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Patrick Kelly

Patrick Kelly President/Partner

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Incoming! Why Every Phone Call Should Be Treated as Mission Critical

When was the last time you tried calling into your own--or another--dealership? Chances are high that the phone went unanswered, you were put on hold, routed into voicemail or were told that the sales or service person you're trying to reach is out to lunch.


The latest data collected from our call center agents is overwhelming: car dealers are missing way too many sales and service opportunities from lost phone leads. Behind showroom ups, these are the highest value inquiries with high close rates and fast turnaround times. 


Here are the facts:


  • Only one in six incoming calls to dealerships is handled properly; that is, the customer connects with a person who can help them with their inquiry


  • Seventy percent of inbound calls to the service department are directed into voicemail or result in customer hang-ups due to long hold times


Don't blame the receptionist. Many receptionists become jacks-of-all-trades in dealerships; in addition to answering phones they are expected to greet showroom customers, make coffee and run miscellaneous errands. Who would you rather neglect: a customer in the showroom or a customer on the phone? The answer should be neither, but unfortunately in most dealerships it's the latter. Besides, a receptionist can't track down every sales and service employee and force them to answer the phone. And most receptionists don't have the training, authority or access to set sales and service appointments.


I get it. In dealerships, there are plenty of those crazy days when everyone seems to be putting out fires. As a result, the customer who is calling to inquire whether a piece of inventory is still available, or who wants a quote for a service repair, ends up being ignored.


So the customer calls your competitor down the street.


Dealers spend thousands of dollars a month to get their phones to ring. Spending time and effort to come up with a solution for missed phone lead opportunities is as important a part of your marketing strategy as posting pictures of your inventory on your website.


Consider implementing some, if not all, of these best practices:


  • Answer every incoming phone call and ensure that every customer connects with an employee instead of voicemail

  • Ask customers if they want to set an appointment - then make sure they connect with someone who can set the appointment
  • If the vehicle of interest has been sold, suggest an alternative
  • Ensure that all voice mailboxes are functioning and not full
  • Return all voicemails within one hour
  • Set up alerts that are triggered every time a sales or service employee gets a voice mail
  • Use call analytics to measure how many calls go to voicemail or are unanswered. Analytics will help identify the times and days missed opportunities are most likely to happen. During those peak times, make sure someone is answering the phone!
  • Consider call forwarding, which routes calls to a second phone number after a certain number of rings


When the above best practices aren't possible or viable, another option is to outsource all calls to an off-site call center. A good call center will improve sales and service revenue with more appointments and be-backs, higher showroom closing ratios, and increased customer satisfaction and CSI scores.


Missing just several phone opportunities every day can add up to thousands of dollars in missed revenue every month. So treat every incoming phone call like its mission-critical! By properly handling phone leads, your dealership will reap the rewards of increased sales and increased customer loyalty.66b8eb1e2cb0a716f730c45339a3f03f.jpeg?t=

Darrell A Lyons
Great article. It gave me some excellent points to remember.
Patrick Kelly
Thanks Darrell, appreciate the nice comment.

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