CRM For Auto Retail, Free IVR Paper, BeNetSafe's "Point,"

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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CRM For Auto Retail, Free IVR Paper, BeNetSafe's "Point,"

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Van Morrison's Common One album, followed by the somewhat overrated but still good Astral Weeks:

A previous First Coffee entry questioning the validity of tying Rep. Mark Foley's name to a product prompted a reply from the product creators.

The product itself, BeNetSafe, is an online "chaperone" for MySpace, Xanga and Friendster. It monitors communications and provides parents with a report basically highlighting flagged words and phrases so they can have an idea if their kids are doing anything online that the parents should know about.

It sounds like a good product made from a good idea, First Coffee has no problem with that. The bee in my bonnet here is how companies, grasping for any quick publicity, publicly identify their products with problems the product has nothing whatsoever to do with, implicitly raising false connections and possibly false expectations among those purchasing the product.

Here's the original note the company sent around last week:

Just wanted to let you know that BeNetSafe, a service that acts as a chaperone for MySpace and Xanga, will be adding Friendster next week. Parents need tools to help kids stay safe while online -- with news of Rep. Mark Foley and other accused Internet predators BeNetSafe stepped-up their production schedule to become the only service to cover all three major social networking sites.

"Time out," First Coffee wrote. "Mark Foley, 'accused Internet predator?' Is Mark Foley accused of having anything whatsoever to do with MySpace? No. Is he accused of having anything whatsoever to do with Xanga? No. Is he accused of having anything whatsoever to do with Friendster? No. Is there any evidence he's ever accessed any of those sites once? No. Does he even know they exist? First Coffee bets not."

Got an e-mail from Michael Edelson, president of BeNetSafe:

I am Michael Edelson, President of and found the comments on your blog interesting. You do have a point at first glance regarding the Foley issue not having anything to do with MySpace, Xanga, or Friendster.  However, our point is that Mr. Foley has been a high profile supporter and advocate of child safety through The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). He was without doubt a high profile elected official, under public scrutiny, and very involved with child safety.  Look now at the example he set for our elected leadership!

Careful scrutiny of the communication Edelson sent out the first time fails to reveal any mention of Foley's support or advocacy of child safety through the NCMEC, so it hardly could have been the "point" First Coffee didn't catch the first time around. Methinks if that had been the "point," as Edelson claims, he might have mentioned it. He didn't.

Edelson continues:

Now, if this is what is occurring at the top of our political leadership of our society – just imagine what the problem may be within the average American households!  My partner and I have 6 teenagers active on social networks and we have seen first hand what is occurring – and it is not good. We could discuss many personal stories that would illustrate the problems; however, first as concerned parents and as technologists we started Now our goal is to illustrate and educate parents as to the potential dangers and educate them on these issues.

"Top of our political leadership?" First Coffee follows politics rather closely, as I'm a fan of a good catfight, and like pretty much everyone else in America had never heard of Foley before this recent contretemps. He was nothing more than an obscure backbencher, probably unknown to the majority of his constituents, of which Congress has many. And whatever "example" he has set, his behavior has nothing whatsoever to do with anything this BeNetSafe product is designed to prevent.

First Coffee's noticed a marked decline in this nation's ability to think, for people to get away with simply throwing up tenuously associated names, terms, concepts and ideas and winkingly implying connections which don't actually exist. Lots of reasons for this which we don't have the time or space to go into here, but it results in this sort of mushy, wrong-headed promotion for a product that sounds good enough not to need the tawdry associations, it's like promoting Gone With The Wind as "Steamy Southern Sex Romp!"

Kudos to Edelson and his colleagues for producing this product, and here's hoping they stick with what they're evidently pretty good at, which is creating technological tools for performing specific jobs, since if they think Mark Foley has anything in the world to do with the MySpace-style sexual predation their product is marketed as helping spot, they're probably the last people in the world who should be "educating" parents about it.

First Coffee also believes that CRM for the auto industry should be a lot higher-profile than (well, than Mark Foley was at this time last year) it is, and got an encouraging e-mail from product vendor 5square:

Hello David,

The last couple of mentions you made about have generated quite some interest -- so thanks!

I thought you might be interested in the latest info. today announced the results of a study of deal process time using its sales system. In a 12-month period, time from write-up to close fell from 1.37 hours to 0.77 hours, a 43% reduction. The study examined over 21,000 sales transactions. Of particular interest to you might be how the system is used by Internet Departments. In many cases, the deal is done and ready for signature when the buyer arrives.

Raw deal times per dealership ranged from 30 to 90 minutes. In the 30-minute deals, Internet departments were typically using the system to essentially close on the phone, and the buyer was coming in for the F&I presentation and the keys. In the 90-minute deals the system is being used for more traditional sales mechanisms. But no matter which form of selling they use, every dealership in the study saw a reduction in process time.

“We sell a car in 30% less time than it used to take,” commented John Anderson, Dealer Principal of California-based Courtesy Chevrolet San Jose, Courtesy Chevrolet Morgan Hill, and Anderson Honda, one of the largest Honda dealerships in the world. “Almost half of our Honda sales are conducted through our Internet department. With, in many cases, the deal is done and ready for signature when the buyer arrives. I operate in the heart of Silicon Valley, and giving informed buyers what they need is crucial to our success.”

There's no reason why being located in the heart of Silicon Valley makes his dealership any more reason to be informed than a dealership located in East Cupcake, Arkansas, but his point is clear: Customers simply expect that sort of service these days. And for that reason CRM should be much more widely used, and demanded, in the auto retailing industry.

Oh, and you might want to take a look at a recent white paper from Message Technologies, Inc., a vendor of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and speech automation technologies, titled Four Ways Speech Recognition is Going to Change the Mid-Market Retail Call Center. A copy of the white paper can be downloaded without charge from

The white paper looks at "four ways that speech recognition technology and Speech Interactive Voice Response (SIVR) will change the mid-market retail industry, benefit retailers and resolve industry challenges," MTI officials say, through reduced contact center operational costs, enhanced customer experience, improved workforce productivity and increased revenue generation.

It also gives recommendations for implementing a speech recognition application,  including five reasons why outsourcing for speech IVR technology makes sense. Let me guess what MTI sells…

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