lands top marks for customer service during year of virtual shift was built for an online world. And as commerce shifted even more strongly in that direction this year, the Sioux Falls-based tech company was positioned to take advantage.

“As things shifted to an online environment, we’ve actually done really well as an organization,” said Kelly Andersen, who helps lead operations and product development.

“We saw more leads from our dealers, we saw more engagement from our shoppers, so it’s been a very good year for us.”

Add a top honor from Newsweek to the positive developments of 2020. ranked first in the automotive place category in the Newsweek-Statista ranking of America’s Best Customer Service Brands, ahead of CarGurus and netting the highest score of any competitor in the past three years.

The survey was completed by 25,000 people in July, as the 200-person team largely worked virtually.

“Our teams have done a beautiful job adapting to virtual culture,” Andersen said. “Our productivity has been spot-on, and we have really tried to push into some exciting product enhancements.”

New enhancements this year include virtual appointments and video test drives.

“Right away, we saw amazing adoption of it, and we even saw it was amazingly attractive for customers,” marketing director Kristen Stengel said. “We saw two times more leads and more conversations between consumers and dealers when they were displaying those virtual shopping options.”

The company also stepped up its presence on social media, nearing 100,000 Facebook followers and actively engaging with shoppers on social media.

“We hear car buying is difficult and heavy, and our goal is to make it simple and make it different,” Stengel said. “People post about how they’re looking for a new Kia or F-150 under this price, and our goal is to respond within 10 to 15 minutes and acknowledge that and send them links to (for example) the top five we found, so we are proactively helping facilitate their shopping journey, and it’s been really fun to watch that.”

It all added up. Unique user visits to have increased 14 percent this year and leads for dealers are up 46 percent.

In some states, dealerships weren’t able to operate for a while physically, “so this was a way for them to be out there and be present and have their inventory found and serve customer needs in a very unique way,” Stengel said. “It gave their business a chance to continue to operate.”

The focus is on continuing to improve the overall automotive experience, Andersen said.

“(We’re) continuing to look at how to offer products and features to connect our shoppers to our dealers in a timely and efficient manner,” she said. “We feel like we’re in a good place.”

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