Turning ‘Dead Air’ Hold Time into a Golden Marketing Opportunity
The sounds we hear on a daily basis can have a significant impact on our feelings.
Our hearing is one of our most powerful emotional senses, so it is hardly surprising that we often attach specific songs or voices to moments in our lives.
Audio can leave a lasting impression on us and that’s why it is so important that automotive dealers consider what customers hear over the telephone.
In a digital age, the phone might seem outmoded but it is often still the first point of contact between a dealership and a customer, making it an absolutely vital means of converting leads into sales. Research of 2,234 Americans by PHMG discovered 50% of respondents prefer to receive information over the telephone rather than go online.
However, if the caller is faced with an impolite employee or their query is dealt with in an unprofessional manner, it could prove detrimental to business profitability.
First impressions are important and telephone presence can be one of the largest determining factors in shaping perceptions of a business, with many customers developing a lasting opinion of how they are dealt with over the phone. In fact, 59% would not do repeat business with a company if their first call wasn’t handled to satisfaction.
Automotive dealers are well-versed in the importance of visual branding yet often fail to teach employees how to market the company over the telephone.
Simply by constructing a set of best-practice guidelines and developing a set format for call handling ensures a positive caller experience and makes sure inbound leads aren’t wiped out at the first hurdle.
However, good call handling shouldn’t be limited to shaping employee behavior.
Providing a positive experience
“Thank you for waiting. Your call is in a queue and will be answered as soon as possible.”
These words can spark irritation in consumers the world over. Sitting in an automated queue with only repetitive beeps or poor music for a company isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.
Yet sometimes, putting a caller on hold is necessary. Maybe the caller needs information on a specific car which isn’t to hand or perhaps they need to be transferred to an employee who deals with finance plans. In such cases, it is essential to keep customers engaged and entertained to prevent caller hang-ups
A survey of American automotive dealerships by PHMG found that the industry leaves callers on hold for an average of 34.78 seconds per call, a time which compares unfavorably to the national average of 29.83 seconds.
Just over half a minute doesn’t sound like a long time in theory but consider the typical television commercial. Often advertisements last on average for around 30 seconds, enough time to convince the viewer of the product’s benefits and garner sufficient purchasing power.
If callers are left waiting in silence or listening to poor sounds while on hold, the experience becomes an inconvenience and can quickly turn negative, forcing the listener’s attention to wander elsewhere.
Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, the situation can be turned on its head to create a positive experience, one that also provides reassurance that their custom is valued.
This is where on-hold marketing – a targeted, customized voice and music solution – comes in.
Engage and entertain
Similar to visual branding, customers can form a lasting impression about a company based on how it sounds. For example, 70% of callers will hang up within 60 seconds if faced with silence while on hold.
On-hold marketing transforms previously ‘dead air’ – created by the space heard when callers are on hold – into a valuable opportunity to communicate and interact directly with customers.
The tailored messages extend far beyond a simple request to hold. Combined brand-congruent voice and music works by fitting in with existing branding, conveying the desired company image and values, while giving relevant information about the organization’s services and promotions in an unobtrusive manner.
In fact, by offering the caller something to keep their interest, it can boost customer service levels. On-hold marketing has been found to not only reduce the perceived waiting time but research has also discovered 65% of customers feel more valued if they hear customized voice and music while waiting on the telephone.
The messages can also help your company to cross-sell and up-sell services. For example, a customer may call a business to enquire about a new car, only to be told that the dealership has a promotion on a repair service, something the caller was going to purchase elsewhere.
The messages could also inform the listener about the dealership’s finance solution or cashback scheme. The caller may be looking to get rid of their own vehicle when they get a new car so instead of going through the rigmarole of selling it privately, the messages can highlight the convenience of trading it in at the dealer.
If your dealership has a ‘stamp of approval’ from a leading vehicle manufacturer, any accreditations or an esteemed history, promoting them on the messages will help instil reassurance and the customer can feel as though they are buying from a professional, trustworthy company.
The clear benefits
The telephone is a key source of leads for automotive dealerships and given that Americans still prefer to get information over the phone rather than online, the implications of overlooking call handling are clear.
On-hold marketing messages work to reduce hang-ups by 79%, ensuring a customer doesn’t switch off and getting their attention without being intrusive. Transforming this ‘dead air’ will ultimately help to strengthen the marketing mix.
Author: Mark Williamson
Mark Williamson is the CEO of PHMG, a leading global audio branding agency. With more than 12 years’ experience of working in the industry, Williamson manages the global brand strategy of the company and advises businesses on how best to implement on-hold marketing and design an audio brand.