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First, Some Definition
If you asked any professional dealership salesperson they could quickly and clearly explain to you the difference between a lead and an Up. Leads are shopper submissions, which include contact information in return for a later follow-up. Leads have sometimes been oversold in terms of their value since leads grow cold rather quickly - time passes, new options present themselves, people change their minds, circumstances change and availability becomes uncertain. Nothing frustrates a dealership salesperson more than wasting time leaving messages for countless contacts, many of which never call you back.

Far better than any lead, Ups are immediate sales conversations with shoppers interested in purchasing a vehicle. They are not the promise of a future interaction, they are imminent opportunities.

Buyers who walk into your dealership showroom are considered Ups since they are present for the purpose of determining what you have to offer them. It's at that point when the salesman can build rapport and influence the outcome of a sale. Some dealers see chats as ups too because they share some of the same characteristics – one-on-one sales conversations with shoppers in which the salesperson can build rapport and influence buyer perceptions and decision-making processes. Other dealers see chats as simply leads, or worse, a means by which shoppers avoid filling out lead forms!

So, Are Live Chat Conversations Ups or Leads?
It's an interesting question, but most would agree that live chat conversations when answered by the dealership are more Ups than leads, and when answered by someone other than the dealership (and subsequently forwarded to a CRM or email inbox), are more leads than Ups. Having clarified this, it’s also important to note that Ups generally convert at higher rates than leads. It's not that dealers don't want leads - of course leads are better than no leads - it's just that leads are not Ups; in fact, they are inferior to Ups.

Some companies tout fully managed chat as preferable to a dealership answering their own chats, and while fully managed chat is a good solution for dealers not willing to miss out on leads, it's certainly not the equivalent of taking the call when a buyer dials into the dealership or responding to a chat from that same buyer. Still, the reality is that dealerships simply cannot be available all the time, or at least every time an interested buyer has a question (such as after hours or during peak showroom times). In this case, choosing a chat provider with an experienced chat receptionist service to back up the dealership when chats go unanswered makes practical sense.

Consider The Data
The J.D. Power Automotive Buyers Study (October 2012) declared that 79% of new vehicle buyers use the Internet to research their purchases. The 2013 Accenture Automotive Study (Q4 2012) found that 68% of car shoppers welcome the ability to chat online with a dealer. The Maritz New Vehicle Customer Study (May 2012) confirmed that the dealership salesperson remains the most influential source of information for car buyers. And, an analysis from R.L. Polk (December 2012) concluded that 1 out of every 3 shoppers who initiated chats on dealership websites purchased a vehicle within 60 days. In fact, according to the 2011 Google Automotive Shopper Influence Study 14% of car shoppers purchased within a week or less.

Put plainly, when dealerships engage in real-time conversations with online shoppers from their website, that engagement is tantamount to an Up. What’s more, dealers have found that many consumers chatting in to the dealership prior to purchasing are simply trying to decide which showroom to visit and which salesperson they want to work with.

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