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Part 2: Understanding customer expectations

Part 2: Understanding customer expectations

Looking back at part one of this series, I honed in on outlining different strategies related to online lead-generation and, in particular, focused on explaining the detailed idiosyncrasies of various lead sources.

While there’s apparent data to support the motion that “not all leads are created equal”, truth be told, the inability to deploy a proper form of lead-management will just as equally detriment your online lead generation strategies as poor lead quality.

When it comes to this subject, we’ve been through the mill of having detailed discussions with dealers about why their sales agents appear to not be converting. In-fact we’ve tracked so much data on behalf of our partners, that we have now been able to develop a series of data resources that help us to better understand customer expectations.

What does an On-Demand Economy mean for automotive brands?

One of the major pitfalls for car dealers in maximizing their sales conversion is trying to adopt old practices to new trends. Brands and dealers need to accept that the internet and the growth of an on-demand society has changed the way in which consumers want to inquire and purchase products. More than anything else, what buyers want today is simplicity.

"The internet makes human desires more easily attainable. In other words, it offers convenience. Convenience on the internet is basically achieved by two things: speed, and cognitive ease. If you study what the really big things on the internet are, you realize they are masters at making things fast and not making people think.”

At AutoDeal, we’ve been pretty vocal regarding the necessity for dealers to practice fast response times. Preaching this in the past four years has exponentially increased the conversion rate and sales volumes of our partners as many dealers now conform to a one-hour turn-around time on the distribution of financing quotations.

Aside from speed, dealers also need to reflect on the method and manner of their communication to ensure that they’re complying with the demand of making things simple enough for customers to understand.

Adopt to the customer’s preferred form of communication.

Many prospective customers, who use digital mediums like websites, marketplaces or social media, do so because they’re looking for information that’s quick to receive and easy to digest. While many buyers still enjoy the inclusion of a phone call in the buying process, users are now becoming accustomed to not requiring this as the initial mode of feedback.

Many market-demographics, like millennials, that now make up a portion of the market that automotive brands are eager to capture, are starting an exodus of being responsive to phone calls. 

According to a recent article from Forbes, a 2014 Gallup poll confirmed a truth that has become self-evident: Text messages now outrank phone calls as the dominant form of communication among millennials.

Older Nielsen data indicate that average monthly voice minutes used by 18- to 34-year-olds plummeted from about 1,200 in 2008 to 900 in 2010. Texting among 18- to 24-year-olds more than doubled over this period, soaring from 600 to over 1,400 texts a month.

Many see the phone as overly intrusive, even presumptuous.

Additionally, task-oriented millennial employees just want to know what to do; reading emotions can be an unhelpful chore. They default to whichever communication method will help them complete their to-do list as efficiently as possible—a priority that is reflected in how they communicate more generally.*

Data also indicates that phone calls are no longer the primary service channel, but more of an escalation channel. This is represented in a study by Forrester which claims:

“Phone use for customer service has steadily decreased over the past six years, and we predict it will dip even further as customers increasingly adopt digital channels. Today, customers resolve straightforward customer service interactions via self-service, leaving complex issues like account closure, booking a complex multi-city set of flights, or an explanation of smart metering billing policies for a phone conversation. These questions often take longer to resolve and are opportunities to build positive customer relationships with an end goal of increased customer retention.”

If we relate this to the buying process, this may mean that initial communication from a prospective buyer requesting a test-drive or financing quotation can be more efficiently handled if communicated digitally through browser or online chat.

Are we saying telephone communication is dead?

No. The point is to really understand, appreciate and value the method in which the customer wants to be communicated with. To do this, we need to put to rest some age-old misconceptions about the use of telephone in lead generation. 

Myth #1: Leads without telephone numbers don’t convert to sales.

This once accepted reality has turned into a myth, even before online channels became the prevalent methods of communication. In fact, 25% of sales generated on the AutoDeal platform come from customers who do not submit their phone numbers during their initial inquiry stage.

Myth #2: Telephone call is the best way to gauge a customer’s initial interest.

Making a judgement on a customer’s interest level based on whether or not they’re contactable through a single communication is an ill-advised tactic which will create unnecessary risk.

A better method of gauging interest levels would be to evaluate the source medium of how the prospect was referred to your brand, what steps they’ve already taken and what their current predicaments are. The Philippines is quite unique on this due to the large volume of overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s) who more often than not state that they’d much rather be communicated with using online channels. OFW’s contribute to approximately 15% of all sales generated on AutoDeal.

Myth #3: Customers expect a phone call.

Actually they don’t. Or, at least the majority don’t. 63% of customers who inquire on AutoDeal submit their initial customer inquiries without an accompanying phone number. Peak inquiry times on AutoDeal also suggest that prospective buyers will have little time to talk to sales agents since inquiries are made during the working hours of the day or during commute times between 6pm and 9pm. It’s better to arrange a call, than to peg the entire hope for a specific lead on the outcome of a single call.

When it comes to meeting customer expectations, what you should remember is:

  • Ask to Call: If you feel is necessary to make a call, ask the customer first and ask when would be the most appropriate time for them. Share your phone number with the customer first so you can ensure that they pick-up.
  • Fast, Good Quality Digital Communication: A high quality, prompt response to a customer’s inquiry is the best way to make a good first impression and to demonstrate to the prospect that you value their inquiry.
  • Personalize the content: A fast response alone won’t make the customer feel valued if it’s a bog-standard templated response. Remember to personalize the content and, most importantly, remember to answer any of the specific questions that the prospect asks during the inquiry! 
  • Dialogue, Dialogue, Dialogue: Remember to engage the prospect in a conversation, more than simply just answering the concerns. This will involve asking questions of your own at the end of each communication thread. Examples of which could be “Sir/Ma’am, is there a convenient time this week that I can call you to explain more?” or “Sir/Ma’am would you like to visit our showroom at the weekend?”

With all these standing, it’s also essential to remember that understanding the metrics related to your lead-generation strategies is utterly important, but it’s only a battle half fought if you haven’t deployed the correct approach to managing your prospects.

*Source: Forbes: Why Millennials are Texting More and Talking Less

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