Xtime's ServiceCRM gained notoriety with two major dealer groups, and now Sonic Automotive has joined the ranks of those adopting the service.

ServiceCRM integrates into a single product a dealership's online service retailing, automated service scheduling (customer, dealership and call center) along with web-enabled service marketing, advanced shop control and certified DMS integration.

That's intended to generate more business in the service department, which more dealers are relying on to make up for fewer vehicle sales.

“We automate fixed operations, specifically on the demand side of it,” says Xtime CEO Neal East. “We generate demand, capture it and manage it, on behalf of the dealership.”

“And given the current conditions in dealerships, fixed operations are largely keeping the doors open today.

Dealerships can do a better job in retaining service customers, he says. “In fact, about 70% of the customers at a dealership that have work done leave that dealership after the warranty expires.

“That's not a great customer retention number, and we help improve that number, by making it a lot more convenient and trustworthy to work with the dealership.”

Sonic Automotive is only one of four publicly traded dealership groups in the U.S. with more than 100 dealerships.

“We delivered this as general availability product in January 2005, Version 1, and delivered a Version 5 a few months ago,” East says. “It's evolved rather significantly over the past four years.

“We've gone from 0 dealerships to over 1,500 dealerships today, and moved from single dealership interactions and sales, to dealer groups,” he says, adding they have all 240 Auto Nation stores, all 100 Group 1 stores and now all 140 Sonic stores.

East says Sonic's 8-to-1 monthly return on investment just from new online customer revenue is an example of how Xtimes' value can generate for dealerships looking to improve their customer's service experience.

“The concerns that J.D. Powers and all of the surveys say are the core reasons why those customers don't return are price, convenience and trust,” East says.

East says if he wanted to order 100,000-mile maintenance service work on a '99 Acura at a dealership, he'd have to call that advisor, and they would need to know maybe five or six unique operation codes just to be able to call up that service.

“That information is completely internal, none of it is exposable in a consumer user-friendly fashion to the person actually purchasing it,” East says. “You get inaccurate quotes, and it's a main-frame system we were used to many decades ago.”