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Ok, here it goes, this is where I try to get some value out of ADM for my employer... Lately I have been on the soap box within ADP trying to get development resources to build an automated software system that would respond to any lead with a VIN or Stock Number associated by sending an email back to the consumer with the price quote based on the rules and parameters set up in the tool, or maybe even the DMS. Anyways, here are my questions... Because i do believe that slogging through multiple leads, doing the same process to send back a proper price quote, and some alternative vehicles is mind numbing and should be streamlined with software! This would free us all up to spend more time on the phone with customers and would prevent late responses when we are tied up on the showroom with customers.

So here are the questions i need answered from people who have done the job of responding to internet Leads:

• Would you be interested in automating lead response emails with a detailed price quote?

• If yes, what level of detail should be included in the quote?
o Local taxes and fees?
o Down payment
o Estimated payments, based on credit score tiers
o Other?

• How accurate does the quote need to be?
o DMS calculated?
o Estimated using local taxes, fees and APR?
o Other?

• What level of interaction would you want to offer your consumer with the quote?
o Customize down payment
o Customize price with trade in
o Select APR \ Credit score
o Offer similar alternative vehicles that are in stock, say 2, 3 or 4 units?
o Other?

Tags: Automated Email, Lead response process, Request For Quote, Response System

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Hey Ralph
I have been in the business of answering and/or training the answer of Internet leads since 1996. I've looked at this question many times over the years, and from every angle possible. I'm going to have to say "it depends". It depends on the lead source. Is it a source that you typically have a high contact rate with? Or does this source just mystery shop you and you never actually have a completed cycle of communication with them? Do you make money on this source? What is your cost per customer vs. your ROI? Is it worth it to save the cost of having a human do the work or are you going to miss opportunities to make car deals because you eliminate the human element? I have to tell you that a big red flag goes up in my head when I think of anyone I've trained implementing such a system because I spend so much time teaching the psychology of the Internet buyer and how to get them into the store in the shortest amount of time. Aside from that "gut reaction", I'll move on with the other factors to consider. I think it depends on your particular organization's philosophy and commitment to the Internet as a revenue stream. Do you have full-service Internet Sales personnel who handle the prospect every step of the way, or is there an appointment setter involved? The answer to this question determines a lot because an appointment setter HAS the time to manually calculate a quote and give that personalized service, where a truly busy Internet "monster" might not. Is your management team involved in your pricing or does the department have autonomy? This is critical - are you going to set up something only to have it undermined by someone in a position of greater authority? How often does your pricing matrix change? How accurate is your DMS? (Sounds like a silly question, but again, I've been with a couple of large dealer groups that still have data problems). I understand where you're coming from - I guess I still come back to the "why" and the "what will I miss"? Truly, how many of your customers buy the car they inquired about first? Could you just send out a generic quote on a median equipped model to test the waters and begin the clarification process? I like automation, but I wouldn't trust a program to communicate with my customer when I feel like I should be doing it. At least as a first or second response. I will be interested to hear what others have to say...
Shannon Page
Hyperdrive Systems
shannon@gohyperdrive.com
You can already do this sorta thing with Contact Management. Takes a little time but once it's done voila! I still prefer the old fashioned call immediately. Then engage them with question/answer over question/answer to target an appointment funnel then they magically appear in our showroom. Now if you could get a bio scan of the potential customer and have them beamed directly to the sales desk when they submit a lead. I'll be bowing to you in the future.
I am extremely interested in what, how CM can already do this. I'm pretty proficient with CM and I have some extensive reply e-mails. I don't recall seeing coding to build this level of information.
Ralph,
Having been an internet manager (one man operation) this would be priceless.
I'd stay with a quote on the vehicle of interest and 2 alternatives.
I don't believe it needs to include tax and lic nor does payment. It really just buys you a little time to get them on the phone.
Keep 'em coming... By pointing out the problems with similar systems, we can make a better judgment as to whether the design resources would be adequate if those problems are to be built out.

Matt, to your point, the return email address could be the dealer's ILM tool, and of course all emails would be pushed into the dealer's choice of ILM tool as well. We envision something that makes use of inventory data and pricing rules, but supplements the dealer's CRM/ILM tool, whatever it is.
I think some additional tools to aid in providing our customers more relevant, targeted information would be welcome, but personally, some of the items you've outlined Ralph seem a bit like overkill. I'm all about efficiency. I like well orchestrated plans and streamlined systems, but there is an added factor that I find vital to the whole process and that is real human interaction. Really, the automated response should serve as an introduction and notify the customer that their request for information has been heard. It's the equivalent of putting a caller on hold and letting them know you are transferring them to the right department. Basic dealership information or even a personal note from the assigned sales person if your CRM permits is sufficient, and can have added complexity if it offers additional communication with the dealership,i.e. click to chat, etc. That autoresponse, however, should be immediately followed up by the assigned sales person with a call or personal email ideally within minutes of the initial lead. That's where the details of the quote come to bare.

All that being said, there is room for added automation in the process. A VIN decoder that could suggest similar vehicles in stock would be a great addition to any CRM tool, possibly in the autoresponse to the initial lead, or perhaps better placed in a 3-day or 5-day follow up email. Likewise, it could be used to show similar vehicles of relevance to past customers by utilizing this in a CRM email campaign. The more I look at it, we use our CRM's automated processes more for customer retention than initial communication. Maybe that's the ticket right there and focus additional tools in this area.
Good topic Ralph , however it make not work as auto responses since content or incoming leads can be vary.
Another word all inquiries must come in unified format. Is it possible?
I find it a very interesting topic. I certainly can appreciate any concern there might be around accuracy, what to add to the response, and how the response might be structured. No doubt there'll be many readers who feel the need to maintain the "human connection." In many cases the need to maintain the "human connection" or "personal contact" is biased by the desire to fish for "real leads." Taking the approach that at the gut level - we can review each lead and make an individual determination as to how best to respond and when. What we lose sight of with that philosophy is that the number one response to an lead today remains... "No Response." As we work to sift through the leads and make personal/gut determinations - precious minutes - are lost to the ready, willing, and able internet buyer. It's for that real process related reason that solutions like ResponseLogix are much better equipped to provide "air cover" and do the heavy lifting with regard to the task of an immediate and intelligent response. Working to seamlessly integrate these types of solutions within existing CRM applications could/should be the goal. These integrated applications would then bring enhancements to the appointment/sales process as well as the overall process and management of a dealerships digital marketing strategy. One that can be precisely measured and then thereby improved upon.
This is a great idea, but there are some things that need to happen first. The tool you use to capture that internet lead would have to be integrated with your DMS or your CRM program that is integrated with your DMS. Otherwise, you are still manually inputting the contact info into your database.

There are a couple good autoresponder systems out there that can follow-up with your contact, and like Shannon and Christian said, we should still prefer real human contact, as your prospects do.

This being said, an internet lead is only as good as the tool used to capture it. To personalize your email follow-up in that way, you have to collect some pretty detailed information when you capture the lead.

To anyone needing help with auto-responders, etc., I would suggest using a tool like Aweber to reply automatically to a qoute request. You could setup timed emails to go out in a series. The first could say something like "we have received your qoute request and will contact you when it is ready." Then, the second email in the series could be the same day or next day and say something like: "Your personalized price qoute is ready, please call the internet manager to receive it."

This way you could provide automatic follow-up along with personal service, and at the same time, get the prospect to call you, instead of you calling them!
Yes I think it's a great idea, it will let the customer know that the internet price has been pre-set. This give's you more time to work the phone's and make appointments.
I would just give the price and leave all the other fee's off.
I always offer alternative vehicles, usually 2, 1 about 10% less the other much less.
Couldn’t agree more with your instincts on this! This is a problem we’ve been hard at work on for the past two years. Glad to see us mentioned by Matt Watson and Ron Morrison, and want to clarify what we can do.

Our (ResponseLogix’s) SmartQuote sends a quote back to every new car lead a dealer receives in 10 minutes - This factor alone has garnered huge results. The quote includes three alternative new vehicles at the trim level the customer requested (conservatively equipped, moderately equipped and generously equipped) and pre-owned vehicles of the same or similar trim.
Since this is the moment of truth—when the customer has pitted three dealerships against each other for the right to her business—such a rapid, high-quality quote response is huge.

Automotive News just came out with their annual review of top technologies from NADA.
SmartQuote was one of these 10 “Cool’ new products, sharing the spotlight with products from Microsoft, Chrysler, Cars.com, Dominion Enterprises, NADA and Reynolds and Reynolds to name a few. If a company is known by the company it keeps, that’s a pretty solid endorsement.

Our dealers have seen a huge impact both in closing rates and margins.

There are a couple of key benefits to a quick relevant response - When presenting multiple vehicles in response to the customer’s request, the conversation now turns from “price” (because it is already listed), to choice (“which of these six cars seems to best fit with your needs?”). Also, by sending out the quote on behalf of (and under the name of) the assigned sales rep, that rep wins back 25 hours a month of time he would have used preparing quotes that can be reinvested into more phone calls, leading to more appointments, leading to more sales.

I think as we move through these difficult times we will see more dealers utilizing this type of solution to not only improve sales performance - but sustain sales if they need to reduce their Internet departments and BDC’s staffing.
Ralph-

I can save you the development costs and effort. We have spent hundreds of hours with consumers and dealers to find out what both parties need (and want). Here's what we've found (among dozens of other findings, but I'll try to be brief):

Both Dealers and Consumers agree that price should include:

MSRP
Internet Price
(Minus) Trade-In based on Kelley Blue/Black Book (Customized)
(Minus) Incentives/Rebates (Must be real-time by zip code)
Net Price
Amount Saved vs. MSRP
% Discount vs. MSRP
Estimated Monthly Payment

What surprised us was that consumers REALLY wanted to know % discount from MSRP. Apparently, consumers believe that if the Net Price is between 12-18% off of MSRP, then it's "a good deal." If the % is less than 12% or more than 18%, then consumers believe they are getting ripped off or the vehicle is a "lemon." Now, I know this is irrational because the MSRP is nothing more than an anchor price. This thinking is also irrational on several other levels (especially in today's economy), but I have found that there is a whole body of in-market and academic research to support these findings, including studies from M.I.T. and Duke University.

In terms of financing, most consumers had no idea what their credit score might be. So they are really at the mercy of F&I to tell them what they can buy and how much the monthly payment might be. That said, consumers really want to see "roughly" what the monthly payments would be and they agreed that 15% down, 60 month term, with average credit score would be "fair" and "what I would expect to pay." Of course, this opens all kinds of opportunities for dealers to make money based on how they structure the deal. As long as you get the monthly payment right, interest rate and term are less important.

Accuracy on total price (including fees, destination charges, etc.) is the MOST IMPORTANT item on your list. If you don't list every charge, you are dead in the water. Consumers will call you a "lying, cheating, SOB" if all fees aren't included. But that doesn't include taxes. (Huh?) I can't explain it, but consumers consistently felt that taxes don't need to be included.

Finally, we learned about the power of "3." Consumers want to see three vehicles that are similar to what they requested in their quote. The OEM's figured this out a long time ago. (BMW 3,5,7 Series. M-B C,E,S Class. Lexus RX, GX, LX.) The power of 3 drives consumers to the middle. So consumers want to see "Conservatively Equipped" "Comfortably Equipped" and "Generously Equipped." BTW-These are consumers terms. Not mine.

There are a lot of response to this question already so there are bound to be a lot of opinions. What I've written has come from both qualitative and quantitative research conducted Q4 2008 and Q1 2009 so it's as close to "truth" as we're probably going to get for now.

Hope this provides some insight. Good luck to all.

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