Own the phone, dealers urged

Dealerships are not getting the basics right, like properly responding to phone inquiries from customers — and it’s costing them a lot of deals, said Mike Haeg, VP of Automotive at Car Wars, during the DealerTalkx event in Toronto.

During the presentation, Haeg showed dealers two slides that revealed a big increase in dealership advertising spending, at a time when margins are dropping sharply. “You have to do more with your leads. In this case — coming in through the phone,” said Haeg. “You will see an immediate improvement in appointments, vehicles shown and sales if you improve your phone processes.”

According to Haeg, mobile search will generate an estimated 73 billion phone calls in 2018 compared to only 30 billion calls in 2013. “You are going to get more phone calls,” he said. “If you don’t have a good phone process, that’s a total waste of money, resources, and opportunities to sell cars and gain market share.”

Cassie Broemmer, Executive VP of Business Development at Car Wars, was also present during the session. She outlined the CRISP process for answering phones. CRISP is an acronym for Connect, Request, Invite, Set and Pursue.

“Are we selling cars over the phone? We are selling appointments over the phone,” said Broemmer. “When we ask we get 80 per cent appointment booking. It’s crazy, but it works.”

Broemmer stunned some dealers in attendance by doing live phone calls to their actual dealerships, inquiring about the “best price” for a specific vehicle in inventory on their website. As she was bounced around from reception to sales, the audience listened in live over the loudspeakers in the presentation hall. It wasn’t a pretty experience. In one call, the audience listened in silence as the unmistakable “beeping” sound of being left on hold boomed over the speakers for several minutes.

It was inconsistent from dealership to dealership, and they all fell short of providing a great customer experience over the phone that would likely lead to a sale. Mostly, she reached people who seemed either bored or annoyed at having to collect her information and track down pricing info on the vehicle she called in about.

Organized by Kijiji, Canada’s largest online classifieds site, the theme of DealerTalkx 2018 is “The Agile Dealership.” The next event will take place in Montreal, Que., on October 16.