Is the Telephone Overlooked in Your Dealership?

These days it seems everyone is talking about digital marketing, Internet leads, social media and CRM, but are we overlooking the oldest and most useful piece of technology in our business—the telephone? With all of our attention and resources focused on Web site traffic, conversion rates and a fan page, what happens when all this works and a customer decides to just give us a call?

One NADA study I saw from a mystery shop of 8,000 dealerships showed dismal results. Forty-two percent of dealership employees didn’t even ask for the caller’s name! Only 29 percent asked for an appointment, 34 percent a phone number, and an appalling 84 percent offered discounts on the phone (to a customer we can’t follow up with.)

So basically, it’s one and done. A low-funnel consumer, whom we have spent thousands of dollars to attract, calls the dealership and eliminates us through sheer incompetence on our part. How do we continue to overlook this poor quality of interaction by our employees with a precious opportunity to do business?

Of course, this isn’t every dealership. Some dealerships are quite good on the phone. Take Trapp Cadillac Chevrolet in Houma, La., for example. Each call starts with the switchboard operators. After a cheerful and heartfelt greeting, Trapp’s switchboard operators get you connected. They don’t put you on hold indefinitely, inadvertently transfer you to the body shop or patch you to a voicemail box that may or may not be monitored. There isn’t anyone picking up the call, asking who you’re holding for and then putting you back on hold, thus taking you off the operator’s radar.

Ray Hebert, GSM at Trapp, directs sales calls to a customer care center where dedicated phone experts help customers gather pre-sell information and do a great job of setting appointments for these customers with showroom managers.

For any dealer, capturing these customers and converting them to visitors is a matter of strategy. A simple phone-up process is one of the most basic and core processes that should exist in your store. Many different processes work. I think calls can be routed to a BDC or handled by salespeople. Either way is fine. The key is to have a living process—a process your employees are trained on, a process where you measure and monitor employee’s performance and then hold them to a standard.

Ahhh, standards. I’m talking about accountability, aren’t I? Why can’t we get this part right? Chris Bender, GM at the VanDevere Group in Akron, Ohio, gets it. His salespeople take inbound phone calls and are held to a standard that he’s not flexible on. If you don’t hit the benchmarks, you don’t take sales calls. One of their three stores boasts a 17-percent close ratio on phone ups, more than three times the national average.

I believe a good first step for a dealer who wants to get better on the phone starts with an honest assessment of what they are currently doing (right or wrong). Then, work towards doing all the right things. Here is a simple self-evaluation on your telephone processes. For each line item, rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 points meaning you do that action well.

Now, start working on the opportunities. You can easily get to 100 percent on this evaluation very quickly. Acing this test is just a matter of paying attention to the most-used piece of technology in the dealership and a major opportunity stream for your sales, parts and service departments.

Vol. 7, Issue 6