BIA/Kelsey, a market research firm focused on local advertising, has surveyed small businesses for the past fifteen years on the outcomes they prefer from advertising. Each year, the phone call has topped the list. Given this answer, it would naturally follow that businesses would be ready for any and all phone calls to gain customers.
My group, the Marchex Institute, analyzes and studies inbound phone calls to businesses and we are consistently surprised by how often these calls go unanswered. This is particularly surprising for auto dealers, who hold expensive merchandise and typically have at least several individuals on staff during business hours.
When purchasing my last car, I asked my sales representative how frequently people who came into the dealership and asked about a particular car ended up purchasing that car. He responded 70%. Whether or not that number is correct, I understood why he seemed to have negotiating leverage over me that day… once I made it into the dealership for a particular car I was a likely customer.
I later read that consumers spend an average of 11 hours researching their car online before purchasing and so it would make sense that once a consumer was at a dealer, they were fairly certain as to the car they were going to purchase. If all this is true, then the real trick is getting someone who calls the dealer asking about inventory to just come into the dealership.
When we recently analyzed a set of inbound phone calls to dealers, what jumped out at us was that 20% of all phone calls were unanswered by the dealers and that the vast majority of these phone calls were during business hours. (After all, why would a consumer call a business when they knew that business would be closed?)
Of calls that were answered, 45% were from prospective new customers. This means that of the 20% of unanswered calls, half of these are prospects. What would you do if you were interested in a particular type or category of car, wanted to look at that car and couldn’t get someone on the phone? You’ll likely call another dealer.
Calls from prospective customers further broke down as follows:
How can individual auto dealers use call analytics to understand if this phenomenon applies to them?
- Using Marchex Call Analytics can show how often calls go to voicemail or are unanswered, and show if this happens throughout the day or is clustered around certain times or days.
- Calls that go to a voicemail can trigger an e-mail alert or other message to managers or sales representatives for quick callbacks to prospective customers.
- Auto dealers can consider call forwarding, which routes calls to a 2nd phone numbers after a certain number of rings. This, however, can have the drawback of frustrating customers into not leaving a voicemail when neither party is quick to answer the phone.
- Some auto dealers have dedicated personnel to answer e-mail leads immediately. The same strategy can be used for inbound phone calls. An outsourced answering department could be considered as well.
As always, the Marchex Institute is happy to answer any questions about this data or to advise on call analytics questions. Please feel free to reach out at marchex-institute at marchex dot com
VP, Marchex Institute