2020 was a year wrought with upheaval and change. In the automotive industry, all that we knew about dealership traffic patterns and buying patterns no longer hold true. With regard to internet lead process and management, there are almost as many "insights" and opinions as to how things should change as there are people offering said insights and recommendations. Before you turn your process on end and completely "reinvent the wheel," take a good look at some of the things that have remained constant, but you simply had not implemented pre or post-pandemic. The better part of the following was written in March 2020. I was about ready to submit it for publication and the pandemic happened. Now, as the dust is settling somewhat, I want to share with you what I still see as one of the most important parts of the Customer Service Experience in the dealership, or any industry, really. The initial inquiry and the first steps on the road to the appointment and, ultimately, to the sale. Internet lead management, whether you are in internet sales or business development, is best done using a combination of a number of tools that we have at our fingertips. Many new technologies are just coming out, with only the most progressive of teams already implementing the use of apps, AI, and new software. Many of the basic tools needed we already have in our toolbox. In addition to our word tracks, scripts, and phone skills are email, text, video, and ringless voicemail, not necessarily in that order. Each of those has(have?) extreme value when used properly and strategically. There is a certain skill involved for each one individually, and when used together they are an unstoppable force and direct path to optimal performance in your department by way of a streamlined, transparent process that results in a pleasant, quality experience for your customers. However, if not used strategically, your customers will feel as though you had not even paid attention to what sparked their interest in your dealership or what they are trying to accomplish. Are they credit challenged, vehicle specific, or a new driver in the household? Figure out what it is. When trying to establish contact AND after making contact, make your efforts relevant and consistent toward providing a streamlined solution for your shoppers, whether online or via telephone. It is more important now than ever, when we must step up our game with regard to the customer service experience from the initial inquiry through to sale and delivery. We must no longer take advantage of the opportunities before us, and realize that each and every inquiry or potential customer is a person waiting for us to help with their automotive needs. How we respond, how we serve them, will blaze a trail toward customer loyalty and a place for our dealerships in our local communities and beyond. Who is this? Where are you calling from? What car was it? How many times has this been said to a business development representative (BDR) or an internet representative making outbound calls?! Are you reading the comments and the source of each and every lead BEFORE you reach out to the customer? Following are some tips to earn the right to a green light to schedule an appointment for a dealership visit. GREEN LIGHT to an appointment GREET the customer with excitement! You are someone he/she wants to talk to! You have four seconds to get their attention. RELEVANCE is this a vehicle specific lead? Credit application or trade inquiry from the dealer website? Third-party leads - CarGurus, CarFax, Facebook Messenger? Use ad-specific/relevant script/verbiage, text snippet, and email... EXCITEMENT this is the MOST important call of the day! Use your voice inflection and tonality to "bring it" each and every time, whether a live engagement or a voicemail. EMAIL address? Text opt-in? Correct spelling of first and last name? NOW .....have you established rapport? Or do you need to ask a few fact finding questions to be sure that you are setting up the right experience for THIS customer or situation? By the way, Mr. Customer, where are you coming from? What's your zip code? Are you trading a vehicle? Are you Interested in our finance programs for people with all types of credit? When you know all of this, THEN you can ask...what's the best time to come in? NOW or later today? Go for the appointment. CREATE URGENCY! Today, tomorrow, next day. It will GREATLY affect your show rate! LISTEN to what the customer is telling you. INFORM the customer, answer any questions he/she has. GO for the appointment AGAIN if you have not already! HANDLE all objections, control the conversation. Ask, Answer, Ask. The customer asks a question, you answer. Then YOU ask a closed-ended question. "Isn't that great?" Customer agrees. You ask for the appointment with two options. Morning or afternoon? Today or tomorrow? TOO much information (TMI) will KILL your appointment. Don't answer questions that are NOT asked. Sell the Appointment, Not the Car With the '4 W's' WHEN? Is the appointment? WHERE? Is the dealership? USE landmarks! WHO? Are they asking for? Your name, spell it! Give a phone number. WHAT? Do they need to bring with them? Stips? Make sure you have the opt-in to text and the email address. If not, do not end the call or text volley without them. Schedule the Appointment in the CRM Send email confirmation AND text confirmation of appointment. In EVERY call...............name, number, email address, zip code/where is a customer coming from? The protocol you use to drive them to your showroom or work them virtually first will depend upon their distance from the dealership. If it is NOT in the CRM, it did not happen. Work with your team, leave notes in the CRM. A lot has changed in the aftermath of 2020 and CoVid, but a lot has remained constant. The main difference between then and now as far as phone skills and the customer experience pre-visit is that we can no longer "get them it, get them in" and do that without ensuring a quality customer experience complete with active listening and empathy. Although those are things that should have always been in the road to the appointment, we were lacking in that respect. We must implement it and be consistent about it. In the end, we are, after all, people helping people. Not trying to shove a hurried, non-transparent process down their throats. We are all consumers at some point. Take a moment and ask yourself, if you were on the receiving end of your internet process would you be satisfied and eager to purchase a vehicle from your team and establishment? If the answer is no, then you already know where to begin.