Hendrick Automotive Group e-mystery shops three times a month at its dealerships to make sure Internet department employees are doing all the right things, including responding quickly to online leads.

Hendricks keeps the test pretty simple, says Chris Little, the 51-store dealership chain's director of variable operations.

“We throw underhanded, basically e-mailing ‘leads’ between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday,” Little says. “Our Internet employees have got to get back within 30 minutes. If they don't do that at least 80% of the time they go back to training.”

The training consists of re-attending in-house classes in “HEMI,” which stands for Hendrick Engine for Managing the Internet.

An estimated 40% of Internet leads go unanswered industry-wide.

That baffles Little.

“If that happened in the showroom — 40% of leads being ignored — people would be out on the street,” he says. “It's a crime.