DMNews spends a few minutes with Mark Garms, SVP, dealer operations and strategy at Autobytel Inc.

Q: Why did Autobytel Inc. develop Rapid Response — which automat­ically alerts car dealers, via their cell phones, when a local consumer has submitted a request for a quote on Autobytel’s car-buying Web site?

A: One of the best ways for car deal­ers to have a high closing ratio is to be able to respond quickly when consumers submit a request. Re­search shows that dealers respond­ing within an hour of a consumer’s request have a 25% higher closing ratio than dealers who take longer to respond. Consumers won’t hesitate to switch to a new dealer if they don’t get a quick enough response. However, this can be a challenge with dealers receiving upwards of 100 leads every month.

Q: How have dealers used this new tool?

A: One of the top sales people at Frankel Acura in Cockeysville, MD, began using Rapid Response last April and estimates that his average response time is now 20 minutes faster as a result. With another leading Acura dealership not too far away, this has enabled him to get the edge by speaking with more customers live on the phone.

Q: What results did this dealer achieve?

A: In one month alone, he sold 19 cars through 17 showroom appoint­ments, 11 of which were generated through Autobytel, and by using Rapid Response. His overall sales have increased 5% to 10% and his closing ratios have increased from 75% to 85%.

Q: Why does Rapid Response work like this?

A: One reason dealers like the program is that they’re not being asked to adopt new technology. Most already use cell phones. Now, when Autobytel automatically calls to alert them to a consumer request, they can immediately connect to the con­sumer by pressing one button. This is especially important for smaller dealers with a limited staff. Since everyone has to multitask, there isn’t always someone in front of the computer managing leads.

Q: Where does this program go from here?

A: The next step for us will be to build on the complexity of Rapid Response, in order to enable its integration into several lead man­agement systems.

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