Auto Industry Benefits From Online Engagement
Who knew that good customer service means more sales? In a not-so-shocking customer service survey, research shows that car dealerships that respond to Internet leads effectively sell more cars than dealerships that don’t. Car dealerships have dramatically improved how they respond to online leads during the past couple of years. Despite this improvement, they’re still lacking in the quality of their responses with regard to human, rather than software, generated follow-up emails, telephone calls, and dealership appointment requests.
Response to Leads is Up, but Quality is Still Down
Pied Piper Management Company, a mystery shopping consultant firm, found that most dealerships use customer relationship management software to respond to Internet leads. While the software responds immediately to email inquiries, follow-up, or a lack thereof, is what can make or break the deal. Their 2013 Prospect Satisfaction Index ranked dealerships by brand and found that many salespeople are still inadequately addressing consumer inquiries. Pied Piper’s CEO, Fran O’Hagan, says that dealerships need a department that focuses on quick, human generated responses to Internet inquiries to convert those curious lookers into buyers. O’Hagan goes on to say that improving how Internet leads are handled can cause “huge changes, right away,” in a dealership’s sales.
Fewer Customers Ignored
Compared to the 2011 numbers, fewer customers are being ignored when they contact dealerships online. In 2011, 12 percent of email inquiries went unanswered, but that number dropped to 7 percent in the most recent survey. The response to specific email questions also improved from 19 percent to 44 percent. That’s the good news. The bad news? That means that more than half of dealerships still aren’t adequately responding to their potential customers’ inquiries via email. To make matters worse, nearly half of the dealerships failed to make a follow-up call to the customer.
Faster Response Times Needed
In an age where waiting several hours for more information seems like a lifetime, anything more than 30 minutes for response can lead to the loss of a sale. If the potential customer doesn’t receive a prompt reply, there are plenty of other dealerships to which they can take their business. According to the survey, more than one quarter of the dealerships took more than 24 hours to respond to email inquiries. Though one of the possible obstacles to faster response times include understaffing at many dealerships, an effort still needs to be made because, just as a salesman wouldn’t ignore someone strolling through the doors of the dealership, those strolling through their websites shouldn’t be ignored either. Internet shoppers should be taken just as seriously. Just because they don’t come in to the store doesn’t mean that they don’t want to buy. Many are simply put off by what they deem as pushy sales tactics at the dealerships.
Domestic Brands Show Marked Improvement
Porsche, Nissan, and Audi held the top three scores on the firm’s Internet Lead Effectiveness Index; while the bottom three spots were filled by Mini, Mitsubishi, and Scion, respectively. One in three inquiries to Scion went unanswered. Mercedes and BMW were also low in rankings, with a surprising one in seven inquiries to Mitsubishi going unanswered. Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler took spots 4-6. Although Honda and Toyota scored highly in the survey two years ago, they’re now in the middle of the rankings. Domestic brands Ford and Chrysler had the most marked improvements over the past three surveys. Overall, 30 of the 33 brands measured scored above the industry average from just two years ago, showing significant improvement.
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