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Between working the showroom floor, handling paperwork and keeping up with other dealership responsibilities, finding time to give your full attention to each and every text message, email and chat customers send your way can be a daunting task. And getting a response can be even more of a challenge.

But to have your replies read, you’ve got to be relevant, and that starts with diligently reading customer inquiries.

When a consumer reaches out and you ignore their questions or reply with a generic template, you forfeit an opportunity to build a strong, lasting relationship. Conversely, if you go above and beyond what’s expected, you set your dealership apart from competitors and lay a foundation for long-term success.

Take this example:

Hi, is this 2013 Ford Fusion still available? What can you tell me about its condition? I’m considering making the trip from out of town and I want to make sure I’m not wasting my time.

It’s the type of message that dealerships receive every day, yet one that often leaves customers without the answers they’re looking. The reason? It’s easy to skip over important details in the process of crafting a speedy response. However, by taking a little extra time to read between the lines, you can hit the key points that matter most to shoppers.

  • Availability – The customer’s most immediate concern is whether or not the vehicle is still for sale. Be upfront and answer the question directly; however, add value by providing additional context. (e.g., Yes it is, and we also have five similar models I’d be happy to show you; No, but we have a dozen vehicles similar to this you may find fit your needs.)
  • Condition – In addition to availability, the shopper is concerned about the vehicle’s condition. For these types of open-ended questions, work to get beyond simple superlatives like “good condition” or “clean vehicle.” Highlight specific features and tell the story of the vehicle. (e.g., The vehicle’s Titanium wheels glisten and the upgraded entertainment system sounds crisp. It’s a reliable one-owner vehicle with complete service records.)
  • Dealership Experience – The last statement in the example shows an opportunity for the dealership. Because the customer is “making the trip,” call out the dealership’s in-store experience and dealer reviews. (e.g., We have people come in from all over to see us, and that’s due to our commitment to exceptional customer service. I encourage you to take a look at some of the recent Cars.com reviews our happy customers have shared.)

What about templates and auto responders?

Scripts, talk tracks and automated responses have their place, but they should never come at the expense of honest person-to-person communication. If you have an auto responder or automated email campaign set up at your dealership, make sure it enhances your sales process, not detracts from it. For example, an auto responder is helpful for confirming the receipt of a form submission or a message to a general inbox (e.g., info@ABCmotors.com), but it doesn’t answer specific customer inquiries or questions. More importantly, if your auto responder details a specific next step (e.g,. A vehicle consultant will contact you within the next 2-4 hours) you’ve got to deliver on it.

Related: 6 Smartphone-Friendly Best Practices To Increase Your Dealership’s Show Rate

By taking the time read every customer message – across all communication channels – you’ll set your dealership up to create lasting relationships and ultimately win more sales.