Your dealership hours might be nine to five, but your customers’ lives are not. More and more are doing their homework—73% of car shoppers research and compare exhaustively—and a lot of it is done online. Shoppers visit 13 auto sites on average. So it’s likely that their first contact with a dealership is after regular working hours.
The worst thing you can do with customer leads is let them sit, so there’s extra pressure on dealers to respond even when the physical shop may be closed. Here are four ways to capture and address those after-hours leads.
1. Live chat and chatbots
Live chat is one of the most immediate ways of responding to online customers at any hour of the day. There is no shortage of software and service companies that offer live chat and some dealer management systems even sell it as an add-on feature. Live chat staffed by a person in a call-center style facility is a great option for tackling simple questions quickly. But remember, outsourced services have limitations on what types of questions they can answer, since they aren’t familiar with your day-to-day dealership activities. To help address this problem, you can create a rotating schedule for your employees to share the burden of answering live chats as they come in.
If live chat doesn’t work for your dealership and you need a higher level of sophistication, you can also try implementing a chatbot on your website. These bots use artificial intelligence to understand more complex requests and allows you to personalize the response. This helps consumers get answers right on your site, without filling out another form or waiting for an email response. You can even use a chatbot to broadcast a new model offer or discount, book service appointments, or provide detailed summaries of a specific car on your lot.
Consumers are conditioned to expect a response no matter what day and time it is, so even off-hours email leads need an immediate response. Smart marketing automation allows you to immediately send an appropriate reply and let the customer know who will be following up with them and when. With email automation, fewer leads will slip through the cracks in your system.
3. Social media
Social media doesn’t have office hours—it’s always on. The constantly connected nature of social media makes it more likely that customers favor Facebook Messenger and direct messages via Twitter or Instagram above more traditional contact methods. One of the values and challenges of social media is that it is so immediate. If customers contact you through social media, consider how quickly you want to respond and set those boundaries. Similarly to the live chat rotation, consider having your dedicated digital team watch your social channels and direct messages for any incoming questions and answer them in the moment.
Facebook Messenger even allows you to customize an automated response to any messages you receive during off hours, or set up an instant response for new messages. If you’re not going to respond to messages after hours, customize your away message with instructions on how to contact you another way, like through email or phone.
It might sound old-fashioned compared to the first three options, but a phone call is still a reliable and immediate contact method. If you don’t want all of your after-hours phone calls to go to voicemail, you have a few options. Similarly to live chat and social media management, you can hire a third party to handle phone calls. You can also create a shift schedule for your internal team, so that someone is always on call for the few hours before and after your dealership’s scheduled hours of operation.
No matter your process, follow up on those leads
All four of these methods require time, money, and resources. Take time to calculate these three variable to find the right mix for your business. The most vital part of any customer communication, whether it’s during or outside of normal business hours, is that you follow up on all those leads.
This is especially important when you use outsourced services. Remember that those customers’ first point of contact with your dealership was a third party, so make sure your staff gets in touch with more detailed information within hours, not days. Fast lead follow-up makes a good customer service impression and will yield better results for your business.