Thanks to mobile devices, call volumes to dealerships are up significantly, outpacing internet leads by four to one, according to ADP Digital. In fact, 19 percent or about one in five car shoppers make first contact with dealerships via the phone, according to the 2015 J.D. Power U.S. New Autoshopper Study.
These phone calls are hot leads. Unfortunately a significant percentage of these leads are slipping through the cracks. According to one study by DealerSocket, 39 percent of calls into a dealership fail to reach a qualified employee.
Recent data from Call Revu that analyzed over 1.5 million phone calls into dealerships revealed that 31 percent of sales calls and 20 percent of service calls did not reach an agent. That’s a crazy number of leads that are being lost!
It’s Not About the Phone Processes
This has nothing to do with phone processes, folks. Processes are important and impact how many answered calls are converted into appointments. But process has little to do with the percentage of calls that never connect with a human being in the first place.
Why does this matter? Because connected calls results in sales and service appointments. In sales, 42 percent of connected calls result in an appointment versus 25 percent of total calls that result in an appointment. In fixed ops, 59 percent of connected calls result in an appointment versus 44 percent of total calls that result in an appointment.
This directly translates into dollars. If your dealership loses 100 phone leads every month you could be losing over $10,000 in sales profit every month. That figure is based on an estimate of $2,200 average profit per vehicle, with an appointment conversion rate of seven percent and an appointment close rate of 50 percent. That figure does not even include all the service revenue you could be losing monthly because of lost service leads.
Although many dealers blame the mishandling of leads on human error, the fact is the majority of phone calls fall through the cracks due to technology issues. An outdated phone system or a poorly designed call flow can have a huge impact on the percentage of connected calls.
Has Your Phone System Gone Rogue?
Recently I needed my car serviced. I called a dealership and asked for a service advisor. The extension rang and rang. Eventually I was kicked back to the receptionist who transferred me to someone else. Nobody answered that extension either so I just hung up. Needless to say I did not get my car serviced there.
From my experience working with hundreds of dealerships, this experience is all too common. The reason is because senior management gives very little thought to how their calls get routed, which in technology lingo is known as “call flow.” A call flow determines how many times a person’s phone rings, whether a call gets routed back to the receptionist or into voice mail, and what happens to calls after hours.
Call flows are set up when the phone system is installed. As employees come and go extensions often get re-assigned haphazardly, or not at all, causing some phone calls to ring and ring and ring, or not ring at all, known as a ‘black hole.’
Sometimes a new manager will decide they want calls in their department answered a certain way. In one dealership I know of, a parts manager decided he wanted every parts call to go to his extension. He called the phone vendor, directed them to do it and six months later left the dealership. All calls into the parts department went unanswered for days before someone realized what the problem was.
Another dealership had the phone system set up so that all employees were automatically logged out at 5:00 p.m. So if a sales person was working late and waiting for a call from a potential appointment, or if someone called at 5:02 p.m. to ask what time the service department opened in the morning, those calls were automatically sent into voice mail.
No to Voice Mail!
Hot phone leads should never be sent into voice mail. Modern phone systems, also known as Unified Communications Platforms (UCPs), have features that help to prevent this from happening.
UCPs feature single reach numbers, which make incoming phone calls ring on both an employee’s desk phone and cell phone at the same time. If an employee is going to be occupied, they can easily designate another extension to answer their calls. With one click of a button, employees can seamlessly transfer a phone call from a desk phone to their cell phone, or vice versa.
Another must-have feature included with UCPs is a collaboration tool. This allows receptionists and BDCs to see the availability of every employee at all times; whether they are on the phone, with a customer, out to lunch or at their desk. It also allows employees to chat and interact with each other if they are engaged.
For example, if a service advisor is with a customer, the receptionist can type a chat question such as “Is Mrs. Smiths’ car ready?” This message will immediately pop up on the service advisor’s mobile tablet or phone, so even though he is with a customer he can reply “Yes,” or “4 pm.” This kind of instant communication increases customer satisfaction and eliminates unnecessary voice mail exchanges.
Try Calling Your Dealership!
I wonder how many dealers have actually called their dealerships during business hours and after hours to see if their inquiries are answered. The way your phone leads are handled is important, but even more important is whether those phone calls are answered to begin with! Yet the technology part of the equation is often overlooked.
I highly recommend that members of senior management become involved with their dealership phone systems to establish call flows, rules and best practices so that every incoming phone lead is answered. It’s really important to map your dealership’s call flow and review the map at least once a year to ensure there are no ‘black holes’. I also recommend assigning a keeper of the call flow and not let just any manager make changes to it.