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Guest opinion: failure to answer calls costing dealers a fortune in lost business

Joanne McKeown

Author: Joanne McKeown (pictured), business development manager - automotive at Moneypenny, has 17 years’ automotive experience in customer service improvement and retention. Prior to heading up Moneypenny’s automotive sector, she spent 10 years at Ford, followed by a number of years running her own automotive business.

Three years ago a friend of mine wrote off her car in an accident, so unexpectedly found herself in the market for a new one. 

She trawled the showrooms finally settling on a shiny new family four door. 

The buying experience itself was reported as reasonably painless, and at that point she was on board, excited about her new wheels and happy with the dealer experience.  

So, will she go back to that dealership when she’s looking for her next car in the future? 

No, they’ve lost her – and for two simple reasons. 

Firstly, on each occasion she’s called back since buying the car the staff have repeatedly asked if she has been in touch with them before (when a good CRM system would know this and with a full call history would make the caller feel important). Secondly, she’s been plagued with delays in getting call backs, and worse at times, no call back at all. 

Yet, it’s a well-known fact that one of the best and easiest ways to increase sales and profitability is to upsell to your existing customers. 

You’ve already opened the door to them and they are virtually inviting you in for a cup of tea. 

Yet dealers are like so many other sectors in throwing their weight behind their sales resource, while under performing in their post sales activity - the key business forum for building long-term customer loyalty and retention.

70% of dealer calls are categorised as aftersales.

Year after year in the AutoExpress Driver Power survey, unanswered phone calls are the second biggest consumer gripe after the failure to identify a fault. 

Our latest data at Moneypenny shows that of the `overspill’ calls we take for car dealers, 70% relate to aftersales and service enquiries, 20% are for parts, while on average 10% are new sales enquiries. 

These are calls that would otherwise have gone to answer machine or worse, been completely unanswered. 

We recently answered over 1,600 calls for a six-site dealer group over a one month period. 

Times that by 12 and that’s a staggering 19,200 potentially ‘lost’ business calls in a year as well as far too many unsatisfied customers. With one call potentially worth the cost of an average family car, say £15,000 – the potential effect on the bottom line is eye-watering.

Imagine if this was a customer in your showroom or on your forecourt – would you want them to leave without even having had the opportunity to speak to them? 

Of course not. 

Yet how many times do we hear a phone ringing out in the background while a busy receptionist juggles front desk activities or we hear a call flying around a hunt system trying to find the next available person to take the call (a person who may be completely mismatched with the needs of the caller)? A much greater value needs placing on these golden opportunities for business success.

According to Auto Trader research, 48% of customers were undecided on which make and model they wanted when starting out on the journey of buying a car, suggesting it’s a wide open market.  If they’re not getting what they want from you, they’ll be straight off to the dealer down the road instead. 

So, yes there’s a job to be done in capturing the initial business, but smart dealers recognise the value of nurturing that customer over time, while far too many get it wrong. 

Speedy, effective telephone answering really is critical, but all too often under-valued. If you get this element of your business right though, so many of the other pieces in the day-to-day jigsaw, slot into place too. 

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