|Autobytel.com Humanizes E-Commerce Through
Its Call Center
BY ERIK D.
LOUNSBURY, EDITOR, C@LL CENTER SOLUTIONS
For most people, next to buying a house, buying an automobile is the most expensive
personal purchasing decision they will ever have to make. And making that decision is a
time-consuming and often frustrating process. The traditional method has been reading
magazine after magazine and scouring newspaper ads for details on various makes and
models. Then you had to trudge off from dealership to dealership to see what each dealer
had to offer. Then, when you found the car that was perfect for you, you were treated to
the joyful process of haggling over the price.
In 1995, Autobytel.com inc. broke the traditional mode of car buying by bringing
together dealers and customers in a virtual showroom where car buyers can browse through
information on not only a seemingly endless font of information on invoice pricing and
specifications, but also safety characteristics, manufacturing incentives, vehicle
reviews, lease or purchase information, extended service agreements, aftermarket options
and a rewards program. Since 1995, Autobytel.com has processed more than 2.5 million
requests and processes more than 100,000 purchase requests per month for its network of
more than 2,700 Accredited Dealers.
When the Web browser turns into a Web buyer and has decided on a model, he or she
submits a free purchase request and the request is routed by Autobytel.com to a local
Accredited Dealer that has agreed to call the consumer within 24 hours with a low,
competitive, no-haggle price.
As can happen when one is confronted with so many choices, confusion can set in. (This
trait is inherent in a medium that can tax synapses by the ready availability of too much
information.) When an Autobytel.com customer has a question, he or she can click on the
help button, which gives a toll-free number to call for customer service and also offers
the customer a pop-up messaging form to send to a customer service specialist whose name
appears on the form. Waiting when the call or message comes in is Autobytel.coms
customer service team under the guidance of vice president, Customer Service WOW (Win or
Win), Girina Dong.
Ms. Dongs team fields a variety of questions. Ms. Dong said, Customers may
be unclear about the various models and will place a call into the call center, or they
may have questions about how the dealers are contacted or they may call back with
questions such as Why dont you send me more dealers?
The dealers should respond to the customers within 24 hours after they receive the
request. Autobytel.coms call center also has a dedicated team of customer service
representatives to answer any questions the dealers may have and to provide support for
them. Autobytel.com also has a system in place that allows customer service to monitor
dealer contracts with customers.
Receiving calls and e-mail from both dealers and customers keeps the call center
humming with activity. Ms. Dong reported they receive more than 4,000 e-mail and phone
contacts per week.
Autobytel.com can send out automated responses to inquiries, but Ms. Dong encourages
her agents to be proactive, to add that extra human touch to each response from the
extensive knowledge base each agent possesses. When we bring in any tool, it is with
the idea of helping our customers, she said.
Being in such close contact with its customers has made the call center an indicator of
how the company is responding to customer needs. Ms. Dong keeps a Customer Service WOW
board in the call center that includes such comments from customers as: I wanted you
to know that I am really impressed by your candor, attitude and politeness. It is really
nice to know that there are still people out there who treat the customer as another human
being rather than just another number or statistic
. Once again, I would like to
compliment you on your politeness and attitude with me. This comment is typical of
the compliments the call center regularly receives. It also points out that while
e-commerce has given people an ever-increasing number of new opportunities for buying,
people will always want and flourish in one-to-one contact with another human being. As
Ms. Dong pointed out, We are finding through the success of our call center that the
need for the human touch will never go away.
The author may be contacted directly