In the early days of the Internet (1991-1996), web forms were rarely ever found. Customer feedback was sent through executable files running on hard disks. If a user wanted to subscribe to a service, they usually had to download a form, fill it out by hand, and send it through the postal mail. Once forms did start to surface on the Web, they looked pretty ugly, unable to utilize CSS to make them all nice.
Today, forms are found every where and entice users to fill them out in all sorts of ways, and the automotive industry takes them pretty seriously.
So why should you care about these forms? What happens when you click ‘submit’? How do they benefit the dealer, the service provider, and the customer?
Before I discuss these aforementioned questions, let’s take a quick peek at three important aspects of forms that you should know. I think of them as the 3 three-letter acronyms of my day.
A markup language for encoding documents in a way that both a computer and a human can read clearly. The design was purposefully chosen to create a usable data format across the Web. If you were to Right-Click on this page and select something like “View Page Source,” you would see something similar to XML; this is called Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). HTML has a similar idea behind it as XML, also known as Extensible Markup Language. Together they write out our digital lives.
A set of XML-based standards set by a collaboration of 13 different automotive-focused Internet companies, known as Auto-lead Data Format. Information is organized into five overall categories: Lead, Vehicle, Customer, Vendor, and Service. Each category may feature a set of more specific tags. Did you happen to Right-Click the page? Try again and imagine those words between the “<, >” to be automotive jargon.
A popular location where an ADF can be sent in order to keep the data organized and readily available. CRM stands for Customer Retention Management and many service providers accept these as a submission.
So let’s say that a customer is interested in a car. He or she goes online to gain additional information. Older communication methods would include sending an email or even a fax to the dealer. The idea of an ADF is to gather specific information from the web form and structure it out so that the information does not cause any confusion. Today, the customer finds a fancy looking form and fills that out in a matter of seconds. I think of the ADF as the missing mediator in this case — it is a filter the automotive industry uses to help information go from the customer to the dealer in a fast, efficient, and universal manner. After the customer fills out an appealing form on the dealer’s website, the data is organized by the ADF, which is then sent to the CRM for the dealer to access. This is all done just by clicking that ‘submit’ button on the form.
This is important for all interested parties. Let’s take a brief look at some of the benefits.
- Customer: Faster and more accurate service and sales requests.
- Service Provider: Improved leads from dealer and reduced use of older communication methods.
- Dealers: More sales, customer satisfaction, organized leads, lower training costs, reduction in entry errors, and proactively ready for the next sales automation software.
Well, there you have it — forms enable an effective way to communicate a wide array of information from customer to dealer.