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A third of car buyers expect a dealer to respond in under 15 minutes

The recent pandemic has increased demand on dealerships to respond to customers in real time.
Almost one third of car buyers expect a dealer to respond within 15 minutes, according to a 2019 survey. Since this survey was conducted, COVID-19 has disrupted the car sales model, pushing transactions online. While the retail motor industry has been greatly impacted in 2020, website traffic to car dealerships increased by 15% YoY.

Before the pandemic, many dealerships already had existing digital processes in place to facilitate remote selling such as; virtual showrooms, live chat and active social channels, however, several dealerships were forced to adapt to a new way of selling, overnight.

Given that dealerships now operate in an unpredictable retail environment, it is essential that every single lead is maximised. Crucial to effective lead management is the speed at which you respond to customer enquiries, which will have a direct impact on the likelihood of you closing the sale.
Of buyers are more likely to complete a car purchase if they receive a response to an online enquiry within 30 minutes
Impact of not responding to leads quickly
Losing out to the competition
41% of used car customers choose to only visit one dealership in advance of their purchase. This number is increasing as more customers conduct their research online.

The quality of a lead degrades over time. Therefore, if there is a delay in responding to a customer enquiry, they will have time to consider other options and likely reach out to the competition. If that competitor responds before you do, they might choose to buy from them instead, not necessarily because their product or service is better or cheaper, but because they were quicker to get back to them.
Of customers buy from the company that responds to their enquiry first
Lead Connect
Damaged reputation
With the increased use of customer review websites and public feedback via social media, it is becoming increasingly important to communicate with customers quicker.

Social media pages highlight a business's response time. If this response time is much slower than the competitor's, the customer will likely choose to communicate with the business more likely to reply quickly.

Faster lead responses will improve your dealership's reputation and increase your chances of a positive review as the customer moves through the sales funnel.

Online shoppers who receive a response within 10 minutes are 3 times more likely to visit a dealership
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How to improve customer response times
Implement live chat
Live chat is an increasingly common communication tool when it comes to online car shopping and when managed effectively, can have a positive impact on sales, customer satisfaction and reputation.

Live chat allows you to have the first interaction with a potential customer while they are still on the page that they are interested in, not after they submitted a form and left your website.

An effective chat system will often involve a blend of automated and live communication. Pre-screening website visitors via an automated system, will allow you to respond quickly and direct the customer to the correct department. It can bring the customer right through to sale or service appointment through a series of well structured responses.
Monitor messaging via social channels
A simple but effective way of improving lead response times is to actively monitor messages received via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Interacting with the customer while they are still online, will allow you to quickly answer questions and establish communication with minimal effort.

Additionally, channels like Facebook Messenger allow for automated responses to frequently asked questions so that your dealership is responding as soon as the query lands.
Stack deals remotely
COVID-19 restrictions saw a shift from face to face to online selling with many dealerships implementing tools to allow for full online transactions. While these restrictions may be temporary, these digital tools will likely form part of the sales process going forward.

Consider the online car buyer journey and the digital tools available at each touchpoint:
  • research
  • initial enquiry
  • demonstration/walkaround
  • customer vehicle valuation
  • finance application & approval
  • digital paperwork
  • test drive
  • sign off
  • delivery

While many customers will still want to test drive their desired vehicle in advance of purchase, there are many steps of the sales process that can be offered online. Allowing customers to complete the more transactional aspects of the process such as finance application and paperwork, will reduce the time to sale.

Stacking deals remotely or having them stacked before the customer arrives to the showroom, will also increase your likelihood of closing the sale.

Of shoppers are more likely to buy from the dealership that lets them start the buying process online
Cox Automotive
Have an after hours strategy
An increasing number of customers are contacting dealerships when they are closed. 55% of shoppers contacted dealerships after hours, between 6pm and 9am, according to If your dealership does not have a strategy to communicate with these customers during this time, they may move on to a competitor who can answer their queries.

An AI-powered messaging service (automated live chat or Messenger) after hours can uncover a customer's initial needs, which can then be followed up personally by the Sales Executive.

Of shoppers contacted dealerships after hours
Communicate with customers how they want
While most dealerships will ask for a 'preferred communication method' in their initial enquiry forms, customers want to choose how they would like to be communicated with. An increasing number of customers want to communicate with a business via WhatsApp, Live Chat and Messenger as that is how they communicate with their personal contacts. Allowing the customer to converse as they choose, will increase the speed of response.

Additionally, by only asking for the information you require and making the enquiry form as short as possible, you will increase the likelihood of the form being completed. If visitors are presented with a lengthy form asking for multiple contact sources, they will become frustrated and are more likely to abandon the process.
Manage leads more effectively
Your dealership will have multiple inbound lead sources from publisher, dealership and OEM websites to social media, PPC, phone calls and walkins.

If your lead management system is manual in nature, it will be very challenging to respond quickly to each inbound lead.

An effective lead management system should provide you with a real time dashboard of all lead activity, automate lead distribution and encourage quick follow up by your sales team.

Automating these processes will not only improve lead quality and increase conversion rates but will provide management with more time for face to face coaching and development.
Your dealership should aim for a lead response time of under 5 minutes. This should be regularly tracked, reviewed and form part of sales team targets.

Digital retailing for dealerships.