This article has been approved by Erik Nachbahr, President and Founder of Helion Automotive Technologies. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not always reflect the views of Dealertrack.
When you think of technology problems at your dealership, what comes to mind? Of all the tech issues you have to consider, your phone system probably doesn’t take precedence. Maybe it’s because your phone system doesn’t seem flashy enough to qualify as technology, or perhaps you don’t fully appreciate the potential problems a phone system can present. Whatever the reason, your phone system says more about your dealership than you might think, and can have a huge impact on the way customers think about your business.
Failure to Communicate
Did you know that 19% (about one out of every five) car shoppers initiate contact with dealerships via telephone? In fact, phone leads outnumber internet leads four to one. That’s a significant amount of potential business coming directly to your dealership through the good old-fashioned phone. So, why then are phones a technology problem for so many dealerships? For starters, a significant number of these callers never connect with a real person. That’s akin to completely ignoring a handful of customers that show up at your lot every day. Instead of greeting them and striking up a conversation, you opt to show them the door without a word.
A Shift in Technology
So, where do the communication breakdowns tend to happen? And, why are so few people making contact at so many dealerships? Over the last several years, there has been a shift in technology from public switched telephone networks to the more modern IP phone systems, or systems that transfer voice calls over public internet or private circuits. Despite the many advantages IP systems have over older technology, they present brand new problems as well. Most notably, dealerships run into problems with more dropped calls and poor call quality. This usually happens because the dealership’s IT infrastructure is incapable of supporting the system, or the system vendor uses public internet, which is notoriously unreliable. Imagine using cloud-hosted conferencing, such as Skype, as your business’ primary means of phone communication.
Rather than relying on the internet, a self-hosted IP phone system can solve many modern phone problems simply by connecting the phones at your dealership to a private, digital circuit provided by your phone carrier. And, while you have to purchase the equipment involved up front, it’s far more reliable than a public solution. Despite the initial investment, implementing a self-hosted IP phone system can save your dealership money (and the hassle of dropped calls and poor call quality) in the long run.
Call Flow Breakdowns
Your dealership is its own unique universe of fast moving parts and even faster moving people. And, the way phone calls flow throughout that universe is a creature unto itself. Call flow is the set of rules that govern where calls get routed, the number of rings a call makes at each extension, and how calls get transferred, sent to voicemail, or routed back to the operator. As anyone who’s ever made a call to a large, bureaucratic organization with poor call flow can attest, problems in this area can be infuriating. And, if your dealership is guilty of poorly designed call flow, lost calls are just the beginning of your problems.
To prevent your customers from running in the opposite direction, it’s important to assess your current call flow design. Your vendor should be able to provide you with a detailed call flow diagram, allowing you to spot potential problem areas. From there, hold a meeting with your managers and design a new call flow that will improve customer relations and increase traffic to your store. And, speaking of customer relations, here’s a piece of common sense that’s too commonly ignored: never let a phone call ring more than four times before it’s answered, and avoid sending your customers to voicemail at all costs.
If you still think of a phone as something that’s used to simply talk to someone, think again. Your phone system is a window into your dealership that shows customers all they need to know about doing business with you. But, with the right phone system and call flow program in place, you can give your customers what they’re looking for, and they’ll give you their trust and business in return.
For more information and insights about implementing the right phone system at your dealership, check out The Auto Dealer’s Complete Guide to Phone System and Helion Automotive Technologies’s website.