Alex Jefferson says dealers have themselves to blame for Internet leads flattening out in the past year, despite widespread online car shopping.
Dealers' slow responses to Internet leads have trained consumers to contact stores by telephone or just walk in when their online research is complete, says Jefferson, director of Internet and training for the Proctor Dealerships of Tallahassee, Fla.
"Consumers have gotten smart," Jefferson says.
The shift is causing some dealers to increase efforts to ensure that their Internet leads and phone calls are handled well, says Jon Quade, a performance improvement consultant at ADP Digital Marketing, a division of ADP Dealer Services created after the acquisition of the Cobalt Group last year.
"Years ago, people thought the Internet would do away with business on the phone and maybe even in person," Quade says. "But phone calls have exploded."