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The "Number ONE" Profit Leak in our business... and getting worse!

Phone Trees, long recorded greetings, short staffed at reception and profit centers, cold transfers, stale Voice Mail boxes, the list goes on and on.

Most of today's dealers have focused on creating a great showroom atmosphere and customer experience. Yet so many are failing to address the very core of our Customer's Journey in the dealership...We have to answer the phone!

For sure, we need to train our call handlers in effective phone process....but the lowest hanging fruit is clear...Answer The Phone.

In just under 13,000 New Car Dept calls measured in the graph above, more than 1 in 3 never reach the intended dealer agent. 30% of calls in this category fall into "Hang Up While On Hold" and "Transferred to Voice Mail- left no message"---both gaping black holes.

The very processes  developed to manage the volume are contributing to poor CSI, lost opportunities, and poor retention. The dealers that have resolved these issues have a huge advantage.

Its not easy, and its not free... It takes people to talk to people, and more people is the last thing we all want to think about in the midst of this recovery.

It is as important as it has ever been to spend our money with expectations of Return on Investment...this is one of those arenas that we can't afford to be blind to. How would your dealership compare?

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Comment by Cole Matthew Mitguard on December 28, 2011 at 6:54pm

Has anyone tried the new AI system that is built into Apple's customer service line? It has a "natural" interaction that mimics SIRI (Although I do not believe that they are the same system) by allowing you to tell it exactly what you are looking for and it directs you to the right place. No more "press 1 for Sales, Press 2 for Support... etc" it recognizes what you are looking for and answers the questions. 

Would be great to see a service phone system that could answer questions like "Can I bring my car in on Friday" with a list of the times available to schedule service. Maybe we are a few years away from that level of integration, but I would imagine it would alleviate this problem to a great extent.   

Comment by Chip King on December 26, 2011 at 6:02am

Thanks for the comments!---here is some data on Fixed that I think is interesting as well---especially with the focus that the Service Experience drives the highest profitability and the highest influence on Retention in Sales

Fixed Operations has its own an environment that calls for the Service Writer to handle the Appointment Calls we often see high Voice Mail, low Appointment Set %, and afternoon "Peaks" due to Status Update inbound call volume:

With dedicated Call Centers setting appointments, while there still is a challenge, it is much less significant:

Comment by Bert Martin on December 23, 2011 at 6:43am

Understanding the need to plug many, varied leaks in profitability, this one issue continues to haunt most dealerships. I recommend Telephone Doctor for training and videos. I have trained and trained and trained and still most dealers and GM's do not understand or do not wish to acknowledge the need for an accountable phone process for every department of the store.

Comment by Brad Bossen on December 23, 2011 at 6:39am

Hit it dead center Chip! Dealership telephone protocols are embarassing. There're sooo bad, I have EVERY new client's dealership(s) mystery called before I ever speak to a store Owner/GM. I just email them a note with an attached recording of the mystery call.

Nuff said.

Best close in the business!

Comment by Chip King on December 23, 2011 at 2:47am

@AFriel--Interesting to note...this is not an issue with just "weak" dealers...some of the most profitable dealerships in the country are the worst of the worst in this category...the higher the call volume the harder to manage. We see dealers with 60+% Appointment Set on the inbound when connected...but with 40+% of the calls not getting to the Call Handler....

Comment by AndrewBarter on December 22, 2011 at 7:35pm

For a couple of years now the industry has forgotten about phone calls. We have developed course ware for several of our OEM clients and it is rarely taught ... If ever. I am glad to see some hard data on this so we can wake some people up and get back to teaching and perfecting this critical skill... We mystery shop service departments in one seminar and the managers are appalled at the wait times, how bad those long winded greetings "really" sound, on hold times and the multiple transfers...

Comment by Steve Davern on December 22, 2011 at 7:12pm

My favorite subject. I've been fighting this beast for years and even with the advances in BDC staffing, training and technology, the beast still sucks profit from my dealers and devalues the phone calls I generate.

If I were a phone call, I would wish I were an email, where I would be welcomed to 5 star treatment in an expensive CRM- where everyone would pay attention to me. When the CRM's treat the phone calls the same as emails, we will have equality. Until then...leak, leak, leak.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 22, 2011 at 4:08pm

Customers contacting dealerships via telephone continues to grow based on tap-to-dial smartphone adoption... If you do not get a handle on your handling of incoming phone calls, the phones will become your top profit leak in your dealership. Chip King's article shows what you can do about it.

Comment by Jerry Thibeau on December 22, 2011 at 2:59pm

I am with you on this one Chip.  I had a training class today and I mystery shopped the dealerships in my class, one BMW dealership I called twice and both times after navigating the automated attendant, I found myself being directed to a voice mail.  The Internet Manager was appalled that this was happening. 

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