, in addition to everything else I am doing?” Fair question.

The answer is twofold, and it depends on the size of your dealership.

If you are a smaller dealership, and you are in fact the active sales and/or service manager, then unfortunately this is yours to manage – and the inability to spend time on your activity logs may well be a sign that your business is large enough to need more administrative or supervisory help. Having said that, owners or general managers of smaller dealerships are typically very close to the front-line activity so they are seeing all of this very clearly, as it happens.

If you are a larger dealership, with full-time non-direct income producing managers in your business (Sales, Service, F&I, and Parts managers), it’s these managers’ responsibility to turn this raw data into actionable counseling at their regular daily and weekly one-on-one meetings. But do they?

Too often, managers think their primary purpose is to close deals and handle upset customers. And while both of these are important functions, they are nowhere near as important as assessing, coaching, and developing the people on their teams. Fundamentally, the purpose of keeping statistics is to know what’s happening in the dealership, who needs help improving, and who might not be a good long term fit for the team … then taking action based on that information. It’s almost impossible to imagine running a modern business without the actual, real-time feedback that daily and weekly activity reporting provides. Yet time and again on 20 Group dealer visits we see the traffic logs stuffed in a binder somewhere, the CRM reports un-pulled for weeks on end, and the tech efficiency reports gathering dust.

What’s the value of all this information if it is ignored by the very people we entrusted to do something with it?

Maybe we have promoted the wrong people to management positions. Maybe we haven’t trained the them. Maybe they can make enough money in our industry without having to grow and develop their people. There are likely many reasons why managers don’t make people development a top priority; but none of them are valid.  Thriving in the post-COVID world will require management teams that use every tool they have to develop and train front line employees.

Take a look around your business today and make sure the information you’ve worked so hard to collect is actually being put to use.