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Jeff Sterns

Jeff Sterns VP Sales and Business Development

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Chat and the Power of Filling the Gaps

Fill the Gap

One of the most disturbing trends we're seeing on dealer websites is when they use chat areas as another contact form. It's true that chat is a way to generate leads, but when collecting contact information is the primary goal, the whole point of chat is missed.

Here are some things that we have found to be true with chat that dealers should keep in mind when they determine how to position chat in their digital marketing.

1. Stop Asking for Contact Information Up Front

A few months ago I saw an analogy in a blog post that positioned this statement in the right context. To paraphrase: You wouldn't have your receptionist answer the phone by saying, "Thank you for calling, may I have your name, phone number, and email address, please?"

Help first. Answer their questions and earn the right to get their contact information. When you put up a gate that requires them to give you contact information, you're pushing people who want to talk to you away. There are plenty of contact forms on your website. If they wanted to fill one out, they would have. Instead, they wanted to talk to you. The lead form gates might seem to inflate leads, but they actually decrease the quality and quantity of leads that you receive.

2. Don't let Chat be a Passive Part of Your Website

I've heard a couple of sales pitches from chat companies that talk about the way that chat cannibalizes leads if it's proactive. In other words, they're saying that your chat should be a discreet button that people have to hunt down if they want to use it. The theory is that if they really want to chat, they'll find a way to do it. No need to be proactive.

This is a con. I hate calling out competitors but here is a clear and demonstrable fact: proactive chat increases the total number of leads that your website generates while passive chat does not. With this being the case and something that is common knowledge amongst those of is in the chat industry, one might wonder why a company would promote the idea of passive chat. The answer is simple. It's more profitable for them. With managed chat services, the more chats you get, the less profits they make because they need people to operate the chat. When the total number of chats per dealership is reduced, managed chat companies make more money.

We look at things through a longer-term lens. Even though we won't make as much profit per month with proactive chat, we realize that serving your website visitors appropriately and generating more leads for the dealership will keep our clients on board for longer. Less profit per month, more profit over the life of the client. It's about aligning goals.

3. Stop Turning Chat Off

This is the biggest gap that chat fills. Most dealers do not have a receptionist manning the phones 24 hours per day. You might hear chat providers say that "serious buyers" are not online late at night or early in the morning.

This is clearly a falsehood. People are on the internet at all hours of the night and morning. Shame on the chat providers who promote this concept. As a dealer and someone who likely uses the internet, you should not fall for this.

Chat fills the gap of instant communication. Many people will call. When calling is not an option and they want answers immediately, they know that a live chat service is their best bet to get their questions answered at that moment. Don't fall for the idea that people only chat during business hours. It's simply not true.


Chat is an amazing part of the communication apparatus available to today's savvy car buyers. Many of them use it for various reasons to contact dealers. Having the right chat strategy is something that dealers today need to take seriously. 

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