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Phone Skills a Key Ingredient for Effective Virtual Retailing

In light of the ongoing pandemic, auto sales and service continue to grow in popularity online. Capgemini research from May 2020 shows that “46 percent of prospective [car] customers will increase their online shopping because of COVID-19”. The longer the virus affects the country, the higher that number will climb. For consumers, it’s a matter of safety in these ‘unprecedented times’.

Although they’re very different, both sales and service departments engaged in virtual retailing follow similar steps. Most dealerships have an established virtual retailing process by this point. A customer inquires about a vehicle or service appointment online, schedules a time, and the vehicle is picked up and dropped off without any physical contact.

Much of the virtual retailing process can be completed online by the consumer, lending it to be a passive system. However, dealerships can engage deeper in virtual or digital retailing and make it even more profitable by using another system that seems to be neglected – the phone.

How Phone Factors into Virtual Retailvirtual retailing

It’s true that consumers want the ability to perform their transactions online, but there’s more to it. Phone leads continue to be more intentional than those who inquire online. CDK Global reports that “calls convert to revenue 10 to 15 times more than web leads”.

Digital retailing is certainly a requirement for dealerships to offer, but it should not be left to be simply as passive. Integrating the use of phones will help drive it higher into profits, both in front-end sales and at the service desk. Customers need to be engaged expertly and dealer staff need to actively pursue customers. 

Pursue Leads 

A 2020 CDK survey points out that a dealership’s top challenge regarding call handling is mis-identifying leads and mishandling calls. On average, a dealership misses 19 percent of their inbound calls. Those customers who are actively reaching out by phone. Dealers need to reply to any missed calls and messages, following up to see if they can help the customer.

That same mentality can be translated to online leads, however. An inquiry about a vehicle online can be replied to by email and it may be abandoned. Whether a salesperson believes they’ve responded appropriately or not, an abandoned online lead should be sought after by phone, assuming their contact information includes it. Reaching the shopper by phone not only re-engages them but increases the odds of converting to a sale exponentially. 

Bring Previous Customers Back

Virtual retail and phone calls are not exclusive, and they should be treated as complementary. For loyal customers who have not been back since the pandemic began, offering the ability to service their vehicle using your virtual processes could be very effective.

Have your service BDC call previous customers and offer your virtual retailing services. It’s well documented in the Deloitte State of the Consumer Tracker that car owners are postponing vehicle repairs and maintenance during COVID. A nudge by a friendly voice on the phone could be all the encouragement they need to employ your store’s remote service pickup and drop-off. Salespeople can do the same for previous leads that abandoned their purchase when the pandemic began. 

Engage Customers Effectively

And as always, effective communication is key for any phone conversations. For 82 percent of callers, the leading factor for “a great customer experience is having their questions answered and issues resolved quickly”, according to a CallRevu study.

Employees need to be setting appointments (in-person or remotely) with calls, answering questions, and handling calls in a manner that reflects the dealership in a positive way every time. Calls must be routed correctly every time and voice mail avoided at all cost.

Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

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Jason Unrau
Jason Unrau
Jason Unrau is an automotive specialist with more than 15 years of experience at the dealership level. Focusing mainly on fixed operations and the service industry, Jason’s expertise is in enhancing the customer experience and promoting a healthy, profitable service department.

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