As countless studies will attest, the effectiveness of texting, email, social media, and multiple other digital media in attracting customers to your business has consistently increased over the past few years. In fact, given all the proven advantages of digital, some may consider the phone to be almost outdated as a means of communication.
Actually, the reverse is true, according to findings reported in a recent MediaPost article. Not only is the phone regularly used by prospective car buyers to contact a dealer, sales calls actually convert to purchases four times more than emails on average. As if that weren’t surprising enough, well over a quarter of consumer-initiated phone calls to dealers subsequently result in the caller buying a vehicle from that dealership.
With that said, however, it’s important to dig a little deeper into both customer preferences and dealer participation to better understand your role in effectively capturing those callers and turning them into purchasers. As with the phone itself, engaging your customers to the point of sale completion is an ongoing and two-way process.
Knowing why they’re calling
Understanding why customers call in the first place is crucial. Rarely, if ever, is it for general information, as this can quickly and easily be obtained online. In one of his “Straight Talk” videos, David Lewis lays out the primary reason most prospective buyers phone a dealership: to see what type of people they’ll be dealing with. Due to decades of predominantly negative sales practices, customers are fearful and apprehensive about the car-buying process. But calling ahead of time lets them hear your voice and get a taste of how they’ll be treated. And needless to say, if their initial encounter is off-putting in any way, they’ll simply end the call, cross your store off the list, and move on to someone else. Letting calls go to voice mail is even worse, as it defeats the caller’s basic purpose and can also paint your dealership as unconcerned, out of touch, or even poorly staffed.
This supports a corollary finding of the MediaPost article, that a dealer’s top-performing salespeople are significantly more likely to set up an appointment over the phone than low performers. With the volume of calls that your dealership receives in a given day, however, expecting every call to be answered and handled successfully by the best salesperson – or by any staff member – is extremely optimistic, if not unrealistic.
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression
If the vast majority of callers to your Sales Department have at least some intent to purchase, how can you ensure that those first-time conversations result in the highest possible number of booked appointments and subsequent visits – and not in added business for your competitor?
Dealers who utilize a professional call center to manage the lines are getting a true win-win. Every caller is able to interact with an engaging, knowledgeable person, every call is immediately routed to the right person or team, and salespeople aren’t tied up on the phone. In addition to handling inbound and outbound calling for both Sales and Service Departments, a full-service call center can offer other advantages such as customized call campaigns, extensive monitoring, and in-depth reporting to pinpoint any missed opportunities.
Going seamlessly from sales to follow-up to service—and beyond
As you well know, capturing prospective buyers is just the first step. But keeping them engaged throughout the ownership lifecycle is the key to maximum long-term profitability. Once customers have made an initial purchase, a good call center will follow up by obtaining documented, firsthand customer feedback and ratings about their experience at your store. And there’s opportunity in prospects too: those who failed to purchase a vehicle can receive follow-up as well to address their key purchase objections, resolve potential CSI issues, or go over any other concerns in order to bring them back.
Dealers who make full use of their call center resources can also significantly improve effectiveness in their service lanes. By relying on agents to assist customers and function seamlessly as representatives of your Service Department, managers can ensure:
- All calls are handled professionally
- All appointment opportunities are maximized
- All basic service questions are answered on the line
- All customer contact information is kept up to date
- And your Service Advisors are able to focus all their attention on in-lane customers
As we noted earlier, customers embarking on the vehicle-buying process are likely to call your dealership just to see what’s in store for them. So use the phones to your advantage—make sure your customers are pleasantly surprised by an experience that turns out to be both valuable and hassle-free.
Director of Marketing Communications