Internet car-buying service Autobytel Inc. is touting its “Rapid Response” system — featuring an automated phone call to dealers — as a way to improve closing ratios for online leads.

When a participating dealer receives a purchase request on one of Autobytel's websites, the program automatically phones the dealership, providing customer information — including name and vehicle selection.

A push-button option allows a dealership to place an immediate phone call to the customer. About 1,300 dealers who use the system.

“From a dealer's perspective, it's incredibly useful,” says Greg Taylor, Internet director at Castle Toyota Scion in Baltimore. “The phone rings; you pick up and get the information you need; and just like that you're talking to the customer live and telling them you'll have a price quote in five minutes. That's a huge advantage.“

He estimates Castle has picked up 17-22 additional online sales per month since starting the program.

Scott Schiller, business development manager of Stamford (CT) Motors Inc., says that when customers are contacted immediately, “it adds credibility to our establishment,“ he says.