Two of every three customer calls to the typical dealership are for service and parts. Of those calls, two new studies suggest, one-fifth to one-third don't get connected to the right person.
That number includes callers who hang up in frustration when they get lost in voicemail or are put on hold for a long time. Even when calls reach the service department, analysts estimate that fewer than half lead to appointments.
As the volume of phone calls to dealerships increases by about 12 percent a year, service departments could be losing a lot of potential business.
The studies propose ways to cut down on dropped calls, and to better handle those that get through.
Matt Muilenburg, head of automotive at Marchex, a call analytics company in Seattle, says a new report by his company suggests two steps dealerships can take to improve the odds that service-related customer calls connect: avoid voicemail and simplify the computer-based interactive voice response, or IVR, systems that callers often encounter ("press 1 for ... ").
"If an IVR has more than three options, there's a spike in the number of people who drop the call," Muilenburg told Fixed Ops Journal. "And around half the time people are sent to voicemail, they don't leave a message."
ELEAD1ONE, a software provider in Valdosta, Ga., operates call centers for more than 7,000 dealerships. It logged nearly 9 million inbound calls for service last year, up from 1.8 million in 2011.
Bill Wittenmyer, an ELEAD1ONE partner, says larger call volumes measured by the company in its study began with "click to call" — the rapid switch by customers from landline phones to cellphones and other mobile devices. They also may reflect the increased number of vehicle recalls in recent years, Wittenmyer says.