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There are more chat vendors and services than dealers know what to do with, and with so many different possible features it can be difficult to sort through them all.


What features are most important to you?


Would you prefer full service where the vendor’s associates chat for you 24/7? A program where your own people chat, but the vendor covers you during off hours? Or only the option to chat yourself?


Is Proactive Chat a must or an intrusion to your customers?


How do you want to be able to keep track of your chats? Do you expect to receive automatic copies of transcripts whether you or the vendor is doing the chatting?


What elements are you most looking for in what a chat service provides?


If you have found a chat service that meets all of your needs, I would love to hear about that too!

Tags: best, chat, customer, features, interaction, live, practices, services, vendor

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Hi Amanda, I wanted to give you my opinion on this issue. I can tell you that the first questions most dealers have is "How Much", normally asking price prior to the value :-) In my experience the only main goal and focus that the dealer has and want to achieve is RESULTS. Features etc. is all wonderful but most dealers dont have time or really care about anything other than results.Proactive chat invites are proven to increase the leads and conversion by MUCH MUCH higher numbers(50% plus). If you are concerned about the proactive invite , you can always get custom settings to make the chat icon go away after how ever many seconds you wish. If you are looking to truly benefit from chat and the focus is results then the proactive chat should be a non issue. If you are focused on "annoying" customers then maybe chat might not even be the best solution. I believe you have to do it the correct proven result way or not at all.

Depending on what chat provider you choose, the chats with chat transcript is sent to your CRM/email within seconds. It comes through as "CHAT Lead from Company abc". I have extensive background and stories on why chat works and why it fails.

I do not believe in staff answering chats at any given time. Yes some might disagree but eventually they either drop it or go full service. Why do i say this? If you do not have a staff "dedicated" to chat ONLY, that picks it up in a very timely manner, or you need to leave to attend to a customer then you are really leaving a customer hanging and after waiting very long - trust me they will hardly ever return.

The other issue is that when people engage in chat, they are on your site because they are not ready to talk on the phone or be in your store yet. Sales people communicate the same "pressure" level through chat that they would in person or via phone. There is unique processes and ways to get full information and contact information via chat that works. Its really a fine art. If you have a full staffed BDC that can answer chat and it will always be answered quick - then you NEED to invest in training those individuals to the proper chat method. It is nothing like a phone call or an email. Doing it the correct way is how you establish trust and a pleasant first website experience.

The goal is to provide an informational and educated chat with knowing when to push for the appointment. It is a wonderful tool! Pricing is the next major issue. Some dealers wish to spend the $2k a month while others are cutting down on costs during he best more challenging economic times. I do not wish to promote my company or yours or demote either. Only giving my opinion. Chat allows to connect with your potential shoppers and engage them as early as possible. Hope this gives you some answers :-)


Hi Amanda,

Meeting and greeting a customer when they visit your virtual showroom is as valuable as when they walk into your brick and mortar facility.  Unfortunately, customers often have their own shopping strategy when they visit you on the WWW or car row that doesn't necessarily synch with yours.  You must be sensitive to their preferences and provide a consistent process that offers a personal solution. 


The transparency and relevancy that today's internet empowered customers demand suggests the use of a customer interaction platforrm -- Chat -- however, customers often turn to the internet to start shopping for a vehicle because they like the privacy that the glass wall between them and the auto dealer provides. The solution lies in how you introduce your personal contact on your virtual showroom -- much like the way that a sales consultant should approach a customer when they visit your brick and mortar dealership.


Rather that making my suggestions in long form perhaps the following bullet points will highlight some best practices and key areas that a "chat" program should provide:

  • Engage the customer with an offer to help with a descriptive single sentence
  • Do not start by asking a question -- other than maybe their name - or you will limit your conversion rate
  • I suggest that your staff anchor the contacts during normal business ours with the ability to allow a remote call center to handle overflow if no one answers in a set window of time and of course after hours. 
  • Auto responders after hours or when no one is available can be applied, however it will reduce your conversion rate
  • Make sure that whoever answers the engagement is prepared!  Answering questions with questions will reduce the transparency for the customer -- real or imagined -- and again it will reduce your conversion rate and increase your bounce rate considerably!
  • Take advantage of some of the newer technologies being applied to customer interaction platforms including live two way video, CRM/DMS integration and of course comprehensive ROI analytics and dealer portal access to use contacts for follow up and even training
  • Be sure to inspect what you expect and include any reports in your make a deal meetings

That should be enough to start this forum going for additional best practices and I hope that it helps in your search for a comprehensive state of the art Chat program.  In summary -- yes, a customer interaction program is a must given the tendancy of today's internet empowered customer to use the WWW to filter out the dealership and their people from their shopping process. 


Frankly, people, personality and relationships are important to the customer and the auto dealer even if though some customers may not realize it.  It is your job to make a friend and then a sale and that is hard to do when the only thing representing your dealership is your website with no people providing the opportunity to build a relationship vs. only providing product and price information. 


After all, what are friends -- and chat programs -- for! 

I enjoyed your reply Philip with a few disagreements here and there:-) At the end of the day, it all really is about what would work best for the dealership. If it does not work for them - its not gonna work for us.

No disagreement there!  Customized solutions are not limited to the customers!  Platforms that provide custom installations and integrated processes with established systems at the deaelrship are critical. 


I also just read your reply and I agree that unless the dealer's staff is trained in the unique art of online chat vs. phone calls or emails they will fail!  Outsourcing may be a solution as an alternative to having a qualified in-house staff meeting and greeting your virtual customers, however, given the opportunity of the newer customer interaction platforms to continue as an online transaction tool I suggest that you grow your own team and process.


The next generation of Chat is online transactions using two way video and complete push/pull capabilities and most outsourced BDCs and call centers won't be able to accomodate that.  

Your last mentioned "new Generation"...:-) I agree ...keep your eye open within a couple of months. I enjoy reading you solid foundations on it. Its like anything else, do it right or dont waste the time, money but mostly effort!


Find your above 1st explanation very informative and objective, and concur that dealership staff handling is usually not the best practice in gaining more showroom traffic along with the integration of leads, from 1st hand experience as a GM/Dealer for 20+ years. Have learned that CarChat24 is of the best in so many respects and yes for the dollar especially... Ty

Hi Amanda,

My brother was a State Class Champion Trap shooter here in Michigan for a couple of years running. His "trademark" was he used an old field gun(not designed to use for Trap) that he had a trap sight mounted on. His talent was less about the tool and more about how to use whatever tool he had. Over the years he could pretty much shoot anything and get good results. Our Chat Tools at our store are very modest in cost. about 225.00/yr. It is not that we are cheap, it is more about learning to use what we had and now it fits us like a well worn pair of shoes.

Speaking from my experience only, in one location here in the mid-west, We Love Chat! We have found that if we can engage in a two way, having the right inventory and price become less important. We are live with inventory specialists who can make decisions in real time. We are "on air" around 18 hours/day. Our folks, starting with our ISM prefers to do as much of the chat as he can, he understands it to be GOLD and rolls over the sessions to "next available" until someone answers. We have "someones" lined up wanting to grab, take a crack at the opportunity because they understand that they are GOLD as well.

Absolutely no pressure applied. We engage with a disarming "folksie" presence. A typical answer to a complicated question will often start out with something like "ok, here's the scoop". If the consumer were to ask about a particular yellow used car and if we still have it...we train to say something like "yup, we sure do, you can't miss that one on the lot, I saw it this morning....if you can hold a sec, I'll shout at one of the salesmen and make sure there isn't a hold or sold tag in it"....When a chatter asks what his/her car is worth, we pull up Manhiem and give a range....and then suggest "hey, when you bring it in for the appraisal, if it isn't clean, swing by the car wash and bring me the receipt, I'll catch you back when you get here, it will help me a bunch when I get it appraised", If the weather has been especially noteworthy lately, we try to work in something about it,just as we do on the lot, we sell ourselves first.....We avoid disingenuous statements like "what a great selection you have made" or "I am sure you are going to like it". The first thing we had to decide was that who ever takes the Chat has to have the authority to present a deal and live by his words and at the same time protect the house. After that, is was allow people to sell on chat just like they do on the lot. Real sales people doing what they do best. Our process may not work for many but has worked exceedingly well for us. Our focus has been on what we do with the tool, not so much about the tool itself. No shortage of personnel wanting to participate for 18 hours per day, interest falls off after midnight. I do not doubt that there are better chat models out there and perhaps someday we will migrate to one of them, but for now we are sticking with the old, ugly gun. We use chat to differentiate our store from others who are less personal and are focused on dragging the up in or begging for a phone number. More times than not, they ask us to call. More times than not, they come in. More times than not, they buy. We Love Chat!


Heck, you nailed it!  Your local lingo aside -- although it is a perfect example of talking with your customers vs. at or even to them -- I agree!


"Frankly, people, personality and relationships are important to the customer and the auto dealer even if though some customers may not realize it.  It is your job to make a friend and then a sale and that is hard to do when the only thing representing your dealership is your website with no people providing the opportunity to build a relationship vs. only providing product and price information." 

There is some great feedback here! Thank you, everyone.


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