Are Slow Online Responses Costing You Customers?
March 31, 2020
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Imagine this scenario: a potential customer is intrigued by a car you’ve got on your dealership’s lot. She peruses your website and decides to fill out your contact form, sending your salespeople an email with a few queries about the vehicle. She checks back a few hours later but has no response. Even the next day, she still doesn’t get an email back. Since she’s busy at work, she doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of calling the dealership, trying to find the right person to speak with, and asking her questions. A bit disappointed, she continues car shopping online and finds another dealership with a similar vehicle for sale. She sends them a message and gets a response within an hour. Satisfied with the information they provided, she heads down to the dealership, ready to purchase her next car.

In that situation, your dealership lost the opportunity to make a valuable sale, simply because you didn’t respond fast enough. Your car was probably just as appealing to this customer, and your salespeople were probably just as friendly as your competitor’s, but, as the saying goes, you snooze, you lose. Unfortunately, this happens all the time in online car sales communications. This is why meticulously monitoring your prospective customers’ messages literally pays and, in contrast, failing to do so could lose you revenue. Read on to learn more about how slow responses could be costing your dealership customers and discover how you can solve this problem.

Your Shoppers Are Online

You simply cannot ignore your dealership’s online presence if you want to keep up in this digital era. The fact of the matter is that your potential customers are online much more often than they’re walking past your dealership. Think with Google reports that “92 percent of car buyers research online before they buy.” Your prospective buyers are probably actively searching for information about your dealership and your cars before they ever set foot in your office.

Similarly, an Automotive Shopper Study from 2017 found that “95 percent of vehicle buyers use digital as a source of information. In fact, twice as many start their research online versus at a dealer.”

According to Facebook for Business, “63 percent [of auto customers] discover new automobiles online,” suggesting that your shoppers begin learning about the cars they wish to purchase on the Internet. This online research isn’t just a starting point for the majority of these customers – “53 percent [of them] decide on new automobiles,” as per Facebook for Business. By the time they get to a dealership, they’ve already compared models, asked key questions, and chosen which car they want to purchase.

A TIME Magazine article echoed this concept, noting that “at an panel discussion…auto dealers estimated that somewhere between 80 percent and 95 percent of their customers do some form of online car-buying research. ‘We can’t treat them like they’re silly or like they’re not in the game,’ one Chrysler dealer said, ‘because they get frustrated and they get upset and they go to somebody else and buy a car.’” If you don’t answer your potential customers’ questions online, one of your competitors almost certainly will, and they’ll get a sale that could have gone to you.

In the past, you might have been able to guide prospective buyers’ through the research and decision-making process in person, but those days are long gone. Today, you must be able to capture prospective buyers’ interest, communicate with them, and convert them from afar.

Many Dealerships Lag Behind

With these striking statistics in mind, dealerships must not take that long to answer their emails, chats, and messages, right? Unfortunately, even many seemingly savvy dealerships fail to keep pace with their customers online. As per a 2018 piece in Auto Remarketing, “more often than not, dealers could be losing leads because of the poor and slow responses inquiring shoppers receive online. When it comes to responding to internet shoppers, more than 18 percent of the stores [surveyed in a study] never responded to shoppers, only 16 percent responded within 15 minutes, and the overall average is more than 24 hours.” Generally speaking, dealerships are not responding within a reasonable time frame. In all likelihood, you’re losing business simply because your salespeople aren’t writing back quickly enough.

The Need for Speed

Obviously, never answering your customers’ messages or waiting more than a day to do so aren’t ideal, but to truly harness the power of the twenty-first century automotive online shopping experience, you need to be exceptionally fast. As Automotive News reports, “online shoppers are receptive for only a few minutes…slow responses are unacceptable to shoppers conditioned by Google, Amazon, and others to expect immediate answers to online queries.” When you go online, you can typically get information instantaneously, and prospective car buyers expect the same experience.

Dealerships that recognize this fact tend to do much better with online shoppers. In fact, according to a “recent study of how 125 dealerships handled 15,000 online leads…shoppers who received replies within 10 minutes were three times more likely to visit a store than those who had received a slower response…stores were OK if they could contact a prospect within 10 to 20 minutes…but after 20 minutes, the bottom falls out. The data showed no discernable difference in coaxing a shopper in for a test drive between leads followed up on in 24 minutes or 24 hours,” as per Automotive News. This data demonstrates that rapid responses to online inquiries aren’t a luxury, but a necessity for dealerships.

The goal should be to swiftly provide useful, personalized responses – according to Automotive News, automated templated messages don’t cut it: “auto-responses [are] virtually useless because they seldom answer a shopper’s question and don’t stop them from seeking information elsewhere.” With this in mind, it might be well worth it for your dealership to use more advanced customer support software, hire more digital marketing staff, and even have a team available to respond to evening and weekend messages.

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