After having spent the last week mystery shopping dealers, I am going to go on record and say that the auto responders currently being sent are a complete waste of the customers’ time. I have yet to see one that really impressed me.
Generally there are two scenarios one would send an auto responder; the “on-hour” and the “off hour” auto responder. If your CRM is incapable of differentiating between the two, then I would demand this feature from your CRM vendor, or consider finding a new CRM vendor.
Let’s start with the “on-hour” responder. Is there really any need to send one of these? Your sales team or Internet rep should be able to respond to a lead in a timely manner, thus who needs the auto responder. That first real message from the salesperson is the auto responder. For those of you saying “what if we can’t get to them right away?” well I would say that’s hogwash. There is no reason why a dealership shouldn’t be able to respond to an Internet lead within 15 minutes. If you can’t, then some process is broken in your dealership. This is a customer visiting your dealership in the form of an electronic transmission. Would you let somebody stand out on your lot for 30 minutes before going out to help them? Then why should an Internet lead be any different.
I personally believe it’s every person’s responsibility in the dealership to make sure Internet leads are handled in a timely fashion. Everyone from the Dealer Principal down should be watching response times and making sure customers are handled promptly and professionally. Most CRM tools now have the ability to notify a person on their cell phone when the lead has arrived. Not to mention, managers can normally see on a dashboard which leads have been handled and those that have not. It’s about execution folks! If you’re not executing then somebody needs to visit the process and put one in place that’s going to give you the best possibility to execute in a timely manner.
Now let’s talk about the “off-hour” Internet lead. This is one case where I think we should send an auto responder. The one’s I’ve seen lately are not exactly thrilling me. So let’s think about what we would like to accomplish with the “off-hour” responder. For me it would be about setting up a phone conversation with the customer once the dealership has opened. With that in mind, here’s an auto responder that I would personally be using:
(Customer first name),
I just happened to be checking my e-mail and I noticed your request for information on the (model). Our dealership is currently closed, but I will be contacting you in the morning when we open. Would you prefer an early or late morning call? Also, which number would be best for me to reach you?
I look forward to helping you with the (model) and thanks for choosing (dealership name).
That auto responder should not be sent 1 minute after. I would say 10-15 minutes would seem more realistic that it came from a real person. Hopefully when I arrive in the morning there’s an e-mail waiting for me with the details. If I am a customer who is up at 2:00AM submitting leads, this is going to make me think…”I don’t want to be getting no phone calls at 9:00AM when they open, maybe I better respond to this.” So wouldn’t it be nice if we had a reply from the customer telling us exactly when to call them. One would think this would increase our contact ratio when attempting to call Internet customers. You get that Internet customer on the phone, it now becomes a phone-up and you’re one step closer to making that appointment. There is also something else you can put in that template which will help your cause, but unfortunately I have to leave some things in the bag of tricks for dealerships currently paying for my services.
About the Author: Jerry Thibeau is a sales trainer and the President of Phone-up Ninjas. His company focuses on helping dealerships around the world increase sales by teaching automotive professionals the proper techniques for scheduling more appointments with phone and Internet customers.