Glen Demetrioff, president and chief executive of RAPID RTC, tells AM about the risks of remote enquiry management and the consumer's desire for immediacy and expertise.
RAPID RTC is still a family-run business at its core and I know your roots are on the showroom floor, so how did the venture get started?
I started the company with my wife back in 1996. I was in automotive retail at the time. I began my career at a Toyota dealership in Winnipeg (Canada) and wrote the software while I was working there. I had been general sales manager, but I stopped working at the dealership in 1998 to focus more on what we were doing.
I was pretty conservative in my start-up years. I didn’t believe in borrowing money. It was all done on a bootstrap by myself and my wife.
You didn’t start out in lead management as such, though?
The original software I wrote was for quoting lease and finance payments. At that time salespeople were really glorified product presenters. Any detailed discussion, or closing the deal, lay with the desk manager and there was a lot of going backwards and forwards. I felt there had to be a better way. I wrote my pricing model software to empower sales staff, ensuring that they could get hold of their own finance deal with the added comfort and efficiency of a little autonomy.
When you get people that are professionals, hardworking people that know what they’re doing and empower them, it’s amazing what great results come out. I’ve always been a huge advocate of salespeople. I’ve worn both hats.
How did the lead management side of the business come about?
We continued with that first kind of technology until around 2007/08 and around that time internet leads were growing. We were approached by a manufacturer in the US to complete a mystery shop. They said they had this process where leads were being sent to retailers, but they didn’t know if they were being responded to. We did that for multiple years, but, as we were delivering feedback, we realised that, no matter what we did or said, they would never achieve 100% return because of the constant turnover of staff and different priorities in the dealership. We thought ‘this is a really big opportunity’.
We built our lead-handling tool in 2011 and launched in 2012. We started dabbling in the UK (as DMT Group, before a 2018 rebrand) after an enquiry from a manufacturer and a pilot with a dealer in Newcastle. After that went really well, we knew we had to establish a UK team. From a growth standpoint we have achieved double digit growth each year in the UK. We’ve gone from four to 2,000 rooftops since 2016 and we now have 50 staff. There are around 5,000 car dealer rooftops here, compared with around 3,000 in Canada, so it’s a big market for us.
How do you charge for your service?
It’s offered via a monthly subscription per rooftop. Live Dealer is £379 a month. The chat package depends on the volume of calls, but is generally £400-to-£600-a-month. Bundled pricing for both can reduce the figure by about 25%.
Did you find the UK market a different challenge following your experience in Canada?
Every market has the tendency to say ‘our market’s a bit different and we have this hurdle to overcome’, but we’re all working to the same goal. The process of responding to leads is universal. First, we opened up our email enquiries and then live chat was doing really well for us. The reason people no longer want to email as much is that they want immediacy. That’s why chat is now where the industry is going.
We involve chat as the next level of response, but we’re true to our DNA and the belief that the salesperson is the authority. Showroom traffic will always come first. The person in the showroom has made the visit to see you and you want them to sign. The next priority has to be an online enquiry about a specific unit.
So sales customers are connected directly to a sales person?
There are a ton of chat providers in the marketplace. The easy way to do it is to have someone masquerading as a salesperson and pretend they work at the dealership. But the customer is there for information and if they can’t get the answers they need, or the rapport, then they will move on.
They need to speak to a salesperson be told to look at the specific product a little deeper, enabling them to get more involved, to move on with the process.
But sales staff are often tied up with other things in the showroom. How do you ensure they respond promptly?
Our team has to respond to people when they come online. We will qualify the lead and then alert the salespeople who can deal with the enquiry. We have to be able to feed these opportunities into the showroom floor. How do we make a salesperson 100% efficient in dealing with enquiries? By augmenting their online and showroom activities. We page in real-time, beep them on the showroom floor, and the first person that says ‘I’m in’ is connected to the chat via their smartphone or desktop device. Once that happens, these two people are speaking. There’s no app or software to download, it’s all browser-based. It’s really a very unique offering.
So RAPID RTC does have a call centre-type facility to respond to leads initially?
Yes. A customer isn’t going to wait two or five minutes for a reply. We have 50 people across the globe who field these enquiries for retailers, and they handle more than 1,000 leads a day. Calls are generally handed over within two minutes and, during that time, our receptionist will be beginning the transaction discussion. Bots can’t work in this scenario. If you want specs, a bot can work. But, if you want a meaningful conversation leading to a transaction, you have to be speaking to the people who can facilitate that.
I understand you’ve now launched Live Dealer in the UK. What is that and how does it work?
Live chat has been in the UK market for some time, but we wondered how we could enhance that further? Video call. We’d developed our Live Dealer product in the past, we’d done the heavy lifting and the testing, but we hadn’t launched it. When COVID hit we said, ‘this is going to change things, people are going to want to work
with video now’. The problem was that we couldn’t use a platform like Microsoft Teams, because you have to know one another, to have an email address or log-in code.
The web-based system we eventually developed doesn’t require that. If the customer agrees to have a video call following an invite from the salesperson then they simply press a green tab on their browser and it begins.
How important will this product be for the business’s continued UK growth?
I would say that 50%-to-75% of our clients are going to take this product because it’s well-timed and it’s easy. So many customers out there are searching the internet and browsing, they’re waiting for the salesperson that’s going to engage them. 70% of customers don’t buy the vehicle they initially wanted to buy. Why? A lot of the time it’s because a salesperson could provide compelling data or they were able to say ‘well, we don’t have that in stock, but would you consider this colour or this trim level’.
Only when you have that face-to-face conversation with someone do you open up the possibility of that transaction taking place. Salespeople are king in our business. They are the rain makers.
And video chat presumably also allows some kind of part-exchange evaluation possible at a customers’ first point of contact?
You could value a part-exchange and make a walk around of a vehicle. The salesperson can also screen share, so there’s the ability to see spec sheets, logbooks or go through finance options, transferring from the desktop in the dealership to a smartphone or iPad to go outside onto the forecourt.
I guess RAPID RTC products could be said to ‘gamify’ the sales process in a dealership, with salespeople racing to respond first to leads fed to their devices?
Some salespeople might still think ‘I’ll work my leads’ and continue to churn those, but we don’t have many 25-year veterans on the sales floor anymore. For many, their sales life span is less than a year. We lose a lot of talent and that might be down to the fact that new starters don’t get the opportunity to succeed early in their career, to make those sales happen.
We see our system as a great leveller in that respect and, sure, it will create a little healthy competition… but that’s already there.
And managers can also analyse their number of enquiries and responses?
Absolutely. A manager can log in and see the volume of incoming leads and how effectively they are handled. New functionality in our Response Quality Module within Lead Manager scores dealership sales staff based on criteria such as sending clippings, use of action terms, asking questions and spelling. We have a dealer care team which can assist with any staff training.
RAPID RTC FACTFILE:
FOUNDED: 1996, UK ENTRY IN 2016
LOCATIONS: WINNIPEG AND TORONTO, CANADA; DALLAS, TEXAS; LONDON, UK; AND PARIS, FRANCE
KEY PRODUCTS: LEAD MANAGER; LIVE DEALER
CLIENTS: 1,000 UK ROOFTOPS/ 3,000 GLOBAL