I worked in the grocery-store industry back when laser scanners replaced the manual cash register check-out process.

I watched a Michigan man revolutionize the pizza home-delivery business with a 30-minute Domino’s guarantee. I witnessed a smart friend study that business model, and then create One Hour Air, which became the No.1 brand in home air-conditioning service.

These things make the consumer experience better because they stopped wasting customer time.

Now let’s talk about auto dealership business development centers. Most BDC salespeople can effectively manage a monthly rolling average of 150 leads: 75 from last month and 75 from the current month. Beyond that, people become overloaded.

That results in customers getting auto-responders, slow callbacks, and low salesperson energy on calls. But I see plenty of dealerships push too many leads on too few salespeople, expecting miracles to occur.

This BDC mismanagement results in your customer not hearing back soon and, you guessed it, a wasting of their time.

I asked a BDC salesperson how many leads he handled, and he said more than 400 a month. And then he shocked me by saying he’s the only salesperson even working Internet leads at all, the rest basically just stare out the window. It was an eye-opener when I shared this with the dealership principal at dinner that evening.

Here is what many retail consumers tell us today. When they begin to shop dealerships, they contact three like-nameplate dealerships often over a wide geographic area.

Typically, one dealership doesn’t respond. (Too few BDC folks?) Another dealer gets back the next day. (Average). The third dealer contacts them immediately, shares real information and offers to make the buying process fast and fun.

Guess who gets the sale.

That winning dealer may even send a vehicle over for a test drive. Now, I live in the real world too. If you are currently selling 500 cars a month, you can’t shuttle 500 units around town. But your BDC could set up a “VIP Buyer Express” process for at least your high-line and higher-gross models.

We need to raise the bar because customers have done so much of the work already. They are not wandering around the lot aimlessly anymore. They know what they want many times over.

They are not asking prices. They already have those. Instead, they are making purchase offers. And, they are not visiting five dealerships anymore because they’ve done their homework and heavy lifting online.

This means today’s customer is more qualified than ever to make an immediate purchase. Can you see why this is a major benefit to salespeople? If a salesperson tells a manager a customer is “just looking,” you must pause and wonder why.

Consumers also tell us price is not really the main issue. They tell us they bought because salespeople treated them like grownups, not “marks.”

We’ve come a long way in the car business, but there are still miles to go until more dealers respond like so many other personal-service industries.

Many dealers still think of themselves as retailers, when in fact they have morphed into service providers for car buyers.

Adam Armbruster is a partner in the business growth firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Company located in Red Bank, New Jersey and can be reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.