A car is written off in the UK every 90 seconds, and fifteen used vehicles change hands a minute.

More than 600,000 people die each year in the UK. In England, more than 2,000 a day get the keys to a new house – and that’s before allowing for renters. And around 500 people a day change their name.

All of which causes a problem for car dealers. In the face of this constant change, how can they keep the data on Dealership Management Systems (DMS) up to date and therefore useful?

The answer is more straightforward than you might think: cleanse your data regularly.

‘I haven’t had that car for three years’: Out of date records

Dealer databases and DMS systems hold many types of customer and vehicle information: marketing data and preferences; specific vehicle information; details of MOTs and servicing; personal and contact details for customers and leads.

With some dealers holding four million records, and details changing by the second, the quality of that data erodes every day.

Without data cleansing, many thousands a year will be rendered useless. So a dealership’s key asset – its customer information – loses value fast.

How inaccurate data hurts dealers

Different data inaccuracies cause different problems, all of them significant:

The customer no longer has the vehicle

Irrelevant calls and messages grate with customers. They make sales less likely when the aim was to make them more so.

It may also be against the law. Under GDPR, once a customer no longer has the vehicle, the dealer no longer has a legitimate interest and must not hold their details without permission.

And wasted calls selling after-care like services drain resources, sapping the morale of sales teams.

The dealer has out-of-date personal details

Using the wrong details can make it impossible to contact a customer.

Even if contact is possible, out-of-date details on file create a sense that the dealer doesn’t know their customer. This poor experience is likely to lead to poor sales results,

It is especially damaging when the detail is either very personal – such as a name change – or one that changed a long time ago (‘No, I moved house six years ago…’).

The customer is deceased

The most damaging inaccuracy of all, this creates a toxic relationship with surviving relatives and can do irreparable damage to a firm’s reputation.

A Google search for ‘sales calls to a deceased person’ produces 115 million results, many telling the stories of angry consumers.

Dealer has wrong or out-of-date communications preferences

This is a breach of GDPR, and dealerships have already been criticised and fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office for getting it wrong.

Incorrect data here doesn’t just apply to contacting customers: companies should not be holding their information if they have not consented unless there is a clear legitimate interest for doing so.

Dealers need to be checking the Telephone Preferences Service (and its equivalent for mail shots), which let customers bar contact. Failure to do so leads to fines.

For these reasons, some leading manufacturers insist that dealers cleanse their data regularly.

Car dealer talking to a customer with cars in the background

How data cleansing helps

Monthly or quarterly data cleansing leaves dealership records accurate and ready to be used effectively.

It updates:

  • Key customer details – new addresses via Post Office files and so-called gone-away records, as well as new personal details
  • Notices of a customer being deceased
  • Changes in keeper – does that customer still own the vehicle?
  • Write-offs and scrappage
  • Checks with the Telephone Preference Service and Mail Preference Service

Cleansing is simple: export a copy; audit and cleanse; re-upload.

Inside a week, dealers have reliable and accurate information to work from for sales, after-sales care and targeting customer offers.

The vital role of cleansing at pre-acquisition

A second essential use for data cleansing is for buyers looking at acquiring dealerships.

Consumer data is one of the biggest assets a buyer is getting. If that asset includes thousands of out-of-date records, it is not worth what it appears to be. So data audits are a vital part of due diligence.

Data auditing and cleansing with Experian

With Experian, data cleansing is:

  • Audited and checked in consultation with customers first, to select the data that needs to be cleansed
  • Handled wholly in-house – no third parties are involved
  • Proven, reliable, FCA regulated and fully compliant with the relevant regulations
  • Bespoke to the client’s needs
  • Available for any data file, no matter what the data quality