That's how fast Keller Bros. Ford aims to reply when a prospective customer contacts the dealership during business hours.
Even overnight, on Sundays or on holidays, staffers often respond faster than many shoppers might expect. The store's round-the-clock average, seven days a week, is about 18 minutes, which ranks among the top Ford Motor Co. dealerships in the country, a spokeswoman for the automaker said.
"Response time is a huge thing," said Brian Zipko, the general manager. "If somebody sends in a lead at midnight, that person is looking to be responded to at 12:05 -- not the next day."
At Keller Bros. Ford, a small store in Lititz, Pa., about 75 miles west of Philadelphia, three women who make up the Internet team share the duty of responding to leads. Stephanie Lacey, the Internet sales manager, says she doesn't mind taking a moment whenever necessary to tap out a quick reply and still gets plenty of time away from work.
"If I wake up in the middle of the night, I check my email," Lacey said. "I spend a large amount of my day on my phone, but it doesn't interfere with my life. It takes me a few seconds to send an email."
Zipko said the dealership can't succeed by dictating how and when it communicates with consumers. That philosophy -- answering leads almost immediately, no matter when they arrive, and asking if customers would prefer a text instead of a phone call to discuss inventory or let them know a car being serviced is ready -- has helped the dealership achieve record sales for a second consecutive year.
It's on pace to sell 100 new and used vehicles a month in 2015, about 50 percent more than two years ago. Since starting as general manager at the beginning of 2014, Zipko has emphasized hiring young salespeople who understand the immediacy of communication in the social-media era, regardless of their background in auto or retail sales.
Of the store's 12 salespeople, five are under 28 years old; for four of them it was their first job out of college. One of the top sellers has a degree in nuclear engineering, Zipko said.
About 25 percent of the store's prospective business comes from online leads, and once an Internet sales staffer has started a conversation, she handles the rest of the transaction herself unless the customer has a prior relationship with another salesperson. By handing off shoppers to someone else, "you'd lose that personal touch that started the conversation," Zipko said.
"I'm not looking to make anybody work 24 hours a day," Zipko said. "We do not make them respond, but I have the right people who understand that getting back to the customer is the difference between us making a sale or not."