Every Phone Call Is Valuable With Jeff Scherer, Founder of Ntelegence
Jeff Scherer is the Founder of Ntelegence, which offers affordable communication solutions to help manage multi-rooftop businesses. Jeff is a pioneer in communication solutions for the automotive industry. As a thought leader, writer, blogger, and industry speaker, Jeff specializes in digital marketing, lead acquisition and management, LMS/CRM, business process improvement, call tracking, and process management.
In this episode…
As the owner or manager of a tire and auto repair shop, do you know if your customer service staff is communicating with every customer who reaches out? If your staff is busy, how many calls are they missing? Do those customers call back or do they call the shop down the street? What about customers who would rather text than speak over the phone? If these are questions you should consider, don’t miss this episode of Gain Traction!
A recommended place for tire and auto repair shops to start is to put a unique tracking number on their website and their Google Business Profile. According to Jeff Scherer of Ntelegence, “the Google Business Profile, hands down, is going to generate more calls than anything else that you do.” He also recommends inserting an IVR to ensure all calls coming into your store are routed to the right department.
On this episode of Gain Traction, Neal Maier sits down with Jeff to discuss everything tire and auto repair shops can do to effectively receive and respond to all inquiries from customers — whether that’s over the phone or via text message. They discuss the importance of tracking missed calls and making sure that customers are called back. “You’ve got a dealer every two miles down the road,” Jeff told Neal. “So they have a lot of alternatives to click on from their cell phone to call the next guy.” Tune in!
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Jeff Scherer reveals how he ended up in communications management and started in the automotive industry
- How call tracking can provide data and benefits beyond numbers
- Where tire dealers should start when it comes to call tracking
- How tire and auto dealers can be responsive to customers who prefer to communicate via text message
- Why finding ways to circumvent missed calls is incredibly important
- A wild technological solution that might work for tire dealers
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Welcome to the Gain Traction Podcast, where we feature top automotive entrepreneurs and experts and share their inspiring stories. Now, let’s get started with the show.
Hi, I’m Neal Maier, and I’m the host of Gain Traction, where I talk with top automotive business leaders about their journeys. I’ve had the great fortune to interview lots of founders and CEOs with some great stories, and today’s guest has an incredible track record in our industry. Before we jump in with today’s guest, this episode is brought to you by Tread Partners. At Tread Partners, we provide digital marketing solutions for multi-location tire dealers, distributors, and manufacturers. By using our strategy, branding, and marketing services, we help shops sell more tires and put more cars in bays. So what are you waiting for? Visit us at treadpartners.com. Today I’m joined by Jeff Scherer, the founder of Ntelegence. Jeff’s a pioneer in communications solutions for the automotive industry, and I’m happy to talk to him today. Jeff, welcome to Gain Traction.
Thanks. Happy to be here.
Jeff, we’ll start by how you ended up in communications management and how you got your start in the automotive industry.
Sure. Well, I’ve always considered myself a sales guy that wears a technology hat, and I was fortunate back in the late ’90s to work for the largest automotive group at the time, AutoNation, and we were part of a two-store pilot program to help sell vehicles online, and we got to try every tool that was available at the time, which again, if you think of the late ’90s, that was really when the internet was still in diapers. And so we got to try all of this technology, and one of the things was call tracking. And what that was is, A, we wanted to know where calls were coming from, and B, making sure they got answered. And those were really the only two metrics that we cared about at the time. I then went on from there to go to the largest marine retailer at the time that had 81 stores across the country, and then from there went to best pro shops and was part of their marketing footprint for the boat side.
And I brought call tracking with me, and I say that slow, and I’ll tell you why in a second. But I brought that with me everywhere I went because I knew the importance of it. And especially when you think about today, and this is why I don’t like to call it call tracking anymore, it’s really communication management because it’s come a lot along further than, again, just recording calls and knowing where they came from. But now we want to look into the language and we want to do analysis on what our people are saying. And there’s a lot of technology and componentry available today that we didn’t have back in the day to help businesses be more efficient, but also find their deficiencies and address those areas specifically.
So I’ve dealt with one rooftop, small businesses, and multi-billion dollar corporations, and a lot of different industries, including the one near and dear to us and the auto entire repair business. Retail has always been industry that I focused on in general because, again, it’s very, very challenging for somebody that may own more than one rooftop to really see what’s going on in their organization from one seat. So we bring a lot of technologies, analysis, reporting, and tools to help businesses do that and improve on their processes. That was a long answer to your question.
No, but that was perfect. As a marketer, I’ve always had an interest in call tracking, right? Because we can at least see what channel is working, where to apply the most effort, and, more importantly, what channels aren’t working. For a tire dealer, I know sometimes the thought behind tracking communications, measuring, and watching what’s coming into the business is a great thought, but it usually doesn’t go much further than that, right? Just as you said 20 years ago, you’re measuring the number of calls and whether they got answered. If I’m a tire dealer with five locations, where do I start with this?
Sure. The easiest two places that we start every client off with is to put a unique tracking number, which we provide on their webpage, and also update their tracking number in Google My Business, which is now called Google Business Profile. The Google Business Profile, hands down, is going to generate more calls than anything else that you do. And honestly, any other campaign that you do, just because they’re Google. Again, we want to make sure that those calls are getting through and we’re not mixing those with the calls from our website. And here’s my theory on that is that if a guy clicks over from your Google Business Profile ad to your website, I say that guy’s farther down the funnel because he wants to know more about your business, your product, what have you, your services. So here’s a guy that’s taken the next step further down the funnel.
We may want to treat that guy different. We want to roll out the red carpet for everybody on the phone, but here’s someone that we can track, and we know how effective that channel is. By the same token, we want to track how’s our website doing. We have all Google Analytics and all that we can tell what our traffic is doing. However, that doesn’t really show us how many sales are coming from the people that engaged us on our website. So we try to stitch a lot of these pieces together with technology. And again, it’s not all call tracking it. We do interface with Google Analytics and tools that, Neal, like your company provides and generates. So we can really try to see the customer journey and who made the sale. And exactly to your point, what channels are generating phone calls that are my best opportunities to sell something.
So yeah, it is more than counting calls and recording calls. So those two things, I think the website and Google My Business are the easiest places to start, and we’ll at least give you that introduction. And then aside from that, any of the external marketing that you may do, such as a mailer, email campaign, any kind of print ads for sure. We also then issue unique phone numbers for those channels so you can check your return on investment compared to other investments you may make. So what really, without call tracking, it’s very, very difficult to track that offline stuff as well.
So let’s take this from elementary school on in the middle school, right? And even headed towards high school. So soon I’m already tracking numbers and I have managers listening to calls periodically check to make sure we’re all singing the same song. Where do I go from there?
So I’ll tell you first thing is that more often than not, and I’m going to say it’s the 90 percentile, the first time we install tracking measures with a client, they’re all excited that, “Oh, I can listen to all these calls at Sunday night because we’re all web based.” And then the reality is, more often than not, they find out how bad their people may be on the phone. And so they come in Monday morning and they may want to broom everybody, but after they calm down they say, “Okay, guys, here’s what I heard. Here’s how we’re going to fix it.” And whether they do that internally or they bring in an extra resource to help them with some coaching and the call track or the verbiage and stuff, that’s fine. But again, we’ve identified an area that needs help and consistency. The other part of it… Anyway, so people think they’re going to listen to all these calls, they might do that for the first two days and then-
Nobody has the stomach for it.
And not so much the stomach, but the bandwidth, the time, right? To turn through these calls. So we then deploy transcription, which is a separate process that takes that call recording that we gathered and turns that into verbiage and words, which now we can run reports on, we can classify, we can send alerts, we can do a lot of unique things using transcription. And that’s a very powerful piece of the puzzle. So that would be the output, I think the next step going from kindergarten to the next class.
Yeah. I imagine with transcription that then you can start to not only figure out what percentage of your calls are looking for Michelin tires or what the opportunity is around breaks, but I imagine you can take it a few steps further and start to look for closing language, start to look for opportunities to ask for appointments and metrics that result ultimately in sales.
Absolutely correct. And likewise, we can even identify the negative calls. If you’ve got an unhappy customer, which can happen once in a century. We can identify words and phrases that we might say are negative and then we can again pull out alerts or reporting to address those properly. One other thing that I strongly recommend for every client is to insert an IVR so when the call does come into the store, they can press a key for tires, or sales, or whatever department. Now, we route those to the same phone at the desk, but now we can tell how much of our business is coming for people that want to talk about tires. And again, we can even remarket to those people knowing those numbers and with data that we capture versus sales and vice versa.
But a good example, Neal, to your point, is that if we hear the word alignment in the transcription, well, that’s a pretty profitable piece of our business. And generally a dealer’s going to make more on doing an alignment that he is going to selling tires margin wise. And so those are kind of key things that we can extract from the phone calls, and to complement what you would do, Neal, your team would maybe do a campaign where we have a $10 off alignments or something. Well, we can track that, and we want to make sure we’re closing those customers, because again, if somebody calls from one of those ads, they’re farther down the funnel, that’s a buyer, he’s not a shopper anymore, he’s a buyer. So we need to make sure that our team is taken full advantage of that.
Again, not to go too far into the technology, but even that call that comes in from the alignment campaign that may be out there, we can put a whisper into the agent answering the phone to let him know that this call is coming from the alignment campaign, so he knows how to answer the phone. And again, he’s got a little more of jumpstart on the conversation when he does connect with the customer.
Oh, that’s fantastic. Well, if we take this on the high school or even undergrad, right? And start to think about how consumers like to communicate, my generation is kind of on that cusp where sometimes we’d rather text than call. So how can all this play into different communication styles and platforms?
That’s a great question and a great point. We try to provide technology to what I call to put as many prongs on the fork as we can for a client to start a conversation. The reason people are calling your business is, number one, they have a question. Number two or they have a problem that they need help with. But having those things there, as you said, especially the younger generation today, much more responsive to sending a text message to start that conversation than they are to pick up the phone.
And honestly, we don’t really care what the motivation is on why they chose to send us a text versus picking up the phone. But we need to make sure that we’re responsive regardless of how that person came in to us. Because again, as you mentioned, whatever you’re comfortable with is the way that you want to deal with the business. So we want to make sure the business has availability to all the tools that are there and then by the same time, have the processes and the right people to make sure that nothing goes unanswered. I have a personal mantra of no dead ends. So if somebody took the time to pick up the phone to type us a message, to start a chat with us, we need to take action on that.
No, I think that’s an excellent point because, a dead end, if I’m 3:00 in the afternoon and I try to contact my local shop, they don’t answer the phone. The first question I have in my mind is, are they still there? Did they close what’s happened? Or maybe they’re just too busy to talk to me. None of those are positive messages. So being able to find a way to circumvent a missed call is incredibly important, but it’s exactly as important as submitting a chat or text and it doesn’t get a response just as bad.
That’s a really good point because every single business company that has a phone number does get calls that come in during the day that do not get answered. Callers are impatient today, largely fueled by Amazon. Thank you very much. So they may call your store, and again, phone rings three times, which is about 18 seconds, maybe four. A ring is about six seconds. And then they simply disconnect. They hang up. So as the store, you have no idea how many missed calls you may have, but we have the capability to track that and either reroute those calls that don’t get answered or at the very least send an alert to the store that you just missed this call. Here’s all the caller information, call them back as soon as you can. And as we all know today, staffing is still a challenge. COVID through are wrenching all our gears. We went to maybe three people at the counter, maybe down to one, and now he’s got to wear three different hats.
So we understand the challenges and we can’t fix all of them from our end and Neal’s end on the technology side, but we can help with that. We can identify. We could put measures in place to try to have a plan B and a plan C to get that person talking to a human being as seamlessly as possible. We don’t want to generate more emails because that’s really not helping anybody. It’s the bottom of the ladder safety wrong if you will. But we don’t know if that person got called back in a timely manner or at all. And so email is not really the solution, but it is a last resort. But again, we try to put measures in place before it hits email that we can try to connect that caller with somebody that can help them.
Jeff, in talking to you, I’ve realized the opportunities to… These are incremental improvements, but if a tire dealer can improve the level of conversion, right? So someone who comes to the website calls the shop, they’re taking all of the actions that we’d love for them to take by gathering and making sure some of those calls are answered, or being sure that person doesn’t fall through the crack. I mean, that’s a very real impact to the business because from most cases, the dealers paying for that new customer to come to their site. So not only we generating a marketing return on investment or improving that, but most importantly the lifetime value of that customer, that one missed phone call can be incredibly valuable.
It’s huge and it’s so easy, especially in our auto repair entire space, you’ve got a dealer every two miles down the road. So they have a lot of alternatives to click on from their cell phone to call the next guy if I don’t get an answer from the first guy. And certainly Neal, you can help with the client being the number one return on the Google search, but it doesn’t really matter. Our goal is a 100% answered calls and yeah, there’s a lot of reasons why we may not get there, but we need to keep reaching for that bar. And again, with technology we can help get to that bar easier than without it. So technology certainly doesn’t replace anybody in the chain, but hopefully makes the response and the attention that the customer needs to be more available when they want it.
So I guess if we’re going to finish out our education in communication management, I’m thinking about going to grad school. This technology changes and has evolved a lot over the years. Give us a sneak peek. If we just really aggressive with deploying technology and looking for solutions, what’s something wild and crazy that a tire dealer might aspire to eventually turn on?
Well, we’ve got the capacity to take a web form that’s on your website or somebody’s either requesting an appointment, more information, I want a brochure, whatever it is. But when they submit a web form, our system can actually turn that into a live phone call to the store, the dealership. And what it does is a text to voice, which the person answering at the dealership will hear. You have a new hot lead from Jeff Scherer. To confirm and talk to Jeff now, press one. And they press one key on their phone and our system automatically connects them with that person that just sent that request in a minute ago. So we can be first responders to the party for any kind of web form submissions. That’s a pretty cool feature. And again, usually the first one replying if we handle it properly, there’s no reason for that guy to call our competitors. If we’re the first one to respond and we treat him right and we invite him in, hopefully make an appointment, his shopping’s done. So that’s a-
Absolutely. I could still be on your website, have just submitted the form, and before I move on to my next to-do item, you’re already calling. I mean, that’s an impressive turnaround.
It’s huge. And we do delay that by a few minutes, so it’s not so creepy, but point being that the person submitted their phone number and they wanted information from us. I always use the example, and it doesn’t really apply so much in the tire world, but in the marine space, I have yacht clients. If somebody wants a brochure, I can be talking to them two minutes after they hit submit, and I can say, “Hey, Bill, the good news for you is that I have a brochure in my hand. You don’t have to wait two weeks to get it mailed from the manufacturer. When would you like to come and pick it up?”
There’s a different way to approach that person to be instant. And again, harking back to Amazon, we all want that Amazon experience, they use it and people will pay more, honestly, on Amazon because of the convenience. There is some trade on convenience now, but make it simple for the caller, don’t make them call three places before I settle on where I’m going to go get my tires or get my alignment done. Be the first one to respond. Treat them right, like you’re trained to. Get them in the store, and everybody’s happy.
I think that’s fantastic advice, and it’s impressive just thinking about all the different uses and ways that we can sew holes in our nets.
Well, Jeff, I thoroughly appreciate the opportunity and time to talk. We’ve been talking with Jeff Scherer, founder of Ntelegence. Jeff, where can people learn more about you?
Yeah. You could either go to my website, see a little bit, it’s not really a broad site, but it’s ntelence.com. Or better yet, I’d appreciate that you can give me a text or a call at 844-444-4321.
Excellent. And we’ll put a link in the show notes as well. Jeff, great for your time, and it’s great talking to you.
You too. Take care Neal. See you.
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