Lightning-Fast Dealership Follow Ups Can Creep Out Customers

Leads that are followed up within 15 minutes to an hour show the highest appointment-conversion rates, according to a TrackBack analysis.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

October 19, 2017

3 Min Read
ldquoIf you follow up on leads too quickly it can really scare customersrdquo Perkins says
“If you follow up on leads too quickly, it can really scare customers,” Perkins says.

Sure, speed matters when it comes to car dealers responding to customers’ digital inquiries. Responding a day later almost is as bad as not responding at all, although no-replies still happen on a regular basis in auto retailing.

But lightning-fast responses aren’t what dealers should strive for, says Ian Perkins, global sales director at TrackBack, a firm that specializes in automotive sales-lead management and customer engagement.

“If you follow up on leads too quickly, it can really scare customers,” he says. “They can feel it’s a little too out there, too much like big brother.”

TrackBack measures follow-up activity for more than 3 million leads a year. Leads that are followed up within 15 minutes to an hour show the highest appointment-conversion rates (49% by telephone, 12% by email). Conversely, quick-trigger dealerships that responded to leads in 15 minutes or less saw an 8% and a 7% conversion rate for phone and e-mail, respectively.

Eight hours and above: 2% phone, 4% e-mail. “Eight hours? You might as well not even bother,” says Perkins, a 30-year veteran of the auto industry whose work stints include Porsche, Volvo and Citroen in UK, his homeland.

Most dealers do a relatively good job respond to leads in a timely manner. Sixty-one percent followed up within an hour, according to TrackBack data. But the next highest on the chart was not following up at all (17%).

Time of day also matters. Low-engagement rates with “not now” customer responses stem from dealers contacting them between 8 and 10 a.m. Bad time to call, Perkins says. “People are leaving for work or getting their kids ready.”

Content quality matters in dealership e-mails. Ones that answer customer questions and provide relevant information get opened more than those that resemble a form letter. The latter often are DOA, deleted on arrival. “They are spotted right away,” Perkins says.

Another data analysis indicates first responders don’t always win when it comes to how fast dealerships reply to sales leads. DealerSocket, a customer-relationship management software provider, analyzed 20.7 million Internet leads and response times of 3,700 dealerships.

It determined the closing rate for stores replying within 16 to 20 minutes was 5.42%, or 23% higher than dealerships that responded within 15 minutes. Also beating out the fastest responders were dealerships that replied to a customer’s online inquiry within 31 to 60 minutes.

What traits did the 16 to 30-minute group share? They spent more time crafting their responses and provided richer information, DealerSocket concluded.

Perkins says texting has become a popular form of modern communications, but it has limitations as a channel for converting leads into appointments at the dealership, with the ultimate goal of selling someone a vehicle there.

“Messaging is interesting,” he says. “People say they want it, but that has so much to do with what the messaging is about. It works when making restaurant reservations. For buying a car, only 9% of texting back to someone results in an appointment.” 

Various studies indicate it’s often hard to get dealership salespeople to telephone customers as a follow-up. Yet telephoning makes “a huge difference,” Perkins says, citing higher appointment-conversion rates.

That’s because most dealership salespeople are “brilliant” when it comes to conversational skills, he says. “They know what to say, they know how to get a customer, who at first is partially interested in buying a vehicle, get excited about buying one. It’s emotional engagement and it makes a difference.”

When it comes to car sales, “the human voice is still more powerful than the written word,” but the irony and challenge is getting salespeople to call in the first place, Perkins adds. “Sometimes they don’t have the time or they have better things to do.”

That’s why turning phone calls over to a business-development center can make sense, he says. “It’s their job to make calls.”

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