It’s no surprise, but vehicle sales have plummeted thanks to COVID-19. J.D. Power has forecasted that U.S. auto sales will be 25% to 45% lower for March 2020 compared to March 2019. Many news reports now put that number even higher, estimating it to be between 50% and 70%.
One bright spot for many dealers, however, is that while overall demand is down, those leads that do contact dealerships are purchasing vehicles at higher rates. “We are seeing an increase in closing ratios significantly,” said Scott Dexter, Business Development Manager at O’Regan’s Automotive Group in a recent interview with CBT Automotive Network. “Those people that are coming out are coming out because they are in the market now and they want to buy.”
“Customers that do submit a request or call the dealership, we are seeing much higher closing ratios,” added David Kain, President of Kain Automotive, in that same interview.
It makes sense. Before COVID-19, shoppers would often visit multiple dealerships during the car buying process. Now with consumers worried about safety, they are far more likely to visit just one. And if they are willing to visit you now, they are usually serious about buying. So if you can get a consumer to call, book an appointment, and visit your showroom, the likelihood of turning that visit into revenue is high.
Phone Calls to Dealers Are Critical to Driving Vehicle Sales
Before COVID-19, most vehicle shoppers first contacted dealerships in person (56%) or by calling (25%), according to Kelley Blue Book. Now during the outbreak, with many showrooms closed or open by appointment only, phone calls are the main way consumers engage with dealers. Vehicle shoppers are now calling to:
- Ask questions about the new buying process during COVID-10
- Schedule showroom visits
- Get help shopping online
- Arrange a trade-in
- Renew or extend leases
- Get help with financing
With demand for vehicles down and many dealerships pulling back on ad spend, every phone call counts. How well your marketing generates the right types of calls — and the experience you provide callers to assist and convert them — are critical to driving sales and revenue. Here are some data-driven strategies to consider to drive more calls that convert to appointments, vehicle sales, and leases — both during COVID-19 and after.
A Checklist of Data-Driven Strategies for Phone Calls to Dealerships
1. Understand How Consumer Behavior Is Shifting
- Track inbound sales calls by marketing source: Vehicle shoppers are no longer visiting multiple dealerships before buying, and many are investigating buying online. Tracking how your paid and organic media drive sales-related calls to each location, when those calls come in, outcomes, and how that data is changing over time can help you understand shifting consumer behavior. It can also better enable you to adjust media spend and strategy to drive the most revenue cost-effectively.
Sample DialogTech call tracking report showing calls, opportunities, and conversions by source
- Understand caller intent: Consumers are now calling dealerships for all kinds of reasons. Getting reports on call volumes to each location by caller intent and viewing trends over time can help you see if consumers still want to visit showrooms, if they are interested in buying online, if they are scheduling service, if they are renewing leases, if they are delaying purchases, and more.
- Track the volume of calls discussing COVID-19: Understanding the amount of calls each day that discuss COVID-19 — and if that number is increasing or decreasing — can help you gauge when consumer behavior is returning to normal. For example, you might see that calls from certain keywords to dealerships in Chicago continue to have a high number of conversations discussing COVID-19 that aren’t converting. You can then adjust bids, ad messaging, and landing page copy accordingly — perhaps even eliminating spend until conversion rates in other channels improve.
Sample DialogTech report on calls where callers discussed the coronavirus
2. Activate Intelligence on Callers Across Your Martech Stack
- Complete your view of the customer journey: By adding data on calls to the online engagement data already in your digital ad platforms, marketing tools, and CRM, you have a more holistic view of consumers and marketing performance to see what’s working right now and what isn’t.
Sample Adobe Analytics report of call conversions by volume and lead quality
- Adjust bid strategies and budget allocation for callers: For example, you can spend more on those keywords, ads, and channels driving the most calls for online shopping — or cut spend there and only focus on calls that result in showroom appointments. Having data on what’s driving those calls in your platforms will help you make better decisions based on your goals.
- Segment callers into audiences based on their conversations: When you know which callers are sales leads, their vehicle interest, and if they converted, you can accurately target them in Google Ads, Facebook, and other channels. Consider retargeting callers who are sales leads but didn’t convert, building lookalikes from those that did, and excluding non-sales calls from seeing your ads.
- Leverage call data in Google Ads Smart Bidding: If you use Google Ads Smart Bidding, help Google bid better by segmenting callers by intent and outcome, as well as those that discuss the coronavirus. For example, you can have Google exclude non-sales calls from their optimization decisions — or you can help Google bid more on callers who discussed visiting a showroom after the outbreak subsides.
Sample Google Ads report of COVID-19 calls separated out
3. Access Call Recordings and Transcriptions for Deeper Insights
- Understand consumer concerns: Learn the questions and concerns callers are voicing during this time and measure if “new normal” strategies are working. For example, callers might want to know what options your showrooms provide for test drives and trade-ins during COVID-19. Use this data to create an FAQ list on your sites about the virus and new programs. Arm sales agents and BDCs with information to better assist callers. As restrictions lift and the economy reopens, keep using this data to prove the impact of “new normal” changes on vehicle sales.
- Conduct mystery shopping: See if BDCs, agents, and call centers are following approved scripts, demonstrating empathy, and saying the right things when consumers call.
- Improve call coaching: Provide BDC and call center managers with recordings of phone leads that didn’t convert or calls about the virus where the employee lacked empathy to use as coaching tools to improve performance.
Sample transcription and recording in DialogTech of a call mentioning COVID-19
4. Detect and Correct Call Experience Issues Impacting Conversions
- Monitor dealership performance: By seeing what percentage of calls to each location or agent are good leads, abandon their call, go to voicemail, and convert, marketers can prove the value of their campaigns while also determining if low conversion rates at locations are the result of your marketing or the call experience.
- Detect and correct issues: Alert those dealerships that either aren’t answering calls or failing to convert good callers to appointments so they can take steps to improve.
Sample DialogTech report showing phone lead quality and performance at locations
5. Take Charge of the Call Experience for a Frictionless Customer Journey
- Using IVRs to automate caller assistance: IVRs are useful tools to answer, assist, qualify, inform, and route callers. Marketers can use DialogTech to build and update IVRs for any location or group of locations in minutes. For COVID-19, your IVR can route callers based on their intent, provide information on social distancing options and FAQs, list changers in location hours, or provide any other important information for vehicle shoppers.
Build your own IVRs in DialogTech to assist callers during the COVID-19 outbreak
- Setting up rules-based call routing: You can set up rules in DialogTech to route callers based on their data and your business’s needs. Examples include routing callers differently based on their interest (showroom appointment, online sales, leases, financing, service, parts), routing after-hours calls to call center agents or an IVR, and routing a high percentage of calls to your best agents to improve conversation rates.
- Routing calls to remote workers: If you have staff answering calls that are now working from home, you can have calls routed to an employee or group of employees’ phones simultaneously or in a hunt group until someone answers. You don’t even need to change numbers in your ads — simply change the routing on the backend in DialogTech to have those numbers direct calls to your remote staff.
Sample DialogTech screenshot for setting up hunt group call routing to remote workers
DialogTech Helps Automotive Marketers Analyze and Optimize Experiences When Shoppers Call
Powered by AI, DialogTech provides the leading PCI DSS-compliant conversation intelligence platform for automotive marketers. When vehicle shoppers call, DialogTech attributes that call to the marketing source that drove it, routes it to the best person or destination to assist, and turns the phone conversations into actionable insights to measure and optimize marketing performance.
If you want a personal demo of the DialogTech platform, you can request a demo anytime. You can also learn more marketing strategies for driving and converting phone leads by downloading The Automotive Marketer’s Guide to Driving Callers from Search.
Want to drive more vehicle sales and revenue from your marketing? Learn 9 strategies for automotive marketers to drive more calls, test drives, and sales from search in our ebook, The Automotive Marketer’s Guide to Driving Callers from Search.Download Your eBook