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Sean Reyes

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One of the fears dealerships have regarding digital innovations in the automotive industry is that the internet will replace phones. However, it is a well-known fact that phone leads close significantly faster than internet and social leads combined. And guess what -- fixed operations generates many of them. As a result, dealerships are placing a priority on the phone, especially when it comes to fixed operations.

Some dealers have that one salesperson who has been in the business for 20-plus years and just cannot wrap their heads around the internet in general, refusing to use it. More than likely, this person still manages to outperform all the internet savvy salespeople every month. How? They are doing it with the phone. Salespeople who favor the phone do so because they can make a better personal connection than via email or text. They then use that connection to encourage the customer to visit. The same goes for a service advisor when a customer calls in with a service question or to schedule an appointment.

While it is important to be on top of advancing technology and offer all forms of communication from email to text and even live video -- many consumers still favor phone contact – for an immediate solution. Most customers will call into the dealership first rather than use the service appointment scheduling widget on a dealership’s website.

Car shoppers ask questions over the phone as a test to see if the dealership is willing to answer them. If your strategy is to throw up roadblocks in the customer's chosen form of communication to force people into the dealership, you will be ruled out (in sales) or leave a customer frustrated and maybe even looking for another solution (in service).

Customers want human connection before they visit a dealership, and it can benefit your bottom line significantly if you make the most of those phone calls IF you answer the phone.  Consumers also use their phone experience with the dealership to gauge the dealer's attention to service and personalization. In short, are they going to be treated with the respect they deserve, or are they nameless, faceless transactions?

Closing ratios (for both sales and service) rise when phone contact is made with customers but 60% of service calls end without an appointment set. Why? Because nobody answers the phone, or the customers get frustrated by a phone tree. Here are a few other eye-opening stats on phone support that ought to awaken your team:

- The average dealership misses 8 service appointment calls per day (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report)

- If answered and converted, those called would generate $48K/month in revenue

- 23% of incoming calls never connect with a live agent (CallRevu)

- 31.6% of answered calls result in an appointment. (DialogTech)

- Caller retention rate is 28% higher than web lead retention rate (Forrester)

It can be hard for your customers to connect and do business with you when it seems like the dealership is purposefully avoiding phone contact. Building that connection via a live connection with a customer is the fastest way to reassure them your dealership cares and is ready and willing to help them.

The recent pandemic has pushed record numbers of shoppers onto the internet over the past nine months. While internet leads and sales have been skyrocketing, many consumers still consider the phone an important step in the car shopping, purchase, and servicing process. 

When it comes to sales, technology is not meant to replace people. It simply allows them to expand their audience and to do what they do best: generating revenue through providing a great customer experience.

Stop sending your customers into phone trees if no one is prepared to pick up the phone when they make a department selection. Unless you have a sophisticated solution that can manage the inquiry without a live agent. Still, those don’t seem to meet the satisfaction of most consumers anyway. And do not force your customers to sit on hold so long that they hang up. By so doing, you might not just miss an oil change, but perhaps a more lucrative customer-pay RO or a sale. And, in these times, I am sure you don’t want to miss either.

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