Todd Thompson Changes the Way A Network of Auto Dealers Uses The Phone

Steele Auto transforms its business with a handful of Twilio-powered apps.

Todd Thompson’s saga begins two years ago in the back office of Steele Auto, a network of car dealerships in Nova Scotia.

Steele Auto was doing what most car dealership do. It was marketing itself through a mix of newspaper classifieds, print inserts, billboards and online ads without knowing which ones were actually performing. It was training its sales folk with prepared materials, workshops and hands-on supervision from a general manager. And it was using an automated system to notify customers of upcoming appointments. These systems did the job, but not that well.

Todd Thompson, who is part marketing guy, part hacker and all Canadian, knew there had to be a better way. He doesn’t recall exactly how he came across Twilio, but he does remember the “ah ha!” moment he had when he read the documentation:

“It hit me all at once. I was blown away by all the things we could do.”

Call tracking was just the beginning.


Todd Thompson of Steele AutoThompson began with a Twilio-powered call-tracking app. Tapping into Twilio’s large inventory of local Canadian numbers, he assigned a unique phone number to every ad Steele Auto ran and tracked which phone numbers produced the most calls. For the first time, Steele Auto’s dealers could identify the sources of their most qualified phone leads and allocate budget accordingly. But, Thompson says, “call tracking was just the beginning.”

Soon after he had the call-tracking solution going, Thompson launched a Twilio-powered marketing campaign that leveraged Twilio’s call recording capabilities. Steele Auto ran ads encouraging Subaru drivers that loved their cars to call in and share their favorite Subaru stories with the world. Each entry went up on a Steele Auto micro-site and the winner won a vacation. The campaign generated over 100 new leads.

Next, Thompson replaced an antiquated IVR with a Twilio-powered one. The original IVR, which Steele Auto used to process after-hours calls, couldn’t forward a voicemail to a dealer at home and only allowed the dealers to change the automated greetings 10 times a year. With Twilio, any after-hours call could instantly be forwarded to the dealer’s mobile or home phone, and changing the recorded greeting became as simple as uploading a new file.

Fresh off the success of the new cloud-based IVR, Thompson integrated automated voice notifications into Steele Auto’s point-of-sale system. Previously, when customers brought in their cars for service, Steele Auto’s mechanics would manually call them when the work was complete. With Twilio, the company automated 100% of these calls. Now, whenever the system generated an invoice, it automatically called the customer to say that his or her car was ready.

Shortly after, Steele Auto tossed out the expensive appointment reminder system it was using in favor of one Thompson built on Twilio.

A year’s worth of Twilio in a single call.

Before Twilio, the only way a Steele Auto General Manager (GM) could gauge how his salespeople performed on the phone was to listen in on live calls. The company had tried implementing a call-recording solution, but found that requiring dealers to log into a separate app meant no one actually listened to the recordings. So Thompson simply added call recording to the Twilio-powered call-tracking app he’d built and started forwarding the recordings straight to the GMs’ email. Now, whenever a salesperson took a call, the GM could review the interaction immediately, catching mistakes and saving deals. The new app, he says, “paid for a year’s worth of Twilio in a single call.”

Steele Auto now uses call recordings as a regular part of the sales training process.

The phone is the next big thing.

In 2011, for the first time ever, a number of Steele Auto’s dealerships were the top performing auto dealers in their region. Thompson readily admits that not all of this can be attributed to the Twilio, but says that it played a “tangible and trackable role in our success.”

“Going all in on the phone changed the game for us,” Thompson says, “The phone is, I think, the next big thing.”

We’ll be writing more about Todd Thompson in the coming weeks. He will also be a featured guest in our booth at LeadsCon Las Vegas. Learn how your business can benefit from call tracking or automated voice notifications