The big debate, do we text first or call first? Technology has certainly changed the entire car buying experience, with more customers shopping online and using social media before choosing a dealership. If most customers are shopping online first and submitting leads for more information, how you respond to that lead is going to be vital in their decision-making process.
The Phone Call: Why so much hate?
Nothing will ever take the place of an actual phone call to your lead, especially when its a fresh lead. In a recent round of mystery shops completed by my company, we submitted nearly 100 leads to dealerships all across the country. Almost half of the dealerships never contacted their internet lead via phone. To be more specific, 43% of the stores we mystery shopped did not call within the first 5 days of lead submission. This is a common problem because those answering your leads prefer to use alternate methods such as text or even email instead of picking up the phone to call the lead.
The problem with these methods is SPAM folders and even cell phones nowadays are starting to come with them for texts. Newer cell phones can filter text messages from unknown sources directly into SPAM folders, just like an email server. So if they do not check these folders, for all your customer knows you haven't tried to contact them at all. That being said, the quicker you call the customer, the more likely they are to be available to take your call. Try to shoot for calling them within 5 minutes, but no longer than 15 minutes from lead receipt. This increases the chances they will answer.
Getting the customer on the phone as soon as possible can be the reason they choose to purchase from you. Your overall call quality factors into whom they choose, so we suggest having a good process in place, train your team! As our recent round of mystery shops demonstrated, dealers are missing out on countless opportunities to grow because they simply are not picking up the phone.
Once you do have the customer on the phone, be sure your call quality is top notch. Of course its great to call the customer quickly, but if your call quality isn't on point and effective, then really there is no point in calling at all. Be sure you focus on building rapport with the customer, be friendly and upbeat and encourage a visit to your store.
Text: It's faster and easier, right?
This may shock you, but text is not always the number 1 preferred method of communication. However, I still believe you have to factor in your own customer base. While communication statistics are helpful in designing marketing strategies, you still have your own local demographics to consider. Many stores market specifically to a younger generation and that age group does prefer to text. Even if the younger crowd is your market base, as I stated before, nothing replaces the personal phone call. I suggest calling first and if the customer does not answer, you should send them a text. Be sure you send an “opt-in” text to get the customer’s permission to text with them. You can visit the FCC’s website for the proper guidelines, rules and regulations. Most CRM’s offer texting and allow you to send the “opt-in” text automatically. I do not suggest letting staff use their personal cell phones for texting. Always use a system that you can monitor and that follows the FCC’s guidelines.
Handling a text is not much different than a phone call, we use all the same techniques. Build rapport with the customer, keep it engaging and of course, invite them into the store. Keep in mind that you want to keep texts short and simple so that the customer does not receive too many texts at once. Its a good idea to create text templates so that you are not retyping the same phrases all day long. While you want to handle each customer with customized content, but there are typical phrases you will always text everyone, such as your contact information and address.
Another option if the customer is texting with you, would be to ask them when is a good time to speak. If you can use text to get them to speak via phone, you have a much better shot at getting the relationship established. It’s very hard to be personable via text and customers do base their decision somewhat on the person that they will be working with.
In Summary: They don't have to compete!
You have multiple ways to communicate with your potential customer, you do not have to pick calling versus texting. If you call and they don’t answer, leave a message and then send a text. Many people we train insist it has to be one or the other, and that is just ridiculous. Unless the customer specifically requests you only communicate with them a specific way, I would always try to call them first. If you are not at least attempting to call them, you are probably missing out on opportunities to drive more traffic in the door.
Remember to test different communication methods, not every customer is the same! Treat each customer as an individual and communicate with them based on what they prefer. It's not a text vs call competition, they can work together so you can accomplish your goals!