It seems as if every couple of months I find another reason to hop on my soapbox and make the case for a product that we don't even sell, but I have to mention again that chat going offline is a big problem in our industry. Since leaving the world of websites, I have come across this challenge more than any other. Perhaps I had a sheltered existence, but I never knew how common it was for dealers to turn their website chat "offline" for extended periods of time.
I know there are plenty of people out there who believe that chat is a minor component of their websites. One guru even told me he thought chat was worthless. I've explored the numbers on dozens of websites with numerous chat services at play and I can say with a certainty that communication, website visitor experience, and leads are all improved with the right chat.
Why do they go offline? Why do many dealers allow the only method of real-time late night communication to go unmanned? How can dealers afford to have chat off during lunch, while on test drives, or while hanging out with the receptionist?
I believe wholeheartedly in managed chat, but I know there are plenty of dealers out there who can make a valid case for having their internal team manage the chat. However, unless they're managing it 24/7, there's still a gap that needs to be filled through chat backup services. As I've posted publicly before, I recommend CarChat24. One of the biggest reasons is because they offer both managed and backup chat services that keep the dealership's website communications online at all times.
There is plenty of evidence that people do engage in vehicle purchasing research late at night or early in the morning before work when there's nobody to call at the dealership. Chat is the only other valid real-time communication tool. We've all seen email and lead form submissions plateau or even drop in recent years. People are less likely to fill out a form than they were in the past. While a call is great to get, there are people who want instant information but who prefer chatting over talking on the phone.
I could totally understand it if we were talking about thousands of dollars to get people to cover chat 24/7, but we're not. I don't recall who was charging what for the managed or backup chat services - it's been a couple of months since I sat through all of the presentations - but I do know that it was much more affordable than I had imagined.
To me, it's a no-brainer. Making sure that someone is available on chat at all times means giving potential customers the opportunity to interact with the dealer on their own terms. When they want to chat, you have to be there for them. Turning it off for the night or during a bathroom break can be the difference between getting the sale or not.
If you aren't using chat software or services at your dealership, you're missing out. If you have your chat go offline for extended periods at a time, you're missing out.
Don't dismiss this. It's an important part of website success and it's only going to become more important as millennials continue to enter the car buying world.. I don't want to generalize and I know there are excpetions, but most millenials prefer instant yet indirect communication rather than phone or email communication. That's why they don't always answer their phone but they reply via text almost instantly.
Chat uses the same principles. It's an additional way for potential customers to contact the dealership.and a way that is preferred by many. Can you afford to miss out on the leads and sales that chat provides?