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Bryant Gibby

Bryant Gibby Used car manager

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Chat leads or not?

We just recently increased our spend with Cars.com and Autotrader.com for both our new and used inventory. The increase gave us several features including chat leads. Both reps are pushing to get me to get set up for chat so we can get our sales guys working on it. I see the value in having my guys available for chat at all times but I have some reservations.

Here's my 2 issues:

1- My sales guys struggle with manning the phone desk at all times during the day. I worry it would be a constant battle to make sure someone is available at all times to respond to the chat leads. I push them hard enough to follow other processes so I worry they wouldn't be that committed to responding to the leads in a timely manner (which I'm sure would just piss off the customer and they would shop elsewhere).

2- We currently get chat leads and have a 3rd party company handle the leads and set up appointments. Even with a dedicated company working the leads, we get little to know activity and we don't close at a very high percentage. I'm guessing I would get the same or worse results if I choose to set up the other chat leads and get my guys to work on them. Just wondering if anybody out there has had a positive experience with chat leads from cars.com and autotrader.com? I down with trying anything so long as I feel like it will make a positive impact and be worth the battle I'm going to have. Let me know what you guys think...

Ron Henson
Hey Bryant, I think the only bad lead is the one that 1) You're paying too much for based on ROI or 2) The lead that goes unanswered. Chat leads are golden if you engage the customer properly. I'll bet you have a few people on staff that would love to answer phones and live chats all day.
Ken Potter
One of my close friends who owns a store in a rural area has used chat to drive volume by selling the value of visiting his store. At the end of the day people sell cars not technology, but chat does allow those who may not submit a lead to get to know your people and see the value your store offers. I say anytime your people can talk to consumers is a great thing
Eric Miltsch
Successful chat requires a few key ingredients: The right people manning the efforts, the right talk tracks and of course, a killer process to transition the customer. For the customer, chat is simply another choice - another tool for them to feel like they are in control - perceived control if a wonderful thing. It's another version of the value added responses you should be providing customers within your emails as well: Answering their questions, sharing links to pics & videos and engaging enough to make the hop to a phone call. In our dealership this was a conversation starter and when done right it was a helpful on-ramp to opening the discussion up about the experience and working towards the appointment rather than trying to sell the car.
Chris Hill
Eric, Well said, I couldn't agree more. I feel it's extremely important to any dealership to have. Like Eric said, it's another choice. I strongly believe it's a choice our increasingly impersonal customer base wants. E-mail, SMS, smart devices and more are moving people at a different pace now. Much like SMS(text messaging) it will only grow with time as people use more digital communications rather than face to face or telephony. I won't give examples for time sake but ask yourself this. Would one of your family members or friends who aren't car people, call or chat first if they saw a car on the computer that they had a question about? People are more comfortable with chat and when that happens you get the lines of communication open to a potential buyer. That's all you can ask for in my opinion. From there, you're people should rocket.
Jeff Sterns
Hi Bryant, to your comment: " I push them hard enough to follow other processes so I worry they wouldn't be that committed to responding to the leads in a timely manner (which I'm sure would just piss off the customer and they would shop elsewhere)." Responding in a timely manner is indeed the cost of admission but only one of the keys... of course no response ("offline" or "leave message") just alienates the client and no chat at all is better than that. ...the next issue ...ONCE "on time response" is achieved is the bigger beast...the processes and scripting. When I was running stores, of course one of the most painful things to do was to listen to the "whos calling (or similar)" calls and die a hundred deaths (am I alone?). A difficult thing to remove from a sales person's personality profile is "qualifying (otherwise known as measuring the difficulty of the deal...and then the effort,enthusiasm based on this assessment)" . Chat works best when it is a warm conversation leading to an appointment if possible and the client's info always (what if the perfect car came in 5 minutes later? It always does when you DON'T get their info). And your sales person not having the answer doesn't offend. If it's a warm conversation, inertia or momentum will get a name and number...just through asking. Very strict processes and inspection is the only way to get a decent yield on this. FYI...NOT SCIENTIFIC but dealers tell me daily in conversation that when they add up all the chats they get...trader and cars.com plus their own dealership website, the classified sites comprise maybe 5 or 10% max of all the action. As a closing percentage, they should close at the same rate if not better then the leads from your website (not 3rd party). I would highly recommend looking at Brian Pasch's book "THE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE". My CEO wrote a chapter that speaks to your exact issue. I have gotten many thank you's from guys doing self managed chat. Get ahold of me if you want the exerpt. I may even have an extra book laying around. GOOD LUCK!

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