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Inbound phone calls and the automotive industry – what you need to know

Buying a car once meant visits up to a dozen dealerships to become educated, take a test drive and haggle over price. Thanks to online resources, savvy consumers now educate themselves before stepping on a lot. With a multitude of tools and resources online, it’s easy for consumers to push a visit to the very end of the buying process, meaning your time to interact with them is limited. Once they are finished researching, many car buyers call a dealership to learn if a car is in stock or to inquire about financing options. With this being the first point of contact between the customer and your business, it’s critical that you handle the call correctly so the customer’s next step is a visit to your dealership.

Calls and car buying

A recent study by Forrester validates that callers are your best customers. They spend more, convert faster and churn less. In short, callers tend to have a high intent to take next steps in the purchase process. While it may seem counterintuitive – customers don’t typically buy a car over the phone, after all – prioritizing phone calls supports customers by transitioning them from online education to hands-on test-drives, which is likely what they intend.

If your business isn’t making call handling a priority, it’s time to pay attention to this stream of customers.

Tips for better call outcomes

  1. Answer! Dealers receive thousands of calls each month, and almost 20% of them fail to connect the caller and the dealer. Whether the call remains unanswered, gets dropped or is abandoned during holds or transfers, this represents a lost opportunity for the business. Even if only a portion of these calls were sales-related, those callers have likely moved on to a competitor.
  2. Be ready to inform the caller. Being able to answer a few questions about your inventory and financing programs helps the caller reach the next step in the buying process. If you don’t provide this information, the customer’s next step isn’t to come in to find out for themself; more likely they will simply hang up and call another shop.
  3. Set an appointment. Customers at this stage in the buying process are well on their way to making a purchase. Crystallize their intent with action. Ask them when they’d like to come in and make an appointment for them.

The car buying process has changed. Customers who call your business with sales-related questions are likely a good way down the path to purchase. Being available when they reach out can set your dealership apart from the competition and help you gain new customers.