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Gavin Sloan

A SURVEY of showroom response times to internet sales leads has not only produced a shock result that will startle the retail car industry, it has also highlighted the need for better education and improved awareness of the importance of lead response times.

A ‘Secret Shopper’ survey by Direct Connect has found that sales staff in Australian and New Zealand dealerships are actually quite slow to respond to online leads and certainly fall well short of what most dealers think is the norm.

The survey shows some showroom staff not responding to online leads for a week.

Direct Connect, which is being produced from the same stable as Drive Chat, is a new phone response system that was launched at the AADA Convention and Expo in Melbourne last week.

Gavin Sloan, a director of Drive Chat, told GoAutoNews Premium: “We know from talking to hundreds of dealer principals, sales managers and marketing managers that most dealerships aim to respond to leads within one to two hours but our Direct Connect Secret Shopper survey reveals a different reality in the market.”


The survey results show:

  • The average response time to online leads is 12 hours and 45 minutes (calendar hours).
  • The average response time to online leads is four hours and 42 minutes (business hours).

Astonishingly, only 33 per cent of leads submitted received a phone call within seven days. This means that 67 per cent of leads DO NOT receive a phone call within a week.

The survey found that the top five brands that achieved the highest percentage of leads that received a phone call were: Holden, Volvo, Honda, Porsche and Audi.

The five brands that scored the fastest average response time by phone call were: Hino, SsangYong, Fuso, Nissan and Haval.

Direct Connect is a lead conversion tool that allows dealerships to convert online leads into inbound phone calls.

When a potential customer submits an online form, Direct Connect converts the information on the form into an immediate phone call to the business. Using ‘digital whisper’, the system will read that information out to the salesperson and invite them to ‘press 1’ to be connected to the customer.

For the potential customer, it means they no longer have to wait an average of 12 hours and 45 minutes for the dealership to respond to their lead enquiry (if they are the one in three who receives a call at all).

Mr Sloan said: “With Direct Connect, the dealership can be calling the potential customer within 60 seconds to answer their questions, provide assistance or offer them a test drive. The impact that this has on conversion rates is significant.”

He said the study was initially conducted to help validate the need for Direct Connect within the automotive market.

“As the results began to come in and we realised that the response rates were not what we expected, we decided to invest heavily in expanding the project to over 1800 leads so that we could put together a white paper to release to market,” Mr Sloan said.

“The white paper serves as an education piece to help dealerships to identify the opportunities they have to improve how they handle online leads and enquiries.

“There’s no doubt that Direct Connect provides a simple and immediate solution to the problem, with dealerships now having the ability to respond to leads within 60 seconds and have the responses recorded to help identify coaching opportunities.

“Direct Connect is just one tool that’s available to assist dealerships with their response times. Our hope in releasing the study is that the market will begin to be more aware of the opportunity to improve the return on investment that they are already spending on lead generation,” he said.

How the survey was conducted:

The Direct Connect Secret Shopper 2019 data was gathered in a comprehensive study of lead response times for automotive dealerships across Australia and New Zealand. The study involved submitting over 1800 leads to dealerships and measuring the response times.

More than 600 dealerships were included, representing 42 different brands.

Direct Connect submitted three leads per dealership. This included one lead in the morning (during business hours), another lead in the afternoon (during business hours), and one lead sent after hours.

Leads were submitted on high-value contact forms such as ‘book a test drive’ pages, specific vehicle enquiry pages, as well as through Drive Chat.

In addition, leads were also submitted through several third-party aggregate websites to measure how lead handling differs when leads are supplied from third-party sources.


What was measured:

Direct Connect wanted to measure how long it takes for dealers to respond to each lead.

Mr Sloan said: “The survey tracked phone, email and SMS responses but the primary interest was in phone responses because we know that actually speaking to potential customers is critical in building a relationship.

“So our focus was on the response time for dealers to pick up the phone and call the lead or prospective customer,” he said.

“The results were surprising, to say the least.

“Given the considerable investment that goes into lead generation, to see such a high percentage of leads not receive a response is concerning. But it also implies there is a huge opportunity for dealerships to immediately improve their ROI if they focus on, or get the right tools, to track responses and improve response times,” Mr Sloan said.

As part of the launch strategy for Direct Connect at the AADA Convention, Direct Connect is giving away $10,000 worth of free call credits to the first 100 new customers who visit and enter the code ‘FAST100’ when they sign up.

By John Mellor

Dealer Auction