These days, dealers may get so focused on texting, messaging, emailing and chatting that they may be overlooking that staple of person to person communications, the phone system.
Let’s start by looking at your actual phone number. Is it a local number? Or is it a 1-800 number? Most Canadians are apprehensive about calling that type of number. It just isn’t friendly. Now that almost every phone package allows you to call Canada-wide, toll free numbers aren’t necessary, and may even hurt your brand both visually or through online organic gains.
But depending on your marketing efforts, a boutique number would be beneficial. For a monthly cost you can purchase the rights to a toll-free number that “spells” out a word for easy communication, for example, 1-888-LAVALVW.
Make sure your local phone number is everywhere—within the website, on your business cards, on the floor mats, etc. And make sure your team is always available and current. Every day, your reps and employees and team members, from sales to service to parts, should come in to re-record their voicemail for the day with their hours and where else they can be reached.
If you have a vendor or third party providing you phone numbers, they may be using them for call tracking purposes. That’s because they want to keep track of the recording, and how many leads the numbers generated for your store. So those call tracking numbers will be positioned where your used cars are listed, where your new cars are listed, in newspaper articles, brochures or snail mail. Callers are required to be told that they’re being recorded, and some consumers are uncomfortable with that. Remember, the consumer may not want to provide personal or credit information over the phone.
So it’s important for each call tracking number to be associated with a specific lead source, and for your management team to be tracking and in most cases listening to these calls and identifying improvements, relaying these during your sales meeting OR one-on-one with that employee.
You may want to use the call tracking number to see how well something works. What kind of response did you get from a certain source? Does it make sense when digitally cross-referencing? That may determine how often you want to go back to that source. For example, if you take part in a community organization, they put a campaign together and include you. You’ll want to know how many leads were generated and how many sales.
Remember, those vendors are then providing reports on those numbers to the dealer, to let you know what sources are working better for you. Are you following up on them? Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth!
You’ll also want to make sure your phone system is working as efficiently as possible. That means your phone “tree” is set up so that people flow through it smoothly. There are third party organizations, like Hold Please Communications, that can modify and update your messaging. You’re looking for a phone system vendor that can provide unlimited virtual extensions, unlimited voice mailboxes, unlimited calling anywhere in Canada and the U.S. as well as an auto attendant, known as an IVR, and a professional IVR recording. Also, a fax server, a virtual receptionist, and a system that can be supported by a variety of manufacturers, including smartphones.
On hold messaging
Vendors can help with your “on hold” messaging. If you’re doing it yourself, who’s updating it? Are you talking about your strengths? Are you talking about areas in which you want to bolster activity? Maybe you should be talking about service promos, specials, manufacturer messages, etc. Are you coordinating marketing with the on-hold messaging?
Is your messaging consistent with your online presence? Are you representing all your current departments? Are you representing what the manufacturer is promoting in all departments? How well does your messaging represent your dealership?
You’ll also want to consider the breadth and seasonality of our country. For example, talk about the fact that we’re two months away from winter. Have you thought about getting in early to get your winter tires on? Perhaps provide insight on how a customer can be better prepared for the upcoming season.
Who’s picking up the phone? Who’s the face of your dealership? Your receptionist needs to always smile, be confident, and have the right equipment, like a headset.
You want to eliminate and decrease the amount of time that someone could hang up. Does the phone “tree” lead to a dead end? Or is there a plan ‘A’ and a plan ‘B’ and a plan ‘C?’ Plan ‘A’ is getting to the right department, and plan ‘B’ is directing the caller elsewhere if the department is overloaded. Plan ‘C’ is where the caller is directed if no one is available. Can they press zero to get back to the operator?
And who’s keeping track of voicemail? Who’s in charge of it? Who’s distributing it? How quickly are you getting back to people? Speed is one part of it, but accuracy is another. Listen to the voicemail before you call back, and address the context specifically.
Today’s consumer is less likely to send an email and more likely to call. They’ve already spent hours doing online research, so by the time they call, you’ll want to be ready for them!
Article originally published in Canadian AutoJournal, September 2018.