As we’ve explored in our previous columns, the new generation of customer behaves differently to those of the past, preferring to have control over the way they communicate with a new provider. This month we look at how best to manage the leads that come through your digital advertising streams, as, although they can require some special treatment, you will find they can be your most lucrative customers.
Twenty years ago, most new customers were either walk-ins at their local dealership or would make contact in response to radio or print ads or following a vehicle search on a classified site. Prospective customers would want to speak to their chosen dealership, either on the telephone or face-to-face; and when they made contact, they were well and truly in – market for a new vehicle.
With the advent of digital advertising, customer targeting is far more sophisticated than it has ever been. Targeting based on demographics and profiles, means that prospective customers can often be reached at an earlier stage in their buying journey.
Digital Lead With Greater ROI
These customers are often likely to be in the early “consideration” phase of the purchasing cycle. This means they may not necessarily be in-market and ready to buy at the time they see and respond to your advertisement, but experience has shown that, if nurtured and managed well, these can be the most valuable leads for your business.
So, how should you manage this new brand of leads?
Timeliness is key
Many dealers are slow to respond to enquiries, particularly if they come through digital channels such as website enquiries or chats, as they don’t view them as serious leads. Instead you should treat all enquiries, no matter the format, as a potential sale, responding to them within an hour, before the customer has a chance to go elsewhere. Consider a time when you have logged an online enquiry: you would likely have expected a quick response – not to have to wait two days for an answer. Treat all leads with the urgency they deserve.
Despite what you’ve been taught, don’t just pick the phone. Many of these early-stage leads will be responding to a digital advertisement, so it is more than likely they will contact you electronically via website enquiry, live chat, SMS, email, or Messenger.
It is important that you respond to these customers as promptly as possible and in the same way that they have contacted you – at least in the first instance. They need to feel as though they are in control of the communication.
On their terms
If conversations with the customer are continuing, it is important to confirm their preferred method(s) and times for contact. Many may need to speak to you after hours or on their lunch break, so it’s important to be flexible and allow them to dictate when and how the communication will take place.
This new type of customer is often at the very start of their purchasing journey. They do not want to feel pressured into making a decision about a new vehicle, so it is important that you tread carefully with them. Show empathy and understanding and, in the early stages, focus your contact more on providing information and answering questions about the vehicle, as opposed to locking them into a test drive.
Utilise your CRM
These customers need long-term nurturing, which means it is important that all contact with them is recorded in your CRM database to avoid bombarding them with too many calls or emails. CRMs usually include data such as how many times and when an email has been opened. By using this intel, you can gauge the level of interest a customer has in your dealership, as well as the best time to contact them.
If this new brand of lead is well managed by your sales team, your dealership will reap the rewards. You will find that these customers are less likely to look around at other decision. This in turn will give you the opportunity to leave more margin in your car, which will benefit your dealership’s bottom line.
Furthermore, if a customer has a positive experience with your dealership from the moment of enquiry right through to delivery of their vehicle, the results will be sure to reflect in your customer satisfaction index (CSI), and in your repeat business through service and further sales.
So, when you see those chats and web enquiries come through from a digital ad, don’t dismiss them as timewasters who won’t purchase a car from you. Instead treat them as serious buyers who, with a bit of long-term T.L.C, could be your dealership’s most valuable customers.