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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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JD Rucker

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A Case for Managed or Backup Chat

Court Case

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?

Ryan Osten
I couldn't agree more JD. I have seen dealers brush off managed chat in favor of a self-managed solution not understanding that they are leaving $$ on the table by not engaging with web visitors 24/7. I would add that dealers should also expect more of their managed chat solutions. Not all chat vendors are created equal. At Gubagoo, we use a proprietary behavioral algorithm to engage with dealers' web visitors. We also have many other lead types in addition to chat. As a result, we are proud to boast some of the highest lead conversion rates in the industry. I encourage you to check us out!!
Aaron Hassen
Hi JD, The points you made were all valid. And, having the right team answering is key. But, are the people you trust your prospects to knowledgable, local and well trained? If you're trusting them to represent your dealership, you'll want to make sure they are not answering from India and/or are clueless about the vehicles you sell. I would also point out that while chat is popular, texting is the growing trend - particularly with Millennials, so excluding it from any conversation focused on instant messaging opportunities makes it less than comprehensive. In fact most dealers are already texting...well, the salespeople are at least. I really thought the piece Mark Winters did for DrivingSales on texting was urgent: http://drivingsalesnews.com/dealership-text-messages-will-they-lead-to-a-lawsuit/
Big Tom LaPointe
The debate about the location of chat operators is an interesting one, and valid. Questions to ask about operators include: - How is performance measured - Average tenure - Are they auto exclusive - What is their objective - sell a car through a chat conversation or get a lead / schedule an appointment. - How is the performance generating leads (different than harvesting contact info with gimmicks like 'what is your email in case we get disconnected' or 'can I send you a transcript of this chat'?" - then charging a dealership for it - How does their chat stack up in sold unit ratio compared to unique visitors - comprehensive data mining companies can tell you this As for SMS - requiring a phone number early in a chat is about as customer-friendly as asking on the lot first thing. People chat for hours on facebook and other social sites just fine without requiring a character-limiting SMS. It would be beneficial to get the opt-in, but unless they are in an active transaction, my experience texting customers is leave their phone alone.
Aaron Hassen
All great points, Tom. In terms of chat, dealerships have the option of requesting information before a chat is initiated (including a phone number). Like you, I personally would not suggest this as it can be a bit of a deterrent. In terms of Texting, your post seems to focus primarily on outbound texting (salesperson to shopper). This is an area where dealers should be careful and in compliance with TCPA regulations. Checkout this post for more on that: http://www.autodealerchat.com/3-steps-before-texting-consumers But, in terms of offering a texting option on website in addition to chat - it's a no brainer in today's mobile marketplace and an essential way to converse with more mobile shoppers.
Big Tom LaPointe
Aaron - the beauty of operating in vendor space is that we all got here with different philosophies. I'll recognize your view on the inbound texting. But in an era where people got to the dealer website on a mobile browser, we believe a well-engineered mobile chat screen developed from the ground up for mobile screens is a better experience for the client :)

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