Research provides actionable information tied to improving the customer experience.

IMAGE: Marchex

SEATTLE – Marchex (NASDAQ: MCHX ), an AI-powered conversation analytics company that helps businesses turn strategic insights into actions that drive the most important sales results, has released the results of a major study that analyzed more than 60,000 consumer-to-consumer phones dealers. interviews from across the US to assess the current state of car buying.

The global supply chain crisis has changed the way American consumers buy cars. With continued shortages, consumers are making it clear that it’s more important than ever that phone calls targeting vehicle availability precede traditional in-person dealership visits. That is, consumers want to call and talk to dealers before visiting, simply to find out what is available and at what price, or to understand how to purchase a vehicle. A previous Marchex study found that approximately 80% of consumers prefer to call and speak with a dealership sales representative before visiting a dealership.

However, when buyers try to get in touch with a seller over the phone, that’s when the customer experience often begins to falter. A new Marchex study titled “Car Buying Is Evolving: How Dealers and Manufacturers Can Keep Up” finds:

  • 16% of customers who call never get through to a sales representative. These are lost opportunities to close additional business and protect the customer’s brand experience.
  • For those customers who have called, 90% ask about the availability of certain makes and models; however, 60% of the time they don’t get clear answers or a path to purchasing a car. This is due to breakdowns in conversation and communication at both the manufacturer and dealer levels.
  • 40% of calls result in at least three breaches of trust and leave customers feeling disrespected, ignored or not taken seriously by agents.

Even with all of this new, the two main questions asked during calls and conversations with dealers remain the same:

Do you have the car I want? How much will it cost?

Traditionally, dealerships that offered poor answers to these most basic questions were less effective than dealerships that met customer expectations with transparent, direct answers. Today, according to Marchex research, the industry has gone backwards – but it’s not just about the dealerships. Manufacturers need to improve their communication efforts both with consumers and in empowering dealerships to provide accurate information to their buyers.

First and foremost, dealers and manufacturers must provide salespeople with the specific answers and data they need to address the key questions customers are asking. These questions are largely known and simply require clear, scripted answers. These should include details on availability and pricing, as well as how the ordering process currently works. Coordination between the manufacturer and the dealership by communicating with the consumer “as one” is the most important prerequisite for building greater trust and consumer satisfaction.

“As car buying processes continue to change significantly, dealerships and manufacturers continue to experience communication difficulties related to responses to vehicle availability inquiries and the vehicle order process, leaving potential buyers frustrated and distrustful. They want to buy a car but can’t get a straight answer how. In some cases, these bad experiences convince customers to abandon a particular brand,” said Matt Muilenburg, Marchex’s senior vice president of automotive. “This has important implications for both dealers and manufacturers, primarily related to improving communication and creating a better customer experience. The good news is that a lot of it can be fixed.”

In addition to improving communication between dealers and manufacturers, dealerships need to fix their inbound phone call routing process. This is the leading cause of failed calls and conversations, with problems with the virtual dealership being the main factor. Calls “fail” for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Automatic rejection of the operator
  • Refusal to transfer the ring
  • Hold time to refuse
  • Unanswered calls

The research provides further insight into these factors and how to reduce the number of failed calls and conversations through an approach that includes and considers people, processes and technology.

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