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It’s Time to Take Your Chat Back

Dear Car Dealer Friends: it’s time to take your chat back.

For over a decade, the vast majority of car dealers have relied on an outside team to handle all the inbound chats initiated on their website. While that approach was good for lead generation, consumer behavior has evolved to the point where car shoppers are now looking to have deeper conversations with you online. If you’re not willing to engage those chats the same way you pick-up incoming phone calls, you’re missing significant sales and service opportunities.

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This is important to understand because it just so happens that your team has the expertise and knowledge that a consumer is searching for, so why not give them the responsibility to handle chat opportunities directly just like they would phone calls and internet leads? 

Now before you tell me that your team doesn’t have the time, or “chat” is just a newfangled technology, or you can’t invest in training your team to chat, or it would be just one more thing to worry about — indulge me for a moment and allow me to take you on a quick little trip back through time…

A BRIEF (AND INCOMPLETE) HISTORY OF ONLINE CHAT

The first online “chat” took place in 1961 at MIT and while we didn’t recognize it at the time, the future of communication was laid out before us.



Today, we don’t even think twice about messaging and there’s no shortage of platforms that support it — SMS Text, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, DMs on Instagram & Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, WhatsApp — it has become just as natural to us as talking.

So I don’t think it’s radical to suggest that dealer marketing and operations need to start treating chat/messaging at work like we all do in our normal lives. It’s a primary form of communication that can carry out entire conversations — it’s not just meant to set-up phone calls and future appointments.

And if you’re still not convinced, throw in the fact that a whopping 80% of consumers would now rather message a business than engage them with an email or phone call*.

CHAT LEADS ARE GOOD. CHAT SALES ARE BETTER.

Now to be clear, I’m not saying there isn’t essential value to having Managed Chat, because there certainly is. In an extremely busy, 24/7 landscape you need someone to have your back when you can’t answer chats — or else you’re leaving leads on the table. Having Managed Chat is like having a great 24/7 admin that’s alway there with a warm greeting, readily available information, and a notepad to take down the customer’s information so you can give them a call back later if needed. 

The Managed Chat team is the Chewie to your Han; the Bucky to your Cap; the Doc to your McFly. Each sidekick is heroic and skilled in their own right and totally indispensable to their respective partners. You can count on them to have your back and help you generate chat leads. But you know what’s even better than chat leads? Chat Sales.

Managed Chat has your back when you’re too busy, sleeping, or frozen in carbonite.

During business hours when you are able to answer chats, there is a huge advantage to doing so — because no matter how great of sidekicks your Managed Chat agents are, at some point in the conversation they’re going to run into a question or decision that they won’t be able to answer immediately. While they’ll happily take the customer’s info so you can reach back out to them from the dealership, the communication chain is broken and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to re-establish contact with that customer again. 

I wanted to show you a real example of what I’m talking about. Here we have a customer interested in a pre-owned vehicle that just arrived on the lot. Because there’s no pictures or price updated on the website yet, the customer clicked the Get E-Price CTA on the VDP which opened not a form, but Conversations™, let’s see how it played out….

SCENARIO 1: MANAGED CHAT

A real chat that took place on a car dealer's website

So in this brief chat it’s plain to see that the managed chat agent did her job. She was nice, cordial, and was doing her best to create a lead for the dealership so they could follow up with Adam — but of course she’s not empowered to make pricing decisions, so the forward momentum stalls.

If you were handling this chat, would you have done something different? I’m guessing that if you saw the words “I’m working with another dealership…”, that would trigger a certain sense of urgency with you to keep the customer on the line, get him the pricing details he needs, and discuss next steps like a test drive, right?

So now let’s take that same chat and imagine it was answered by YOU or someone else on your team. Think the outcome will be different? Annnnnd action!

SCENARIO 2: SELF-MANAGED CHAT


And THAT is why you need to be handling chats in your showroom. As good as Managed Chat agents are at generating leads, with the technology that comes with Conversations™ you can literally take your entire in-store sales process online

But don’t take our word for it, here’s what James Kurtenbach of Schomp Automotive had to say about how his team discovered the power of answering their own chats when their phones unexpectedly went down one day…

TEST THE CHAT WATERS WITH A HYBRID STRATEGY

If you’re still reading, then I’m guessing you’re giving some serious thought to embracing the idea of handling your chat in house. What’s great is that instead of going 0 to 100, you can start off by taking a hybrid approach to managing chat.

Select specific people on your team as chat agents that you want to get first crack at all incoming chats, but set rules within Conversations™ for when chats should be routed to your Managed Chat sidekicks so you never miss a customer. For example, you can tell Conversations™ that if your team doesn’t accept a chat within 15 seconds, the customer should instantly be routed to Managed Chat. And of course, whenever your team is off the clock (unique hours can be set for each employee) all chats will automatically route to Managed Chat.

 This hybrid approach ensures that you make the most of every opportunity you possibly can, without leaving any on the table.

ASSEMBLE YOUR CHAT TEAM

This is the step where some dealers find a blocker to moving forward. While you may inherently understand the importance of answering your own chats just like you’d answer your own phones, you might be left scratching your head wondering just who on your team is going to get the job done and done right?

Number of Conversations™ Leads Per Day over time


First I think it’s helpful to understand what kind of chat volume to expect. When you look at the chart above, you can clearly see that once COVID-19 hit, chat engagement increased over 70%, and the number of daily chats has not fallen off since.

In June 2020,  Conversations™ clients received on average 10 inbound chats per day. So depending on your combined business hours for sales and service, that’s pretty much around 1 chat per hour. Not too overwhelming when you think about it like that though, is it? You don’t need to add staff to your team just to handle chat.

When it comes to deciding who to have handle your chats, I’d simply ask you: who do you currently trust on your team to take sales and service phone calls? Who do you trust on your team to respond to Internet leads via email and text? If you can trust those people to do those things, then you can trust them to do chat as well. 

“Remember, a customer isn’t going to ask you any question via chat that you aren’t already answering every day over the phone, via email, or when working with a customer on your showroom floor.”


Depending on how your dealership is set up, your BDC could take all the incoming chats. If you don’t have a BDC but have Internet Salespeople, then that’s an option as well. Or maybe it’s a mix of both.

Regardless of your dealership’s organizational structure, you’ll want to have multiple people set up as agents for Sales and Service, that way your team has the best chance to quickly answer the chat and work towards turning it into an appointment.

How to staff your dealership for self-managed chat


Include your managers in the chat teams so they can be there when needed. Some of the best features of Conversations™ are built with your team in mind, like:

  • Internal Chat: Allows you and your teammates to direct message each other.
  • Chat Transfer: Allows one chat agent to transfer a chat to another chat agent or team (think sales to service transfer).
  • Department Teams: Groups of staff that don’t answer incoming chats, but are available to take chat transfers from other agents.
  • Boss Mode: Allows managers to view all ongoing chats in real time and take over the chat if needed.

And remember, the members of your chat team don’t have to be tied to their desk every minute of the day. With the Conversations™ mobile app available for iOS and Android, your agents can be on the move throughout the dealership and still be able to chat when called upon right from their phone. 

Also don’t forget that your trusty sidekick will be ready to spring into action if your team can’t get to a chat in time or if biz is done for the day. The Managed Chat agents will still be there quickly answering those chats on your behalf, and generating leads for you to follow up with as soon as possible.

CHAT IN 29 DIFFERENT LANGUAGES

If you’re a dealer who does business in a multilingual region, Conversations™ has you covered. With support for 29 different languages, your team can translate incoming and outgoing messages in real-time giving you the ability to communicate with your shoppers in their native language.

Conversations™ In-Chat Translations

The in-chat translation functionality is seamless. When Conversations™ detects that an incoming message is in a language different than the person on your team handling the chat (based on their user profile setting) they can simply click a button to translate that message to the appropriate language.

They can then respond to the incoming message in their own language, and when they send their reply, Conversations™ automatically translates that message to the language of the user. All further messages are translated as they’re sent and received with no additional action required — giving you the power to have clear and productive conversations with your shoppers regardless of what language they speak.

FUTURE-PROOF YOUR BUSINESS WITH CHAT

One thing we can’t deny about COVID-19 is that it accelerated the use of technology by consumers and dealers alike. I’ve always been a believer that dealerships that triple down on customer service and embrace communicating the way that consumers want to be communicated with are the ones who are going to grow their business for the long term. 

Chat can help you do just that, and by taking on chat inside your dealership you’ll only be giving yourself more immediate chances to convert users from chatters to buyers. 

Want to learn more about how Conversations™ can help future-proof your dealership? Just drop us a line, and we’ll chat 😎

Let’s Chat

Jason Stum
Jason is the Director of Strategy at Dealer Inspire. Having previously held dealership roles in Sales, Business Development and Digital Marketing, Jason combines his dealership experience with his love for marketing to position Dealer Inspire's products and services within the auto industry. Oh, and Star Wars...he really likes Star Wars.

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