Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Is your business 24-7 or 9-5?

What happens if someone contacts your yard after hours? Do you have systems in place to answer and follow up with that lead, be it an email, text message or phone call?
Texting and emailing dealers rather than picking up the phone is more common place these days.  As our GM David discussed in our previous Autofile article, more people spend after hours relaxing watching telly as well as surfing the web at the same time.  There are currently more than five million mobile phones in New Zealand – that’s more than the
entire population!

35% of mobile phones in New Zealand are Smartphones

Kiwis are using their Smartphones to surf the net. When researching vehicles if they see something that piques their interest, contact is usually a click of an email, call or text away.  Customers are after instant gratification, and the internet provides this.  

I was chatting to some dealers recently about the trend in people texting them after hours re. vehicles. The general consensus was that short one sentence texts re. a vehicle are possibly from time wasters or tire kickers, and that texting on a weekend evening was a little rude. However, one dealer said he was home watching telly on a Saturday night when he received a text from lady re. a vehicle at 9.30pm. He thought that was a little weird, but decided to reply. Long story short – that lady was on the yard the next morning and bought the vehicle. A quick survey amongst my friends aged approximately 25-35 showed that they would rather email or text a dealer than call because they think that they will be “sold to” on the phone. 
Last year a US study1 concluded that 88% of adults ages 45 years and younger prefer text message communication over a phone call or email.
Not only is texting non-confrontational but often, people are at work and can’t talk on the phone. Even at weekends you have shift workers and those who work unusual hours surfing the net but unable to pick up the phone and call a dealer.  Given that by the time a person actually makes contact with the dealer they are way down the research process and ready to test drive and buy, these emails, calls and texts are GOLD. Dealers must be open to texters.  Continuing to remain competitive in an age of increasing text-based communication means that dealers need to be accessible, as well as comfortable communicating in this way.
9-5 dealers aren’t only competing with those dealers operating ’24-7’, but also with privates. If a private seller gets a call, email or text about their vehicle for sale at any time of the day, you can bet they will reply immediately and move heaven and earth to arrange a meeting with the prospective buyer. They are motivated to sell and therefore put blood, sweat and tears into their listings and into following up on every single lead.
There is now software available to capture appointments with potential clients that can be lost be not being able to answer calls or emails after-hours, dealers are using online service scheduling software. This means that customers who don’t have to wait on hold to get someone to speak to and can immediately lock in an appointment with the dealer at a time that is available and suits them – job done.  Un-answered calls largely go to voice mail, and the customer hangs up. By offering customers the ability to schedule appointments, this avoids the potential loss of a sale - plus keep the customer happy.
To stay ahead of the game there are a few key tools to ensure that your dealership is operating 24-7:
1.       Make your website mobile
Websites are 24-7.  Stats show that by 2013, 50% of web traffic will come from mobile devices. Mobilising your website will make it easier for customers to search your stock, find the vehicles they like, and contact make contact. 

2.  Have an after-hours contacts available
More and more customers are surfing the net at weekends and after hours and when they call a mobile number, they expect a response. Make sure your website has options where customer can contact you after-hours.

3.  Treat all Leads as valuable - don’t dismiss texts or emails to Facebook or tweets.
It is worth bearing in mind that 75% of adult Internet customers use social media – you may get leads from your company Facebook, Twitter or YouTube accounts. Is someone from your company checking interaction with your social media websites?

4.  Have a good Lead Management  process
It’s fine having an after-hours contact, but make sure that these after-hours enquiries are being checked, and actioned, before the customer gets tired of waiting for a reply and moves on to the competition, be it another yard, or a private seller.  Website visitors need to be converted into qualified leads wherever you can.  

5.  Keep your stock up to date
Update your stock regularly, keeping information fresh.
Stay ahead of the game and embrace the technology that your customers are using. Remember:
 “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, 
you're part of the road.” 
 (Stewart Band, Creator The Whole Earth Catalog)
1.        Potratz Partners Agency


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