It’s an understatement to say this year has been unpredictable. In the last few months, showroom traffic has recovered due to pent-up demand and stimulus checks, but there’s no guarantee these levels will stay consistent. Dealers are reporting higher volumes of internet and phone leads due to changes in customers’ daily lives, e.g. people working from home and resistance to going out unnecessarily. How is your dealership keeping up with these shifts in traffic?


During the shutdown, many dealers discovered they could be more profitable with less staff. But if you’re relying solely on your sales team to handle inbound leads, you’re probably missing out on sales opportunities. Same goes if your current team is trying to convert all inbound leads into showroom appointments.


The new reality is, we need to stop thinking of inbound phone and internet inquiries as “leads,” and think of them as “ups” who are already in the buying process. Many of these callers don’t want to come into your store until they’re ready to sign paperwork or pick up their vehicle. At the very least, most want confirmation of availability, price and trade-in valuations.


Handling remote ups requires more than just technology; it requires dedication and finesse. Dealers who can navigate this new normal will be in the best position to make the most of every sales opportunity.


Follow these steps to ensure that your dealership can handle every single up.


Identify Missed Opportunities


Many dealers have no idea how many inbound phone ups they’re really missing. Especially now that dealers may be operating with a leaner staff, calls can go unanswered, or voicemails unreturned. No salesperson wants to admit to their boss that they missed a call that could have led to a sale. Every single phone call should be connected with a live agent, or responded to as fast as possible. Same with internet leads. Speed matters.


This is why it’s so important to use an integrated call monitoring/call reporting system to run reports. This way, you can identify exactly how many opportunities you’re missing and put processes in place to capture them.


Get Help Responding to Leads


It’s time to rethink whether salespeople are the best people to handle inbound phone and internet ups. You hire salespeople because they have great personalities and work well face-to-face. But this personality type does not always perform best while on the phone, or sitting at the computer writing detailed email responses.


You need to figure out how to handle ups who need technical help with tools on your website or need help with vehicle selection. One suggestion is to create a concierge position, someone with great customer service and phone skills who can bring remote ups down funnel to the point where they can be handed over to a single sales or F&I manager to close the deal.


Shorten the Car-Buying Process


Many of today’s car buyers want information about pricing, trade-in valuations, financing and payment options before they visit the dealership. If this part of the process can be handled over the phone and via email, then the in-store purchase process can be shortened to an hour or less. If you can set up a remote signing process so the customer can sign paperwork from home, even better.


Even test drives can be done remotely. I’ve talked to several dealers who are offering virtual test drives—this can be done with pre-recorded video, or you can send your salespeople on a live virtual test drive with a hands-free phone and camera mounted behind their shoulder, so that customers can see what the driver sees and ask questions during the drive.


The more of the car-buying process you can do remotely, the less of it your customers will have to do in the dealership—which also means that your sales and F&I managers can handle more in-person appointments per day. Imagine if they could see one customer every hour! It’s possible with the right process, tools and technology.


Training is Essential


Whatever process you implement to handle remote ups, training is essential. Staff must know how to do virtual product presentations, be experts with your website tools and technology, and should know how to conduct live video calls for consultations and vehicle walkarounds. Most of all, they need to be more knowledgeable about your product line then today’s savvy car buyers, who spend hours researching online before placing a call.


No matter what the future holds, dealers are resilient and adaptable. You’ve changed before, and you can do it again. It may help to step back from the minutiae of every-day operations and observe how auto industry disruptors are doing things, as well as how processes have changed in other retail industries. Just remember, the ability to navigate through uncharted waters often leads to riches.


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