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Marchex publishes Auto Manufacturer Best-in-Class Call Handling Index

When it comes to attracting new customers and servicing current ones, it can seem like all your automotive business’ focus—and budget—should be on digital channels. While comparison sites, digital vehicle walk-arounds and valuation tools are certainly part of the car-buying journey, customers still buy cars in person. Since customers often perform most of their research before walking onto a lot, the car-buying journey often includes a phone call to see if a particular car is in stock or if financing is available. The good news: a July 2017 Forrester report revealed that customers who initiate inbound calls actually convert faster, spend more, and churn less.

It may seem counterintuitive in today’s digital economy, but the Forrester research suggests your best customers are the ones who call your business.

To determine how well top auto manufacturers are servicing their inbound calls, our expert team of data analysts at the Marchex Institute evaluated calls to 16 car brands that occurred between January 1 and June 30 of 2017.

In the published results, 2017 Auto Manufacturer Best-in-Class Call Handling Index, the Marchex team discovered that of the 8 million+ calls received during that six-month period, 19 percent were “failed calls”—calls that went unanswered or were abandoned.

The impact of these “failed calls” on businesses can be significant: reduced customer satisfaction and lost opportunities to make sales or acquire new customers. Fortunately, improving performance doesn’t require a huge commitment of time and resources. The report offers easy-to-implement operational changes that can quickly improve a dealer’s inbound call servicing – and possibly its bottom line.

Failed calls fall into one of four types:

  • Unanswered – a call that is not classified as a bad call (spam, misdial, etc.), but isn’t answered
  • IVR or Voicemail Abandon – a call abandoned by the caller during the automated routing or voicemail process
  • Hold-time Abandon – a call abandoned by the caller while on hold
  • Ring Transfer Abandon – a call abandoned by the caller during a transfer


While the results varied greatly, there are actionable steps to take to improve call handling and outcomes:

Reduce unanswered calls

Dedicate enough resources to answer incoming calls, especially during peak hours.

Streamline the call routing process

Let your interactive voice response (IVR) system can handle store hours and directions, and be sure to make it easy for callers to get to a representative.

Avoid putting callers on hold

It’s easy to leave callers hanging during peak times; so consider offering a call-back option in addition to letting them wait.

Provide a warm transfer

Get someone on the line before passing the caller along to minimize the chance of the call being dropped.

While these tips offer a healthy dose of common sense, research says they are worth it. In a recent study by the Marchex Institute, Politeness Pays, the team looked at call handling practices and outcomes across several industries. Being polite to callers resulted in longer calls, happier callers and better conversion rates for businesses. To learn how auto brands handle calls and discover more tips for improvement, download the 2017 Auto Manufacturer Best-in-class Call Handling Index today.