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Internet Lead Response, Inspect what you Expect

By Ron Henson on Feb 15, 2013

In my capacity at DrivingSales I get the opportunity to analyze the Internet Lead Response Process of many dealers.  The results certainly are varied and surprises pop up almost daily.  These surprises are often received less than favorably by the dealer and understandably so.  Dealer Principals and General Managers are confident that their process and response times are solid, that is until they see some actual results.

Yesterday I took a random sampling of the last 10 Process Analysis Reports that I prepared for dealers and there are certainly some trends that jump out very quickly.  7 of the 10 were completed while talking to the DP's and GM's at the NADA convention and the remaining 3 were completed just before.  

Take a look at some of these statistics:

  • Average response time (not including auto responders) ~ 11 hours  I think it's important to note that I removed the 4 dealerships that didn't respond at all in order to not completely skew the numbers.  Ouch!
  • # of responses that contained an answer to a specific question that was asked ~ 1      How are your prospects reacting when they submit a question via your website, a specific question, and the response they get in return is, "Let me know if you have any questions."  Hello, Mcfly!?!  I don't know about you, but if businesses do not listen to me, they do not get my money.
  • # of responses that contained grammatical or spelling errors ~ 6   Now when you look at that number please keep in mind that for the purpose of this post I pulled 10 samples and 4 of them did not respond at all.  10 minus 4 =.....well, you get the point.  How important is a first impression?  I would be willing to bet that you have sales meetings regarding the importance of the first impression.   Did you know that one of the most critical items that a customer judges in order to decide if they are going to eliminate a dealership from consideration is the level of professionalism in that initial email response?

Ok, I'm done discussing the gloom and doom of poor lead handling and the pitfalls that they present to dealerships and the money that it costs them every day.  I'm done mentioning that the disconnect that exists between the investment that the dealer makes in new technology tools and digital marketing and the execution that actually takes place in the trenches is bleeding dollars through the back door.  I'm also done mentioning that over 95% of car shoppers and buyers today require a professional online experience in order to consider giving a dealership their business.

Good news!  The 10 dealers who received these reports (after they stopped fuming) saw a great area of opportunity where they could, kindly and lovingly, coach their teams on the benefit of tightening up these processes.  Benefit #1: Job Security!

My advice, take the time to analyze your process and see if there is some opportunity that your dealership may be missing.  The ROI on the time you spend doing so will make you smile.

Let's move some metal!


Thanks for sharing Ron. Same results, different day for many dealers.

Feb 15, 2013

What a coincidence! My e-Business Manager and I were just talking about the same thing with our internet team yesterday............the cream rises to the top. Thanks Ron.

Jeff Richmond
Valley Importrs

Feb 16, 2013

Good stuff, Ron. I recently presented similar findings at the DMSC in Orlando, after ranking thousands of Internet responses. Suffice it to say, we might have well saved ourselves time and looked at a much smaller sample size to show that dealers need help improving their interaction with customers.

Feb 16, 2013

Great info Ron. We have found very similar results during our consultations and work with dealers. Many times it is because dealers don't know. When they tell us they have their lead process down, they are shocked when we present information to the contrary. Especially when their departments don't call a lead we submit. Dealers have to allow some of the great trainers out there to hold up the mirror so dealers can sell more cars.

Feb 17, 2013

Definitely food for thought. One question: was the ~11 hour average just business hours, or within a 24 hour window?

Feb 18, 2013

Great question Amy. In preparing the findings from the sample I pulled it was business hours only which means the results were actually worse than reported.

So glad to see responses to this post from Glenn Pasch, Joe Webb, and Shaun Raines who are all experts that I admire tremendously.

And Jeff, good for you for having those discussions! Keep up the good work!

Feb 18, 2013

Here is some food for thought... What is your process for monitoring response times and quality of response. While third party (outside eye looking in) advice is great and always welcome we as Managers should be monitoring these issues daily. Though we may never perfect the process of Internet Sales, there is no reason why we should not try! Thank you Ron for your insight!!

May 12, 2013

Anyone know of a company that I can hire at a reasonable price to secret shop my digital team weekly/monthly? We have thousands of email addresses to secret shop our competitors every month for the last 10 years but I - and I bet they would appriciate some accountability reporting on my team. Funny, while I was typing this, I contacted my accountability manager and discussed doing this in-house and creating a "Digital Report card" that would grade every lead response in detail and followup including copies of every response and phone call/text attempt for 30 days. Answered my own question :) Love this forum.

Sep 27, 2013

Hey Joe,
Shoot me an email and I'll share the "Quality Lead Response Report Card" that we have. Good to see you on the forum and I hope we'll see you at DSES.

Sep 27, 2013

Joe - If you have an accountability manager, you're way ahead of the curve. I LOVE it. We offer a couple of services for our clients and others called TaskTeacher and PriceMatrix. PriceMatrix does the detailed mystery shopping of your same brand competitors on a monthly-bi-monthly basis so you know their pricing, response time, online pricing, strategies, rebates using, etc. This way dealers can stay competitive.

However, with TaskTeacher, we do much of what you'll be doing with your accountability manager. I PREFER that dealers do this in-house, but it must be done. We monitor how thoroughly their lead handlers/ISMs follow-up long-term with their Internet opportunities. We measure timing, effort, content, responses, and more. Every bit of criteria we hold them accountable for is weighted statistically to arrive at a "grade". Our team and software then writes detailed notes describing any discrepancies, as well as words of encouragement. It then automatically shoots those "grades" and coaching comments back to the ISM, Internet Director, Sales Managers and more.

As you embark down this path, a tip that we ended up including into our software...make sure that you keep a historic database so you can notate trends to how they are improving and what specific short-comings each individual has. It takes managing and training to another level. (We call ours "progress reports"). Great job incorporating that into your daily routine. We've learned that it is only when someone realizes they're being constantly monitored (and receiving corresponding grades) that they start following the process well.

Sep 27, 2013

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