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Bill Wittenmyer

Bill Wittenmyer VP Sales, Layered Apps & Competitive Accounts

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3 Tips for Bridging the Customer Expectation Gap

Dealers are great at creating expectations. They advertise their dealerships as family owned, friendly, hassle-free and low-price leaders. These promises are what motivate the customer to call in the first place.


Then the expectation gap opens up. Typical problems that dealerships run into include:


  • Calls getting put on hold, transferred to voice mails, routed to a carousel of wrong persons, or worse, disconnected
  • Customer does not get the information they called for, such as a price quote
  • Nobody returns the customer's call


When these things happen to your customers, your dealership instantly loses credibility. You promote how easy it is to do business with you, but that's not what customers experience.


It's not difficult to fix your phone processes, but it does require a strategy. Try these tips to help bridge the customer expectation gap at your store.


Get a Call Analysis


If your digital marketing strategy is effective, you are receiving more calls than ever before. Approximately 50 percent of car shoppers who use their phones to browse inventory find it easier to "click to call" rather than fill out a lead form.


Phone leads outnumber Internet leads by four to one and are probably your best, low-funnel leads. If you don't have the personnel and training in place to handle this increased call volume, you are likely losing money.


Do you know how many inbound calls your dealership receives each day? Do you know how many are answered? Most dealers find a call analysis very eye-opening. If you've never had one done for your dealership, I highly recommend it.


Consider a Virtual BDC/Call Center


Many dealers believe their staff should be answering phones and having those initial conversations. This would be great if it actually happened or if these calls were handled properly. The irony here is that if your employees are doing their jobs, they are often away from their phones and with other in-store customers.


Another reason why dealers are hesitant to have a BDC is that their sales managers and service advisors want to be in control of their own scheduling. That's because they want a schedule that's best for them and not necessarily what's best for the dealership. If a service advisor wants to leave at 5:00 pm, do you think he's going to schedule a 4:30 appointment?


Dealers that have committed to setting up a BDC or outsourcing their calls to a BDC service rarely go back to the 'old way.' They immediately see the benefits, including:


  • More phone calls answered
  • More sales and service appointments
  • Shop capacity is maximized
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Big reduction in employees playing phone tag with customers


I realize that setting up, staffing and managing a BDC can be an expensive proposition. Many dealers find it's cheaper and more efficient to outsource their calls to a professional BDC service.


Sell Expertise, Not Appointments


In many dealerships, this may require a paradigm shift. It’s important to understand that you are selling information and expertise, not appointments. Your dealership advertises a hassle-free experience, but when a customer calls to ask a price, most times the salesperson refuses to give it to them. Instead they try to sell the appointment. That's not exactly hassle-free.


I've worked in the car business for many years. I used to agree and be a whole-hearted believer in selling the appointment. But the mentality of today's shopper has changed, and this is no longer the best approach.


For one thing, car shoppers research online extensively. Before they call any dealers, they know the model and make of the car they want. They know the price range they believe is fair.


By the time they call your dealership they're in the process of elimination. When a customer calls they want to confirm three things:


  • Inventory availability
  • Pricing
  • Whether you are someone they want to do business with


If it’s difficult to do business with you over the phone, the customer immediately thinks, "What's it going to be like when I get there?" Consumers already have trust issues with car dealers. Don't make it worse by playing games with them.


I'm not saying just to quote a price and be done. Every phone call is an opportunity to sell yourself and your expertise, and to sell your dealership's value proposition.


Remember that when a customer calls your dealership, you've got one chance to make a great first impression. Ensure that your phone processes quickly connect customers with your staff. Give customers the information they’re looking for, and they’re more likely to do business with you in return.

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