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How many of you feel like you don’t have enough time in the day? Really, between answering new leads, following up with prospects, delivering sold units, managing the rest of your Internet team, making sure your inventory is distributed properly to all the sites you market on, checking with your photographer to make sure new trades are getting ready for market, WHO would. Oops I forgot one other task, secret shopping your Internet sales department. Wait, you don’t do that, don’t have time, never thought about it? Let me help you with the Why and How you can secret shop the process of your own Internet department without spending more than 15 minutes a month on it.
All you have to do is create a process that is a step by step guide of exactly what you want done.
Step 1: Go to http://www.autotrader.com
Step 2: Search cars by dealer
Step 3: Find your store
Step 4: Send a lead using a Gmail account and ask to be emailed only or give cell phone for phone follow up only.
Step 5: Mark down on a sheet the location, time lead sent and how it was sent. Then track response times, how many responses and method of response.
Step 6: Add a grading scale to grade the quality of response.
Ok, I know this does not cover it all but it’s just to get you thinking. By now you are saying how is this only going to take 15 minutes of my time per month. I have 14+ sites I send my inventory to. How can I possibly send different types of test leads for all these sites.
The answer is YOU don’t, all of you either have a cashier, BDC or receptionist. Have them take 2 minutes of their day and send a test lead to a different site. Divide and concur, don’t let them tell you they are to busy, the morning receptionist could fall asleep at most stores and the cashier has time too. They all just need to understand the importance of what they are doing.
Why do I bring this up? We recently did some secret shopping and all I can say is double check your process and response times. Over half the test leads we sent never got a call or email reply!
A few things to be aware of if you secret shop your dealership.
1. If you are using a CRM tool it will only take one time for the person secret shopping your department to get marked by your sales rep as a “non prospect” and your team will stop following up as they normally would. To fix this use a vanity email and name and change them frequently.
2. Don’t tell anyone you are doing this. In addition if you handle leads don’t think about it or you will get unrealistic results. Simply review the findings every month and try to improve your processes.
3. Most importantly, don’t get on your team members if you don’t have clear cut processes in place for them to follow.
Having a process will allow you to handle more leads and give you a benchmark for measuring changes that will improve your lead response and conversion times. If you don’t have a process what are you going to change first if your secret shopping results are not positive?
Not sure where to start? Secret shop a couple of Mercedes Benz stores! In a recent study of 3400+ secret shoppers conducted by Pied Piper, MB scored higher than all other brands with Lexus coming in a close second. Remember, you can provide your prospect a Lexus experience at your Ford store if you truly want to.
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As I work with dealers every day reviewing leads that are coming in and calls they are taking, I am often surprised at some of the things I observe. I was listening to a call the other day where a customer called in asking the dealer about a particular vehicle in his inventory, and the dealer was on his cell away from the dealership. First of all, the dealer acted like the customer was bothering him, but also made no effort to get the customer an answer to his question. Also recently during some secret shopping that we are doing for our upcoming August 5th advanced training on lost leads, we were told by a dealer to go to his website for more information on a car we were interested in. He did not give us a link and really did not seem concerned about whether or not we got the info we were inquiring about at all. I say this, to say this…if a customer is calling or emailing you about a vehicle, don’t just give them directions. Actually take them to where you want them to go. If you are on a call, why not ask for their email so you can send them some links to your website to see some vehicles that might interest them? Don’t just tell them to go there and have fun searching for what they want. Also, do the same in an email inquiry that you are responding to. Lead the customer where you want them to go.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions about this blog or any of our other blogs, please let us know.
That may seem like a strange title for a discussion about technology and the virtual world we live in and conduct business in. Keeping it real means keeping the human element of our business at the forefront, at least, in terms of communication and interaction. People are involved in every sale that your store completes and the human element should be prevalent in the design and execution of your dealer website and at your actual dealership.
Let’s start at the top with the General Manager. Meet every customer who completes a sale, give them your business card, and if your cell phone number is not on the card, personally write it on the card. The GM is the Captain of the dealership and is generally respected by customers. Making this personal connection with your customers will pay big dividends in the future with positive word of mouth and return customers. Turnover is high among sales people, especially green peas. GMs, even in our volatile market, still stay at their stores a longer duration, so it makes sense for you to make this connection. If you are not on site, make sure your GSM is on the same page with you and makes the introduction in your place.
The personal touch can be most easily conveyed through a website that highlights your staff, the heritage of your store, and the personal service the customer will receive when they visit your store. On the home page, instead of a big image of the latest vehicle, put in an image of your staff, from the sales people, to fixed ops, to the porters. We already know you sell cars! Text that describes the heritage of your store, whether it is 100 years old, or 5 years old, shows that you have a story to tell. Once again, including the GM’s cell phone number here will go a long way towards building trust with your customers. Make this content easy to find on the site. With every other site pushing the latest deal, having imagery and content that adds the human touch will really stand out.
Regular and personalized contact with your customers, and even prospects, will also go a long way to make a lasting and profitable connection. Communication that only covers the latest vehicle, or sale, without an element of personalization will not make a lasting connection, and your future emails may end up in the trash. If the customer only hears from you when you want something, and there is nothing in it for them, your email program will fail. What do you think your customers would say if you called them a week after they received their new vehicle to see how the car was working out? The more sales you make, the more calls you make. Is that really such a bad thing?
None of the recommendations made here are new, or miraculous, or the latest marketing fad, yet, most stores are not making consistent effort to add the human touch to their business. Anything less than “keeping it real” will not work, your customers know the difference. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I welcome your comments.
Below is a great illustration, from ppcblog.com, of how the Google search engine works. The graphic does a good job of simplifying the details to make the entire process more understandable. It also illuminates just how complex the total process is when you realize how much information is not known and how see how many different processes are completed every time a search is entered in Google.
Click to enlarge
Infographic by PPC Blog
A good take-away from reviewing this information is that Google is complicated. They have processes behind the processes and are constantly evolving. While some shady tactics might increase your site’s listing in searches, they will generally be short-lived. The only way to achieve true SEO success is to follow legitimate honest methods.
In a previous blog, I had talked about autoresponding and how to autorespond effectively. Then in more recent blogs regarding handling leads, we uncovered some issues with autoresponders that came from some secret shopping we did to see how our dealers were responding to their customers’ inquiries. We saw that in most instances how the autoresponders were being used and their contents were not effective. An autoresponder cannot completely handle your lead, nor do you want it to. An autoresponder should simply be a notification to the customer that their inquiry was received along with the expectation of who and when someone will be contacting them to answer their question(s). Ideally, the best way to handle a customer is to respond yourself as quickly as possible, but if you want to use an autoresponse first, just make sure it is relevant The more common questions customers are asking are regarding price, availability or options on the vehicle. An autoresponder cannot answer these questions, so keep your autoresponder brief with your contact info and when they should expect to hear from you.
Sometimes, we have to think about our own shopping experiences online and what we like and expect to see when inquiring about an item. If you would not want to get the autoresponders that you have created for your customers, then they probably do not either. I do not know of anyone who would not want to know some kind of eta on when their question might be answered and by whom. With over 80% of vehicle shoppers starting online and your competition just a mouse click away, you have to put your best foot forward to give yourself the best chance at meeting that customer and making the sale.
If you would like an example of an effective autoresponder, please let me know. Also, if you have input about this subject, I would love to hear your ideas.