The "Other" Side of the Fence (continued)
I asked one of my colleagues to mystery shop one of our stores.  I asked him
specifically to ask a question that the store had to answer to earn his business.  
The specific question he asked was, “What is my out the door price for this vehicle I
want”?  I also wanted to see the response time, the automated response, and the
content of their initial e-mail response to see if he answered the question.  

The automated response included all the pertinent information that an automated
response should.  Some OEM’s have gone as far as to mandate that dealers turn
off their auto response e-mails in their ILM tools.  
    I really disagree with that mentality.  The OEM’s contention is that the customer is
    already receiving an automated response from them.  So what if the OEM has an
    automated response?  Furthermore, so what if a third party lead provider does, they
    did not get my automated response with my contact information on it.  An automated
    response is nothing more than just an acknowledgment that the customer submitted
    their lead and that they receive my contact information.  Other content can be in
    there, but the contact information is paramount.
The response time was outstanding, almost immediate.  The format of the template was excellent; however, he
did not include the, “out the door price” that the customer specifically requested.  Furthermore, there was follow on
text for examples of other vehicles that were not included.  Often times we fire off templates that we have built without
checking out their content.  We let the technology take over and do not pay attention to the detail that the consumer
requires.  By not answering the customers question and the absence of other example vehicles, made this response
lack credibility.  The Internet sales representative immediately set himself up for failure with the customer.

I talked to him later and he did not realize that he did not answer the specific question that the customer asked and
that there was follow on text about other vehicles.  I asked if he had ever seen any of his templates other than in the
back of his tool and his answer was, No”.
Copyright © 2008 Automotive Dealers Network. All rights reserved.
Shopping yourself as Internet sales professional is essential in ensuring you are setting up
a successful online sale experience.  With all the high tech tools we utilize as Internet sales people
we need to know what our stuff looks like on the other side of the fence.  Moreover, check out how
your templates look in AOL mail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail, gmail, Outlook, etc.  Also, look at what the
template says.  I have gone as far as to going to a customer’s office to look in their e-mail to see
how my templates look.  Because it looks good in the back of your tool, it might not necessarily look
that good in your customers e-mail.  Additionally, read and acknowledge what your customer is
saying and reply to all their wants, needs, and most importantly answer all their questions.
Fantastic tools can only do so much.  It takes attention to detail to ensure credible communication with
your customer.  For the most part, we only get one chance to “brand” ourselves to our customer.  
Response time and follow up are essential in “hooking” the customer.  That makes it even more important
to ensure that our e-mails are crisp and concise and that our content is meaningful and accurate.

By Gilbert Chavez
E-Commerce Director/Planet Automotive
Gilbert has held the positions of E-Commerce Director, VP
Business Development, VP Operations, E-Marketing Director,
COO, General Manager, GSM and Internet/Fleet Manager.
Gilbert's expertise is in CRM, online campaigns, e-mail
marketing, BDC development and other managerial aspects
for dealer profitability. He is Currently E-Commerce Director for
Planet Automotive.
Template driven communication is important and essential, especially when you are dealing with numerous leads. I
have seen several departments attempt to customize every email, however, it failed mostly because the information
they provided was limited and incomplete.

Using templates can take on the feel of a custom made personalized e-mail, if you do your due diligence when
constructing your templates. Often the “tags” or default values that pull the lead information over, often do not format
correctly, and it looks like a form-generated e-mail.
Very often the value tags pull when no information is available and the consumer see’s these values. For example,
[Customer Name], is a dead give away when the customers name did not pull over. Ouch, we are caught, and we
look foolish in our correspondence with the consumer.

There are a couple of ILM tools out there that compensate for this, however, the majority of ILM tools do not and
dealers are encountering this issue on a daily basis.  This is not a deal stopper, but it looks amateurish and presents
an unpolished correspondence with your prospect.
Tying an automated “Internet Sales Process” in with your ILM is essential in everyday Internet selling.  
This could evolve into a “How To Book”, so I won’t get into too much detail here. However, tying the
firing of automated templates to a phone follow up process is key in developing a successful Internet
Sales Department. Setting this sequence is an arduous process. Fine-tuning it takes time, effort, and
a lot of patience. Once it is in place, it is a true seamless process that takes the mystery out of
response time…follow up, when it comes to working your internet leads and showroom prospects.
    Back in the day, the firing of automated response e-mail after a lead
    submission was going to be the panacea for selling cars online. It was touted
    as the silver bullet to close the deal. We all quickly found out it was something
    nice to have, but it did little more then let the customer know that they had
    successfully submitted their lead. Nothing, I say again, nothing, replaces
    the follow up phone call. The e-mail serves as a back up to the phone call.
    So often ISM’s lean on the e-mail and don’t do the follow up phone call. I
    would safely say that more than 50% of the leads received today by dealers
    are not called following the initial e-mail.

As technology evolves and media melts into one amorphous entity our challenges will increasingly get more
complicated. We will all have to become more innovative than ever. We are all trying to distinguish ourselves from
the other guy. Seeing ourselves from our consumer’s perspective will play a major factor in making us unique and
different. Regardless of the technology, the “belly to belly” human touch will never disappear from the car buying
experience. (Never say never)