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Greetings All,


I am new to this board - and very excited about the opportunity to bounce ideas off of other people in a similar position.

I've been very resistant to online chats with customers - because I feel like its an uphill battle to get contact information from the customer.

That said, we have decided to experiment with a chat feature at cars.com -- for used cars only.

Three days into the experiment - I am doing terribly. I haven't done a good job of getting any kind of contact information for followup.

Does anyone have some suggestions or best practices for how to get contact information via online chat about new cars?


Thank you for your help,
Peter Klein
Andrew Toyota
Milwaukee, WI

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Hello Peter

We have been using online chat for about two years and I would not want to be without it, we sell 2 or 3 vehicles a week using our in house chat. You can call me direct if you wish at 918-520-6777

Frank
Frank,
Thank you for your time on the phone. All of your idesa were very helpful. Talking to you on the phone certainly gave me a good sense of how much I have to learn.



Thanks again for all of your ideas and time,'

Peter
Peter,

Here's a great resource in regards to dealers using chat services that I got from Jeff Kershner's blog:

Download “Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails” at http://www.activengage.com/Downloads.shtml.

ActivEngage (www.ActivEngage.com), the automotive industry’s premier provider of proactive live chat marketing for dealer websites, today announced the release of the industry’s first live chat eBook: “Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails.” The new eBook provides specific instructions to help dealers engage website visitors in two-way communication to decrease abandonment rates and increase website lead generation. The new eBook is the first in a series of free educational resources to help dealers better understand how to maximize live chat’s potential and avoid common implementation and management pitfalls. Orlando, Florida, February 3, 2009

According to industry statistics, the average dealer loses around 2,440 sales opportunities each month from website visitors who abandon dealership sites without taking any action. Used properly, proactive live chat lets dealers engage more site visitors, provide better service and begin building relationships with consumers online. “Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails” provides detailed information to help dealers take advantage of missed opportunities through properly deployed proactive live chat. Further, the eBook format was specifically selected because it is fast and easy to read, making it convenient for busy dealers to increase their knowledge and online effectiveness. The eBook also includes a live chat time line that details the history of the medium and discusses important reasons earlier versions failed to produce results for dealerships. In addition, the eBook includes specific tips to use live chat to increase customer satisfaction and sales. Opportunities include vehicle sales and all other dealership profit centers, including the high margin parts and service departments.

“We created the eBook to help dealers understand the power of live chat. When properly deployed and managed, most dealers see results literally the first day of use and can easily double their website leads,” commented Todd Smith, ActivEngage co-founder. “Live chat lets dealers start a conversation with website visitors and begin building rapport early in the online sales process. This significantly increases the chances that website visitors will become showroom visitors. Proactive live chat lets dealers “meet and greet” website visitors the same way they greet customers in the showroom and has become one of the most cost-effective methods to increase website lead generation and sales.”

Download “Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails” at http://www.activengage.com/Downloads.shtml.

About ActivEngage: (www.ActivEngage.com)
ActivEngage’s proprietary business logic helps automotive dealers meet the needs of shoppers by providing dealerships easy to use, powerful website tools. Advanced live chat services let dealers identify, initiate interaction and communicate with website visitors in real-time. The essential person-to-person Meet & Greet that dealers require at the physical showroom is now possible on the dealership website through ActivEngage. This proactive website engagement decreases abandonment rates and increases website lead generation with the thousands of visitors the average dealership receives each month. ActivEngage provides the edge that dealerships need to engage more customers who browse for information because it starts building a personal relationship with shoppers from the moment they hit the dealership website. ActivEngage offers three tiers of service to ensure that all website visitors’ experiences are enjoyable and uncomplicated, thereby increasing the value of dealership websites through better lead generation.

You should also check out the fully staffed live chat services offered by Outsell:
http://www.outsell.com/site/
Ralph,
Thank you very much for the resources. I really appreciate how eager everyone around here is to help.
Hi Peter,

Here is an article I recently wrote. Hope this helps in your quest to master chat. If I can be of any help let me know.

Five Reasons Chat Might Fail At Your Dealership?

Traveling across the United States visiting dealerships has taught me many lessons about using chat to engage website visitors and sell more cars. From the dealerships that do it themselves to dealerships that outsource the whole operation, I have identified five key “Must Do” things to make chat work for you. Chat is not for every dealership, but for those dealerships that are looking to build better rapport faster with online shoppers and engage more website visitors and convert them into leads there is not a tool out there that is better than chat. I have come to realize chat is like the phone in that it can add a higher level of sales, service and support for your dealership or it can ring and ring and ring and produce poor results. Lets take some time and go over just how to leverage chat to actively engage your website visitors and, more importantly, turn them into sales for the dealership.

1. Online And On Time- As I speak with people that don’t seem to be getting the most out of using chat, the first thing that I usually uncover is the limited amount of time they spend in front of the computer trying to engage shoppers. To make this work you will need to operate at least 60 hours per week. In our experience 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday is the optimum time since the vast majority of your dealership’s internet traffic will occur during this time frame. The second part in the Online and On Time piece is that people online are incredibly impatient—similar to a small child. The Internet is a place where fifteen seconds feels like an eternity. If you don’t believe me, time it for yourself. To be successful chatting with online shoppers you need to reach them with a personalized response in five seconds or less. This is the benchmark that we continuously strive to hit and for you to get the most out of using chat you will need to do the same. Yes, five seconds is your window—any longer and the potential for that individual to abandon the chat goes up exponentially. Let’s recap—you have to make sure you are covering enough hours during the week to actively engage shoppers while also making sure you do it at lightening quick speed. The best part about using chat is the ability to see people shopping your dealership’s website and insert yourself in there shopping process.

2. Direction Equals Success- I have the great privilege to review hundreds if not thousand of chats and I can assure you that you need to direct your shoppers using a chat script to make it work no different that how you manage and direct customers through a systematic process for a phone up. When a customer gets on a chat and starts asking questions and you just start answering them, who is in control? Not you and that not the position you want to be in, so you must gain control back by offering information yet asking questions to gather the customer’s information. Control on chat is one of the most critical parts of making it work at your dealership, while ensuring your shopper has a great first experience. Chat only works when your staff can direct your shoppers through a series of questions and web pages, moving the customer through an online sales process all the while satisfying the shopper by giving them snippets of useful information to make their purchase experience better.

3. Knowledge is Power- The more information and data you have readily available to understand the customer’s needs the better you can address them. Plain and simple. You need access to previous chats the visitor might have already had plus the previous click path to get inside your shopper’s head to anticipate his or her needs more effectively. Also knowing the approximate location of the shopper using GEO-IP can establish if this is a shopper in your local market. Make sure your chat system can deliver this information and more at the click of the mouse. To be successful using chat you need knowledge and combining that with action will result in more dealership sales from your website.

4. Service & Parts Matter Too- Not all the people that want to chat will result in sales leads. Get used to it—your dealership doesn’t just sell cars it services them too. Chat can be super effective at booking online service appointments and also to dampen heat cases before they become a fire. Using your dealership’s website as not only a sales generation machine but also as a customer service and support system is critical to building customer rapport. We found it incredibly useful to have an online service appointment scheduler tied into your website. We are able to either walk the customer through the process or do it for them while they just give us the information. It creates a great first impression with your service department and that matters in the competitive business we all operate in. We have sold tires, brake pads, mufflers and everything else by engaging shoppers at just the right time with the right message.

5. Location, Location, Location- Placement of your chat icon is critical to engage the maximum amount of shoppers. The top right hand corner of your website is a great place to have help available since it seems to be the same universal spot to seek assistance all around the web so placing your chat image in the top right can help make sure your customer know where to go when they need help. We have had dealerships place the chat icon at the bottom on the page on the sides or just on the homepage. I can assure you each of these store had limited results because they chose to ignore common web practices. Also look to extent your placement on all electronic marketing. Your website is not enough. Try placing your chat icon on your e-newsletter, email marketing campaigns, MicroSites, landing pages, email signature file and anywhere else you can think of will help generate more leads, and more sales.

By now you can really see the power of using chat to sell, service and support your shoppers and customer alike. Taking your website to the next step of interactivity is critical to meet the growing demands of automotive shoppers. There is a very real process that can turn even a poor chat operator into a powerful lead generation machine for your dealership. I challenge you to embrace chat at your dealership and leverage the technology to sell and service more vehicles. In a tough economy your dealership needs every competitive edge it can get and chat is emerging as the competitive online edge of 2009.
Todd,
Thank you for both your information and your offer.
I noticed that a number of the responses were based on website chat. A lot of obvious similar information, but I would be very interested in any perspective on the differences between website chat and the new product from Cars.com. I would expect that capturing information on a listing site like Cars.com will be a an even larger advantage than doing so with someone looking at only your inventory. If you do your own chat AND Cars.com, I'd like to know what you're finding.
Here is another article you might find interesting. If you have any questions about using chat to increase the amount of leads generated from your website just email me.

Todd
Well Peter, in short...this is what we do! Feel free to ask any questions or read up about us. We are always looking to help the industry embrace live chat!

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