Best PracticesDealership Communication ToolsDealership Operations & Processes

Yes, You Should Always Use an Auto-Response

No offense to anyone reading this series: but far too many people in our industry tend to overthink everything related to internet sales and digital marketing. Perhaps it’s because so much of this is new or perhaps it’s because change is happening so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with the actual “best” practices out there. Whatever the cause, it has to stop occurring at your dealership if you expect to grow share in 2016 and beyond.

There really is no reason to overthink this stuff; as it is all quite simple.

In this series, my hope is to detail in plain language how you can stop over thinking much of what goes into making a sale to an internet prospect, and how to use these seven simple strategies to start setting more appointments that show and buy today:

Simple Strategy #5: Yes, You Should Always Use an Auto-Response

The Problem: Some industry vendors, OEMs and other “experts” have made dealers question whether or not to use an auto-response. Generally speaking, their argument goes something like: “Your team should be responding right away anyway, so sending an auto-response gives the consumer the impression that you are spamming them.

Interestingly, I just recently had the “auto response argument” with a client who swore her team “always responds within 15 minutes” so no auto response was needed. Hearing this, I mystery shopped her the following Saturday morning just before 10 AM and, you guessed it, her team responded on Monday morning. Well, at least an auto response would have let the consumer know the dealer got their information.

The Reality: Your team isn’t always “responding right away;” and even if they were, a properly-written auto response is just like the Order Confirmation email: A welcomed acknowledgement that my order was received.

Moreover, it’s important to understand that the customer might not even know which dealerships received their “order.” If they submitted it from a third-party site, for example, they may have checked a few boxes next to some dealer names that they might not immediately be able to recall. Your properly-written auto-response tells them:

  1. Who you are
  2. That you received their order
  3. What to expect regarding next steps.

Finally, the only reason a customer would assume you are spamming them is if you’re sending more than one personal email (in addition to the auto-response) on that first day. Except for the Day 1 auto-response and first personal response, you should never send more than one email on any day to any prospect – unless you’re in the middle of correspondence, of course.

The Solution: Let me be clear, there should be no debate; you should always, always, always use an auto-response, however:

  • Ditch the auto-response if your lead vendor already sends a dealer-specific one, as is the case with TrueCar, KBB and others. It will quickly feel like spam to your prospects if you double the efforts of the vendor.
  • Review the auto-responses (and really all correspondence to prospects) from these vendors and, where possible, rewrite these to better align with your team’s processes and best practices. If you cannot rewrite a vendor’s auto-response and you’re unhappy with the messaging, ask if they can turn off their response so that you can send yours.
  • Frame your auto-response as an order confirmation and don’t share pricing here. Your goal is to outline the next steps and ensure they will take your call in a few minutes; if you vomit the pricing on them automatically, there’s no reason for them to take your call.
  • Never disguise the auto-response as a personal email. Consumers aren’t dummies and a response arriving seconds after a lead submission could not ever be personally written. I think it’s primarily these auto-responses that the critics are against, but they unfortunately want you to abandon even well-crafted auto responses.

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This is part 1 of 7 Simple Strategies for Closing More Internet Deals Today!
by Steve Stauning.

Don’t miss out on the complete series:

Part 1Simple Strategy #1: Pay for the Performance You Want

Part 2Simple Strategy #2: Internet & BDC Teams Must be Managed Like Call Centers

Part 3: Simple Strategy #3: Stricter Rules Drive Higher Sales

Part 4: Simple Strategy #4: Treat EVERY Lead and Call Like an Order

Part 5: You’re reading it

Part 6Simple Strategy #6: Email Templates can be Personal AND Automated

Part 7Simple Strategy #7: The First Call Should Be the ONLY Call


Steve is the author of Assumptive Selling: The Complete Guide to Selling More Vehicles for More Money to Today’s Connected Customers;" as well ...