The automotive industry scored better in effectively responding to leads in 2016 than eight other industries tracked in a study. But Conversica, a lead-engagement software provider that ran the study, said there is plenty of room to improve.
Conversica said 38 percent of dealerships received an “A” grade for their responses to online leads, up from 13 percent in the prior year’s inaugural study. “B” grades went to 52 percent of dealerships, with the remaining 10 percent getting a “C.”
Only 14 percent of respondents in the real estate industry, which came in second among the nine industries studied, received an A.
The industries studied were automotive, brokerage, telecommunications, insurance, media/publishing, mortgage lending, education, technology and real estate.
Conversica’s secret shoppers sent questions to 538 company websites -- 59 of them automotive -- in the different industries over a one-month period.
The Conversica study categorizes the effectiveness of customer lead follow-up in four categories: promptness, personalization, persistence and performance.
- Promptness: Forty-nine percent of dealerships responded to online customer questions within five minutes, the optimal timeframe for response, vs. 12 percent a year earlier.
- Personalization: Seventy-four percent of dealerships responses included a personalized greeting, reflected the original lead, included contact information and responded at a similar time of day as the initial question. In 2015, only 18 percent of dealerships met all criteria.
- Persistence: Twenty-five percent of dealerships made eight or more attempts to reply to a question, the ideal minimum. The score was 57 percent in 2015, but part of the drop was a change in methodology.
- Performance: Only 2 percent of dealership responses were emails that were more than 90 percent likely to avoid spam filters. That score is a dramatic decline from 59 percent last year, the study notes, because filters have become increasingly sophisticated.
Conversica CEO Alex Terry attributes the overall success of the auto industry, compared with other industries, to its innate competitiveness and intense focus on customer satisfaction.
“When we look industry by industry, automotive gets the highest marks of any industry because it’s such a competitive space and a lot of attention goes into improving sales processes,” Terry told Automotive News. “They’re focused on sales and accuracy and are trying pretty hard and we see that -- we see the results.
“And yet, even though auto is better than all of the other verticals, there’s still plenty of room for improvement,” he said.
Most surprising, Terry said, is that 19 percent of dealerships didn’t respond to a customer inquiry at all. And while a quarter of dealerships made the recommended eight or more responses to an unresponsive customer, 75 percent did not.
People tend to take weeks to think over a vehicle purchase, he said, so multiple responses to customer leads are necessary when they don’t respond.