Dealer's Internet customers are VIPs
N.J. Hyundai dealership simplifies Web sales
Dave Cantin says his store's Internet department boosted average monthly sales from 100 under the old system to about 250.
By catering to Web-savvy car shoppers, Dave Cantin says sales generated by his dealership's expanded Internet department have more than doubled in the past six months.
Cantin, vice president of Brad Benson Hyundai in South Brunswick, N.J., says that until this summer, the dealership had just a run-of-the-mill business development center. Now, the store's Internet department aims to simplify the car-buying process and minimize the time customers spend in the showroom.
Fifteen dedicated employees handle only customers sourced from Internet leads, compared with six earlier this year. The negotiating, vehicle selection and financing are arranged via e-mail or on the phone. The department also has streamlined the paperwork, vehicle delivery and deal-signing process to be completed in 30 minutes or less.
The result? Cantin says monthly Internet department sales now average about 250 new vehicles, compared with 100 units in an average month under the old system.
The department, which is now referred to at the dealership as the "Customer Service Center," is designed solely to give Internet shoppers what they want, Cantin says.
He says Internet car shoppers know vehicle details inside and out, and often they have narrowed their choice to a specific model and trim and color. So by the time they contact a dealership, Cantin says, his department needs to make it as easy as possible to make a sale.
The additional volume has helped Brad Benson Hyundai keep its share of a growing local market in which competitors' brands have become more aggressive this year with incentives and marketing, Cantin says. Brad Benson Hyundai is one of Hyundai's largest dealerships, selling about 7,000 new vehicles annually.
"Those customers would rather not waste their time going from dealer to dealer but instead do all of their legwork on the Internet, narrowing it down to what dealership has the car they want in stock with the right color and equipment and what dealership is going to give them the best price," Cantin says.
Cantin, 33, knows firsthand that time is precious. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. The cancer is in remission, and Cantin is heavily involved with cancer-fighting organizations. Chief among them is the Leukemia Action Foundation, which Cantin founded last year to fund advanced research into leukemia treatments.
When he's not working 12-hour days overseeing every aspect of the dealership, which sells between 550 and 600 new Hyundais a month, he spends his free time with his wife and two young children.
"My family is No. 1, and No. 2 is this dealership," he says. "This business to me is a passion. I wake up excited to come to work every day."
Leads are fielded by Internet technicians, who are instructed to respond within 15 minutes of receiving a lead on a potential customer. The goal is catching those customers while they're still online.
"How long are you online for? If it's for 30 minutes, and the dealership doesn't respond, they're probably out of the running," Cantin says.
Instead of responding to a lead with a boilerplate price quote, his staffers try to pinpoint a customer's needs and present him with the specific vehicle he's looking for. And rather than trying to get a customer to visit the dealership, all of the details of the deal are worked out in advance via e-mail or phone.
If a customer wants to look at a specific car but doesn't have the time to come for a test drive, a staffer will take the car to the customer's home or office at a convenient time.
"Maybe you don't have time to come in. But maybe you have a two-hour window from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on a Tuesday when I can bring you the car and if you love it come back the next day to do the paperwork," Cantin says.
To make the department stand out, it's housed in its own building away from the rural New Jersey dealership's main showroom.
30 minutes and out
Cantin says there's very little price haggling in the department. That's because the dealership offers a competitive price to begin with, while ensuring a respectable gross.
"I'll never lose a sale because of price," Cantin says. "I'd rather make a little money on each car and sell a lot of cars than make a lot of money on each car and sell fewer cars."
Once a price is agreed on and financing is lined up, the customer is told to come directly to the Internet department's stand-alone building, where the car is detailed and prepped for delivery.
All the necessary paperwork is ready and waiting when the customer arrives. The customer just has to sign it, pay and drive off.
Cantin says once the customer arrives at the dealership, the buying process takes 30 minutes or less.
"If it's a busy Saturday, they're not waiting," he says. "This is the VIP list at Brad Benson Hyundai."
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