DONNA HARRIS

All hands should be ready to handle Internet leads

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News.
Among dealers there are a few schools of thought on handling Internet leads:

• Some dealers have an Internet department, typically a staff of one or two people.

• Others separate the sales force into two groups — one for showroom traffic, the other for Internet leads.

• Still others have their business development center -- the customer service personnel, largely appointment-setters -- handle Internet leads for the sales force.

But Mike McFall, president of the Black Book Online Division, which provides dealers with leads through its trade-in value service, says the entire sales force should be trained to handle Internet traffic.

He says the business development center model falls short because customers would rather deal with one sales representative. To provide excellent customer service dealers should reduce the number of times customers get handed off from one staff member to the next, he says.

McFall argues that often the Internet staff is undersized and overwhelmed with inquiries. His view is supported by multiple complaints I’ve received about dealerships failing to respond promptly to online leads.

He reasons that if about 80 percent of the car buyers use the Internet to shop, then at least 80 percent of the sales force should be handling Internet prospects.

With Internet use as prevalent as it is, dealers might need “all hands” to tackle their virtual showroom traffic.

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