Steve Roessler is the Chief Evangelist at DriveCentric, a modern take on an automotive CRM that features unified customer communications in an easy-to-digest interface. Steve shares his vantage point about why engagement is the key metric that dealerships need to track and how that's helping his client partners realize greater sales success.
Steve came to the automotive industry from the medical industry and shares some of the biggest differences between the two industries. When first getting started in automotive, he thought it was funny that salespeople needed reminders to follow up with prospects. That was unheard of in the medical field.
Steve explains that the KPI for dealerships inside of a CRM should be engagement. "That's what most CRMs lack — a focus on engagement rather than keeping a database of information. You're shooting yourself in the foot if you aren't tracking engagement."
When engagement is the focus, response times go down because every interaction is treated almost like a text message. It's like an ongoing chat rather than a template-heavy interaction.
Listen to the full episode for insights and context from Steve Roessler!
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your LinkedIn or Instagram handle so we can thank you personally!
If you enjoyed this episode featuring Steve Roessler, support us by clicking the links!
[00:00:00] Michael: The car business is rapidly changing and modern car dealers are meeting the demand. I'm Michael Cirilo and together we're going to explore what it takes to create a thriving dealership and life in the retail automotive industry. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with subject matter experts that are designed to help you grow.
[00:00:22] This is the dealer playbook.
[00:00:36] This doesn't happen often in automotive, D PB gang. Hear me out, not sponsored, but I just gotta. I was recently exposed to the drive centric CRM for the first time, worked in many other CRMs and legitimately I think the, the heavens opened the, the clouds parted and I heard the hallelujah chorus. Uh, the first thing that caught my eye, it's beautiful.
[00:01:01] It's simple. It's easy to look at. I'm not cluttered with all of this data, right. Outta the gates. It's a nice, simple pipeline to understand. It just, it makes sense. And I reach out to today's guest and I. Yo, I just gotta let you know. Mazel tough. Congratulations. You did a thing. I need you to come and talk to me on the show.
[00:01:21] And so here we are, Steve Russer like, hu, Hogan's a Ruster joining me on the DPB. Thanks so much for joining me.
[00:01:28] Steve Roessler: Hey, no problem, Michael. It was great to be here, man.
[00:01:30] Michael: Did you know once you like started rocking the pompadour that people would call you Jimmy neutron, like, was that part of the, the whole personal brand?
[00:01:39] Steve Roessler: No, you know what, before the hair, uh, was this, I used to have the, what I called the duck butt and it was, I called it the duck butt, but it was actually, uh, where you push your hair down and then you push it up at the front, you know? Oh, okay. Yes, yes. I called it the duck butt. So I had that and I had the messed up look way back when, uh, but no, my wife's a hairdresser.
[00:02:00] So I, I mean, and, uh, so when I went with this and then I started doing all the videos. Um, that I do, and everybody comments on the hair. So, I mean, I joked around, like I talked to Joe Webb, I talked to Frank LUS and I said, man, what would happen if I changed my hair? I go, dude, nobody would know ya . But, uh, but I really thought about this.
[00:02:21] I thought about if I did change my hair, like once a year, think about this, Michael. If I changed my hair once a year, I could be the Jennifer Aniston. Of friends, just male in the, in the auto industry. Cause you know, my wife will say, give me the Jennifer Anderson hairdo from, you know, many years ago when friends was around.
[00:02:37] Right? Yeah. Oh, I that's what women understand that joke men don't, but I didn't either until my wife told me that. So anyway, well
[00:02:44] Michael: you might also have another thing in common, which is that neither one of you are wearing a bra. Uh, cause that was also, I was a teenager during the friends era. .
[00:02:54] Steve Roessler: Well, you're making a, you're making a, uh, you're making an assumption there.
[00:02:57] Yeah. Yeah. That's fair.
[00:02:58] Michael: it's not a broad, it's a
[00:02:59] Steve Roessler: bro. Wearing the bro. I'm wearing the bro, bro. Um,
[00:03:05] Michael: I lo how many more reference let's let's see, maybe we'll work our way backwards to like welcome back co or three's company. In this episode with all the references, you've had a past life in the pharmaceutical business, is that right?
[00:03:20] Medical industry.
[00:03:22] Steve Roessler: I, yeah, I did a lot of things in medical. I, um, usually most people get in medical industry. They usually what we call, carry the bag, uh, carrying the bag is, uh, being a pharmaceutical rep and drop it off samples to doctor's offices. But no, I did various things. I, I, that was my entry. Uh, the goal.
[00:03:39] The pinnacle, if you will, uh, in medical is always being surgery. That's where the action is. So, um, the highlight of my career in the medical side, at least what I thought was, uh, getting in surgery, working at Medtronic, and I did spinal cord stimulation, deep brain stimulation. So I was there, uh, with the neurosurgeons or the orthopedic surgeons.
[00:03:58] And while patients had lower back pain or things of that nature, I was basically, uh, stimulating at the head of the table to capture the pain. Uh, which was really cool, you know? And, uh, it just, it would miracle things. I saw deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's, you know, people would go like this and then all of a sudden it's like this mm-hmm , it's just the wildest stuff.
[00:04:19] Um, but I learned. Um, working for a very big company is not, it's hard to defend when you own 90% of the market. And Medtronic was kind of the gold standard in medical. And when all the competitors were nipping at the buds, they laid people go. And unfortunately, I was one that was let go. Mm-hmm um, Just because of the timing of where I was at so wrong place, wrong time, but I learned a lot, but then I started getting in the startup world, uh, in medical.
[00:04:44] So I started up two companies in the medical side. And then, uh, my buddy offered me an ownership position within drive centric. So that's how I, I got
[00:04:52] Michael: into this. This is, this is fascinating to me, especially, you know, having that much experience outside of automotive. You know, I think from the inside, we tend to.
[00:05:02] The no, no other industry is like this. What's what's your take, having had experience in another industry? Are there any parallels, are there any commonalities or no? Is automotive so completely unique that nobody else could understand it?
[00:05:14] Steve Roessler: No. You know what I tell all my buddies I'm still friends with in medical is, you know, if you're selling, you know, the one, the sales cycle in most industries is not nearly like what it is an automotive, I mean, to sell a car in four days, 70% of the time, right.
[00:05:28] It's. Are you kidding me? Uh, most of sales cycles that I've ever been a part of are at least one year old. So, uh, that's how long it takes you to close a deal. Wow, close a hospital, or get your product on a formulary or get your, you know, Medtronic on the shelf, whatever it was. I mean, it's a long, long sales cycle.
[00:05:45] So, um, selling CRM, obviously in automotive, it's a long sales cycle, so I'm very used to it, but I think the follow up, like most people. Like I I'll give you a really good one. This, this one hits home to me goes, I obviously represent CRM. I didn't know what a business rule was eight years ago. So, you know, my, my buddy who's my partner.
[00:06:07] He, he came up to me and he goes, yeah, he goes, we gotta set a business rule. I go, what the fuck is a business rule? Did he goes, well, you get an internet lead. You gotta tell the salespeople a follow up. I go, come again. . I mean, if we just say that right now. Yeah. You, you know, you get, you get a lead, you gotta tell somebody to follow up.
[00:06:23] Right. That makes no to me. I still say that. That makes no sense to me whatsoever. Okay. Ping me and tell me I got a lead and I'll, but I'll follow up the way I wanna follow up. So it it's just that part. I mean, that was really kind of weird. I've still to this day I operate, I've never, ever in my entire sales career.
[00:06:42] Have used a business rule and most people outside of automotive don't um, so it's based into your DNA,
[00:06:49] Michael: right? Yeah. Like they got a lead, of course I'm gonna follow.
[00:06:53] Steve Roessler: exactly. I have a follow up cadence of Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Tuesday, Thursday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Tuesday, Thursday. So that's my cadence.
[00:07:00] I don't need a program to tell me that. Right. You know, and I schedule all my future business rules and I use the CRM, no matter what I use, uh, back in the day act goldmine. I mean, I date myself for the people watching this, but,
[00:07:13] Michael: um, this, this is really interesting. So, so you, you come from medical now, you're in automotive, you're in the CRM game.
[00:07:21] Um, In your estimation right there. There's some long term players here. Uh, we, we won't go through them all, but I mean, this is a, this is a space where the, the ocean's perhaps not as blue. I want your take, not just from, um, a CRM perspective, but from a startup and working in that, that ecosystem and automotive.
[00:07:45] What, what are some of the things that you're concerned? um, that you're focused on that maybe you think the others haven't been focusing on? Like what, what kind of openings are there for, like, we all know about CRM. So what are you seeing that maybe some others Arent.
[00:08:01] Steve Roessler: Well, I, I think the biggest play, uh, when I got the privilege of, uh, coming on board helping this, the, the one thing that my partner kind of said, um, was we're gonna do something really, really different, which just excites the hell out of me.
[00:08:14] Mm-hmm um, I say when I was in medical, I really, you know, luckily represented, you know, different companies. Got to build a different brand. Um, as we continue to what, like I say, build versus integrate. Now we're gonna integrate with certain things, but the fundamental differences of these big, big companies out there acquiring.
[00:08:36] Tools, you know, if they see a tool that they're lacking, the first thing they do is go out there and buy it. Right. And I think we all know like companies that have been bought and then innovation stops. Mm. And, and look, and that's in every market. No matter what, if you're in automotive, if you're in medical engineering, that's what happens.
[00:08:56] People buy the product, they take the revenue from, and the, the Lloyd we think is the dealers is well, they're buying it. They're gonna make it better. They're gonna integrate, well, let me tell you something. The iPhone four is still an iPhone four, but the iPhone 13 and 14 are gonna be much different than the iPhone four.
[00:09:14] You know why? Cuz they rebuilt it. Nobody's gonna rebuild. A tool such as like a CRM, because it's so complex. So the bandaid on it is they play the integration game. And I think as dealers, what they have to realize is integration is not, it's a, it's a short term solution and, um, and anybody can do it including drive centric.
[00:09:35] But the, the biggest thing that we're. Really going out there with a message on is give us time to build a lot of things. I think we know what we are really, really good at. We're the best CRM, in our opinion, in the marketplace. I hope a lot of viewers would agree that are on it. The folks that aren't on, it never seen it.
[00:09:52] Well, you don't know until you make the change, but, um, we're more engagement. Focused than a database platform. And that's what these CRMs are lacking because they were just built 20 years ago. A lot of them had a bolt on texting tool that they put on because it doesn't flow as easy as it does. Um, it's not so much conversation.
[00:10:12] We go out there and we buy all these tools to make. Basically a drive centric, what it is today, you know? And I'll give you one more analogy and I'll shut up, Michael, but just kind of think 20 years ago you had a Nokia phone. Mm-hmm you also had a video camera. You also had a, a, a regular camera. You also had a fax machine.
[00:10:29] You had a pager imagine integrating all of those. And what do you got? You got an iPhone 13. And that's ultimately, we're kind of the iPhone of, uh, CRMs right now. So it's, it's pretty cool. Yeah.
[00:10:41] Michael: Um, and you, you had mentioned, I want to key on this. You said you you've gotta focus on engagement mm-hmm um, what, what do you mean by that?
[00:10:48] Give us, give us some examples of, of why that's important and, and how do you go about tracking engagement?
[00:10:55] Steve Roessler: No, I, that, I'm glad you mentioned that because that's our biggest focus point. Um, you know, when, when we have a database tool, like a CRM is, and we expect our sales people to make a hundred phone calls, 50 emails a day, and those, you know, communication strategies are out, right?
[00:11:12] I mean, you, if you get those strategies, maybe your internet, team's getting 30. 35% engagement, right? Texting and personalized video are, are, we're seeing where it's at, along with artificial intelligence. So engagement by definition is two-way communication with a customer. So if I got a hundred internet leads and I get a 35% engagement rate, that means I can schedule at max 35 appointments.
[00:11:34] Gotcha. And I'm missing around 65. So our source statistically get about 70% engagement on the average of all their internet leads with all the tools we're providing. And if you just think about what we need to do, we need to talk to more customers to schedule more appointments and sell more cars. It all starts and ends with engagement.
[00:11:51] If you don't track engagement. You're shooting yourselves in the foot. Now, when a customer is talking in the store, these customers fit just to show the importance of the engagement that Detroit trading company, uh, during COVID came out with a good little study and you know, the OEMs and you probably know this, the OEMs used to go out there and say, well, you have about 30 minutes to respond to a lead.
[00:12:12] Remember. I mean, there was any Toyota said that mm-hmm um, and I think the game has changed so much because of COVID we are in a right now it's uh, and we used to say the same thing. So, but the customer has changed to an immediate response. So you have about five minutes to reply to a customer where they're going elsewhere.
[00:12:29] Right. And when you get engagement, you gotta make sure you, you you're treating your engagement almost like. you know, mm-hmm and that's what we're kind of teaching our stores is thinking your CRM as a big chat system, whether they're texting, they're emailing you, they're chatting, they're replying to a video they're replying to AI, respond back.
[00:12:48] We don't need all these templates. And, um, so we create a new KPI called fumble. So when a customer is talking to you from the digital showroom and you don't respond at an hour, we deem it a stumble. So, um, and a lot of people can't track the customers that are talking to you from the digital showroom. So that's where the engagement, uh, platform in drive centric makes it so unique that dealerships and those sales managers everybody's hanging out in that conversation screen to really help the sales people talk back to the customers and basically study the digital etiquette of what your sales people are saying.
[00:13:24] Michael: This both sparks joy. and also makes me chuckle. I remember my, the first ebook I ever wrote going back 10, 10 plus years, you're gonna love the title. So, so clever three automotive, digital marketing tips. And you know, one of the things that I remember discussing in that book was response time. And how back then I, I remember compiling a bunch of reports and it was something like the average response time across dealerships was like 12 and a half hours.
[00:13:58] mm-hmm and I drew the parallel of imagine somebody walking up to you and saying, hello and then you just looking at them for 12 and a half hours and saying nothing. Yeah. The reason what you just said makes me think about how ludicrous and absolutely insane that would be is, is that you're reframing the syntax by which they understand how this interaction works.
[00:14:22] This is a conversation. This is. like, you can just take, oh, a lead came in and I'm gonna go for lunch. This is no. We, this is a conversation when you simply swap out the syntax from lead to conversation, it makes me want to respond a little bit more. And so I, I think that's really interesting how you're framing that.
[00:14:45] And also I look down and wrote the word fumble because I see fumble, you know, in the, in, in here. And I was wondering what that's all about and I, and I love how you're just encouraging.
[00:14:57] Steve Roessler: Yeah, no, I mean, that's what we're exposing. And I think that's what, you know, again, it's, these are new things. As, as the customers evolve, we gotta come up with new KPIs for dealerships to be successful and focus on, you know, when we, you know, the old days of going out there and, you know, let's just take a look, you know, if I got a hundred.
[00:15:16] Leads how many appointments I schedule? How many show, how many that is so old school, because now you got engagement. If I get a hundred internet leads, what's my engagement rate because now I know what my conversion is. When I talk to a customer, maybe I schedule 40, 50% of my appointments. You know, that's good ways of looking at it.
[00:15:31] If you're getting a low. You know, uh, appointment rate then? Well, if I increase my engagement rate, man, that should follow Sue. Right? Mm-hmm , it, it all works and starts with, with engagement, but yeah, I mean the fumble as we go out there and we develop that new KPI term actually about nine months ago, every one of our stores had a fumble rate of believe this or not 30, uh, Uh, what was it?
[00:15:57] Um, it was 30 minutes or wait, wait, I'm sorry. 30% of the dealerships were fumbling a conversation. Mm. And remember a fumble. At least what we started with was a conversation sitting there for an hour, waiting for a response. Okay. Wait, that's, that's what a fumbles. Right? And that's during business hours, by the way.
[00:16:16] Oh, so a lot of our stores, we have a couple of stores that, uh, came up with this is they established, what's called the last word process. And what that means is the customer is the last one that's always acknowledged. So what I, I literally just had this meeting a second ago, but imagine, imagine, uh, Patrick, a bad since let's call him up there.
[00:16:37] Right. And now, you know his last name here. But if Patrick reached out to one of his managers and said, Hey, is that customer coming in at five o'clock you would bet anybody in that store would reply back and say, yes. Right. They're not gonna leave Patrick hanging. So you gotta treat every customer like a Patrick.
[00:16:55] Just respond, acknowledge it. We're teaching the last word process that send it an emoji, thumbs up, acknowledge it. That's it don't leave the customer hanging. The customer should be always heard and acknowledged. And that's what the last word process is. So that's how we're getting a better fumble right down to hopefully less than 5%.
[00:17:14] So if you're getting however many conversations, you're only fumbling less than 5%. And that's what we're trying to educate our stores.
[00:17:21] Michael: love this. Um, it solves many other issues, which is, you know, fundamentally there's been an issue between dealer and marketing company, lead generating companies, et cetera, your, your leads aren't good enough.
[00:17:36] Actually your engagement rate is 12%. Yeah. You know, like, so you had, you had said it earlier and I want to key in on it. It's kind of shining a spotlight all around in a way. Keeps everybody accountable, not just dealer, not just vendor, not just whatever, all parties involved in making the business move forward again, by changing the focus to engagement really, really shifts the narrative.
[00:18:03] And I love it. Um, talk to me a little bit about you had, you had mentioned earlier. Um, I, I mean, we've been talking about conversation. Talk to me a little bit about. Uh, some of the new features that you were, you were telling me about earlier about how you're tying in all of the different data sources, cuz typically it's what email, there's like some sort of email lead that spills data into the CRM, but you were talking about going actually bigger than that.
[00:18:33] More, maybe more all
[00:18:35] Steve Roessler: encompassing. Well, I think what you're kind of alluding to is all the conversation pieces in one screen, meaning like I can for the first time and even apple and Android don't do this, but in our conversation screen, you can see all the communications streamline into one thread. So like right now you can't go into one of your text threads that you had with me and see that you made a phone call to me.
[00:18:57] Right. You'd have to go to your phone log and track that. Gotcha. Like now you got phone, text emails. E-blast. Video proposals, pictures chat. So yeah, one of the new products we just developed was a product called direct chat and what anybody who's on the BDC side or taking, you know, chat leads. They understand that they're in a different platform.
[00:19:18] And then they push that file to an ADF XML format for the first time ever. You're able to chat from the CRM and it looks like a text thread or an email thread. It flows logically in the CRM for you to qualify that lead. And you're in one platform, you get push notifications right there on your mobile phone, you get chat from the mobile app.
[00:19:40] Um, so yeah, I mean, we're streamlining. Like personalized video, you could do live streaming, like we're doing live streaming right now, or we're trying to teach to enhance the digital showroom experience by meeting the customer where they want to be met. If I, as a customer, have no control over the price, you know what I got control over Michael, how I wanna buy the car.
[00:20:02] Right. So if I wanna have a Carvan experience, I'm gonna get a Carvan experience. So you better have the tools in place. You know, and figure out how I wanna buy the car and if live streaming, if I wanna show you my trade appraisal, I don't wanna come drive like even 20 minutes to your dealership for that.
[00:20:19] Can't you do it through live streaming on your phone? Yeah.
[00:20:22] Michael: You know what, you know what intrigues me about this though, that there, the use case for this is very simple in my, in my mind, you know, as a marketing partner, we see this all the time where somebody will click on say a Facebook messenger lead.
[00:20:37] Uh, or sorry, a campaign, which of, of course they click the, they click, they click the ad, a messenger, pops up. They're in a discussion with the dealer, despite being on platform. People might be surprised to find out how many people are like, only talk to me over email, but it's like, but I'm in, I'm in a chat with you right now.
[00:20:59] Right? Right. This simple, like direct chat thing that you're talking about, I'm bringing all of the data sources into one field of view. Mitigates even having to do that weird back and forth of like, but how do you, where do you, you know, like it doesn't need to extend the conversation. It, it actually, in, in my understanding removes even the smallest friction point from this, because you're just always communicating with the customer, how they wanna be communicated
[00:21:25] Steve Roessler: with.
[00:21:25] You yeah, the very simple, you know, analogy or that I'll just tell you. And I mean, we do have Facebook marketplace integration through messenger mm-hmm . And again, with all the Kalu, everything happened in Facebook. A lot of people just don't do it anymore, but right. Uh, we are looking into expand some the things, but what we always suggest, we try to get rid of our stores.
[00:21:45] Uh, when we convert somebody over to get rid of a lot of their business rules, business rules are like, and I'll say 80% of their business rules and we create what's called a touch. What a touchpoint is, is communicate on the customer's channel. Like what you're mentioning. Why should I make a phone call to a text?
[00:22:03] And if we go out there, I heard, um, um, Bob Lanham at, uh, I think it was N a D a, I think he mentioned like the gen Zs or, and the millennials are taking up like 45%. And if, you know, if you have kids like me, I mean, my daughter's 17. I gotta text her, tell her to come down, eat pizza, cuz she's watching some video.
[00:22:21] Right. And have her AirPods in. She's not gonna hear me yell. Mm-hmm . Um, I think text texting is the number one form of communication. We look in drive centric and probably 85% of the communication coming in drive centric is in fact text. Just think about that. And if we look at our phone call conversations, the way that we have to, if, if texting is the preferred form of the customer with communication, why am I gonna send an email?
[00:22:45] Mm-hmm I don't email my friends and family. Why the hell am I gonna email a customer? Because I've got a data that says, oh, I gotta send an email that I got a task. So I mean, doing the task to do the task mode, I'm not doing the task to get engagement mode. And that is a fundamental waste of energy at the dealerships that you've gotta change their mindset on.
[00:23:04] Wow. Well,
[00:23:06] Michael: I mean, seriously, man. Congratulations. I love it. Um, it makes so much sense to me for those listening. How can they get in touch with you
[00:23:13] Steve Roessler: and learn. Oh, yeah. Well, hell text me.
[00:23:21] um, no, I mean, look, Hey, you guys can, anybody can reach out to me on social. Uh, you can DM me, whatever, uh, but if you wanna get ahold of me, you can shoot me a text, uh, 3 1 4 8 0 3 4 3 3 4. If you really want to email me then good luck. Uh, Steve ad drive centric.com, but you know, better not go to spam or else.
[00:23:41] Love it, man.
[00:23:42] Michael: Thanks so much for joining me on the dealer playbook podcast.
[00:23:44] Steve Roessler: You got it, buddy. Good talking to you.
[00:23:58] Michael: I'm Michael SLO and you've been listening to the dealer playbook podcast. If you haven't yet, please click the subscribe button wherever you're listening. Right now, leave a rating or review and share it with a colleague. Thanks for listening.