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Your Complete Guide to After-Hours Auto Sales Leads

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According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), 56% of dealership leads come in after hours. But only 37% of dealerships respond to these after-hours auto sales leads within 1 hour — in fact, the average response time is a whopping 17 hours. Yet a 1-minute response time can lead to 391% more conversions.

As a dealer, you probably know that lead response time matters, even after hours. Yet knowing you need a faster lead response after-hours and having the resources to do it are two different things. Here’s how you can make the most of your after-hours auto sales leads, whether you’re a single dealership or a corporate dealer group.

Changing Times, Changing Dealership Hours of Operation

The longer your dealership is closed, the more after-hours auto sales leads you’re going to get – but in today’s landscape, many dealerships are changing their hours of operation. Why? The simple answer is that it’s just not profitable to stay open longer.

Even before the pandemic, McKinsey reported that dealers’ average gross profits decreased from 3.3% in 2015 to 2.4% in 2018. They pointed to pressure on dealer margins caused by online pricing comparisons, plus increasing competition from car-buying websites and high employee turnover.

Sound familiar? The transition to online shopping has continued, with 80% of shoppers now saying they’re open to buying a car entirely online. Dealerships still struggle with staffing, too. Since 2020, their overall number of employees has dropped 9%, but sales representatives have dropped by a massive 35%.

When you combine less need for staff with increasing employee retention incentives like shorter hours, working from home, and additional paid time off, you can see why dealership hours of operation are changing. In this environment, after-hours lead response time matters more than ever.

Why Are After-Hours Auto Sales Leads Important?

Leads that come in after hours could make up as much as half of your total leads – or even more. They often indicate a high level of intent, because they represent potential buyers who are researching in their free time. Capturing and effectively responding to after-hours auto sales leads can significantly boost your sales and revenue.

In an increasingly crowded market, an auto dealer’s after-hours lead response is also an important way to stand out from the competition. In one survey, only 69% of car shoppers were satisfied with their online shopping experience. It also found that proactive dealer outreach improved satisfaction. There’s no debate: Providing outstanding customer service even after-hours helps create happy buyers.

Challenges for Auto Dealers’ After-Hours Lead Response

Responding to after-hours auto sales leads presents unique challenges for dealerships as they grapple with staff shortages and limited hours.

Pressures on Existing Staff

Busy dealerships may expect sales representatives and other employees to respond to auto leads at night and on weekends. They often create a rotating schedule so that at least one employee is available to respond. But expecting staff to respond to after-hours leads can blur the boundaries between work and personal life. That can affect job satisfaction and increase an already high turnover rate.

High Customer Expectations

Modern customers expect an immediate response, especially when submitting information online. Third-party car-buying platforms let customers browse inventory and contact multiple dealerships at the same time, adding to the pressure to respond quickly. If you don’t meet these expectations, they could have a bad impression of your dealership before they even hear from you.

Lack of In-Person Interaction

By default, after-hours auto sales leads don’t come from dealership visits. They’re typically customers using online channels, but can also be phone calls. Either way, your staff won’t be able to provide immediate face-to-face assistance, which can limit customer connections. They may get frustrated if they can’t get their questions answered promptly by a human being.

Data Security Concerns

Handling after-hours leads often involves collecting and storing customer information, which raises data security concerns. Dealerships need to ensure that their systems are secure and compliant with data protection regulations to safeguard customer information collected during after-hours interactions.

Tools to Achieve Faster Lead Response After-Hours

Auto dealers always want to get more leads, but what if you can’t keep up? You can leverage a variety of tools to respond to after-hours leads quickly and effectively. Here are some of the most popular.

Chatbots

Chatbots are an excellent way to capture online after-hours auto sales leads outside your dealership’s hours of operation. They can answer common questions, provide basic information, schedule appointments, and collect contact information to pass on to a human sales rep for follow-up. Potential customers don’t even have to fill out a form – they can interact with the chatbot directly on your site. Onboarding and customizing a chatbot can be a heavy lift, but many dealerships find it worthwhile.

Email

When they fill out a form, customers expect to be acknowledged, no matter what time it is. Automated email responses are one of the easiest ways dealerships can acknowledge auto leads at night and provide additional information about the their offerings. Include as much personalization as you can, like the make and model the customer is interested in. Provide a link to schedule a test drive or dealership appointment.

Phone

After-hours phone calls are surprisingly common, especially if your dealership keeps shorter hours during the week or is closed on Sundays. You might let it go to voicemail, then have a dependable, efficient process for responding first thing in the morning. Make sure your voicemail message is professional and tells the customer exactly what information they should leave. An even better option is to send after-hours phone calls to an outsourced business development center (BDC).

Outsourced BDCs

Outsourced automotive BDCs like Better Car People combine many of the above services into a comprehensive platform with one goal: faster lead response after-hours. A good sales BDC is designed to complement your existing team, taking the legwork out of responding to after-hours leads – and going above and beyond to surface new opportunities in your manifest lists, too.

With Better Car People, you don’t have to worry about scaling up and down with demand or overworking your sales team. We use a combination of live, on-shore agents and automated technology to respond to every lead within 10 minutes, 24/7/365. Our automotive experts don’t just get more information and book appointments, we also make a great first impression. Schedule a quick demo and see how we can help you capture and convert after-hours auto sales leads.

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