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I’ve done a lot of mystery shopping, emailing and calling hundreds of automobile dealers on a consistent basis just to discover more about their process. In my findings, over 70% of my email leads were answered by an auto-responder. Personally, this drives me crazy. I don’t need an instant response. I need a response with value…not one that tells me how great you are, and where you are, and when you are there. Besides, 8 out of 10 of those auto-responders went right to my junk mail box anyway. If I wouldn’t have specifically hunted for them, I would have never seen them at all. In my opinion, if you’re auto-responder is going to prospects junk mail folders then you are probably better off anyway.
Take the time to write a quick, yet personal email. Add a photo of yourself, add a photo of the car they inquired about (not a stock image), and also put a coupon in there. Be creative…you’ll stand out from the 8 other dealerships that have to email that prospect back as well. Last but not least…answer the questions the prospect has. In most of my test emails I specifically ask questions about the used car I am inquiring about (cd changer? Leather? Etc.) Out of 10 email leads sent with vehicle specific questions, only 1, yes just 1 dealer answered my specific questions. Unfortunately it was about 3 days later…but that’s another story. The other 9 dealerships email responses only cared to set an appointment, have me come in for a test drive, pleaded for me to pick up the phone and call them. A real prospect would have moved on…there were only 78 other used Expedition’s that showed up in this particular search on this used car website. I may have found the vehicle I was looking for; I just didn’t find a sales person.
It didn’t get any better when I started calling the dealerships. I even specifically asked for an Internet Manager or Business Development Center when I called. While they were all particularly strong on the phone (they “gave good phone” as one dealer I know often jokes) they were terrible at listening to me…the customer. Every question I asked was never directly answered, but was followed by them asking what time I wanted to come in. Meanwhile, there I am, on that particular used car website still, and I have already started looking for a different vehicle. It was time to move on. Maybe the Internet Manager thought I turned off my computer screen before I called them and this was the only Expedition out there (remember the 78 that I found earlier?) I asked if it had a third row seat…they didn’t know…I asked if it had a DVD player…they didn’t know that either. Being asked what time can I come by was their best and only response. Apparently being an Internet Manager or working in a Business Development Center doesn’t require a daily inventory walk, which is a shame, It would help out a lot.
Perhaps dealers are just placing too much emphasis to their Internet Managers on setting appointments. I know some dealers paying $25 and up for appointments. JUST FOR APPOINTMENTS! I obviously can’t speak for every consumer out there, but I have a tough time scheduling any time to go ahead and see you when I still have so many questions. Now most of these Internet Managers did write down my questions…and they did get me an answer, but once again it wasn’t in a timely fashion. The average manager took 7 hours just to answer 3 questions. I am still waiting to hear from some and it's been a few months. It was a good thing I really didn't want to purchase that vehicle.