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Making every call count remains key in car retail's omnichannel age, opinion

Sam Hill, director of customer experience, Infinity

Despite our changing habits as consumers, as we embrace digital channels, many of us still want to experience a face-to-face interaction for that moment when we sign on the dotted line for a new car.

A car purchase is a significant financial and emotional investment so being able to see and drive the vehicle, as well as sitting down to discuss the purchase in more detail is important.

That’s why companies like Nissan have invested huge sums into making their showrooms more experiential – a place where consumers feel looked after, understood and listened to.

Before buyers reach the showroom, however, it’s likely that they’ve carried out a significant amount of preliminary research, either online or by calling a dealership directly.

That phone call can be the turning point on the customer journey. And, it’s just as important for potential buyers to feel understood and listened to at that moment as it is when they enter the showroom. In fact, they’re unlikely to even make it into the showroom if that call doesn’t go well.

According to an AutoTrader market intelligence report, almost half (48.4%) of new car leads come from phone calls.

Additional research has also shown that as many as one quarter of those calls end in a sale – demonstrating that the intent to buy is clearly there.

But how much untapped potential may still lie in those calls?

There are two key elements that help to maximise the value of every phone call.

Firstly, people handling calls need to feel supported and informed, to ensure that they’re in the best possible position to get a result when a call comes in.

Secondly, by capturing and analysing the conversations that are taking place, and, more importantly, acting upon the insight they reveal, dealerships can make more informed decisions on everything from training to marketing.

Supporting staff

Phone calls contain a wealth of valuable information, and technology can now help businesses access it – enabling them to gain actionable insight at scale, and at speed.

Evaluating conversations over time enables automotive dealers to identify multiple performance indicators - from recurring words or phrases in calls where leads go cold, to identifiable patterns within calls that tend to lead to a more positive outcome.

This insight is invaluable for training call handlers, helping them to improve conversion rates, increase average order values, upsell and reduce the cost of conversion.

Dealerships can also test sales scripts, phrasing or promotions before analysing any change in performance. For example: “Would leather seating be more convenient for you as you have a young family?’ rather than: “Would you like to upgrade to leather seating?”

In addition, the latest in speech analytics tech enables the tone of both caller and agent to be monitored, to understand how sentiment fluctuates throughout the call.

Dealerships can use this to look at how agents deal with certain situations and where training gaps may lie, as well as the overall customer experience that they’re providing.

It is imperative that whoever answers calls on behalf of the dealer is playing their part in converting the caller into a customer.

Intelligence from previous conversations is gold dust when it comes to helping call handlers understand the best course of action for every call they take. 

Supporting the wider business

Using this intelligence, dealerships can also build a bank of knowledge that can educate the wider business on which actions are most likely to drive the best results.

Insight from calls can be shared with the marketing department, for example, to provide feedback on current promotions and to inform future campaigns.

Conversation analytics also helps car dealerships to highlight examples of best practice to the customer service team, to help them improve performance and influence their Change Impact Score (CIS).

Dealerships are under huge pressure to provide excellent customer support on behalf of the automotive brands they represent - and maintaining a CIS score above 95% is often expected.

Falling below this can have consequences on the margins or bonus payments that dealers receive for hitting targets.

Keyword spotting can help to identify the regular themes and topics on customer service calls – and reveal where persistent problems might lie - a lack of clarity around warranties or service packages, for example.

This empowers dealers to then train customer service staff to deal with these common scenarios – improving both the sales and the after-sales process.

It’s hard to predict whether the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we will buy cars in the future.

Most people tend to agree that the hybrid model of researching online and buying in the showroom will continue.

But, as the economy begins to recover, dealerships must improve conversion rates across every channel. And, the phone call is the bridge between their online and offline strategies.

A greater understanding of why people are calling and whether they are getting what they want can help automotive dealerships create smoother customer journeys, improve loyalty, develop better after-sales support, deliver better staff training and provide the reassurance that the customer needs before they finally make their dream purchase.

Author: Sam Hill, director of customer experience, Infinity


2023 AM Awards special report

2023 AM Awards special report

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