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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Jeff Sterns

Jeff Sterns VP Sales and Business Development

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Managed vs Self-Serve Chat

Managed vs Self-Serve Chat

The automotive industry is really starting to come around to the idea that they must have chat on their websites. It has moved from being a luxury to becoming a requirement due to the increased use of mobile and the trend towards real-time communication.

Now, the debate has been shifting to an old question: manged or self-serve? There are advantages and disadvantages to each that we've discovered and we'd love to hear from the DrivingSales community about their opiinon.

As we covered on a recent blog post, the reasons for managed are plentiful:

  • 24/7 Coverage
  • Professional, Consistent Responses
  • Experience of Managing Chat Constantly
  • Proven Scripts Over Off-The-Cuff Replies

For every argument, there's a counter-argument. Self-serve chat software has its own advantages:

  • Live Answers to Inventory Questions
  • Direct Appointments Instead of Inquiries
  • Dealership Personality

Again, we offer both so we have all of the horses in this race. We simply want to know what you guys think. What results have you seen from either or both? What would you like to see from a chat provider that you haven't seen yet?

The key to a strong chat service, whether it's self-serve or managed, is getting feedback from the people in the trenches. What have you seen in your travels?

Chris K Leslie
I dont discount what you are saying at all as I think chat is one of those things you should have for your site. But since you've asked what we've seen, I'll tell ya. Chat is not a sales/lead channel for us. It is a customer service tool for primarily the service and parts department. 85% of all conversations we have are people asking if their car is ready to be picked up or people asking if we have random parts for their truck. We are probably different than most in those cases though. We haven't seen any difference in offering a text option either. So it's hard to say that having either option is going to make or break our business.
Dennis Galbraith
Chris, my statistics suggest your store is a bit of an outlier in the percent of chat related to sales. I took a quick look across over 800 chats occurring in the past seven days from a wide range of stores. I found 71% of those chats were sales oriented. I can do this across a much larger sample size, but from my experience most stores will see 60-80% of the chats oriented toward sales. There are only five ways for the customer to approach the dealership, and it's impossible to buy a vehicle today without engaging in at least one: phone, email, chat, text, walking into the store. Therefore, chat is essential as one of those five. Some chats are truly nothing more than a time suck, and those are typically the ones giving chat a bad name. A key reason for using managed chat is to filter those out and focus your team strictly on the resulting leads.
Dave Hicks
I would agree with Dennis on this one as we experience the same split at our dealership for sales vs service chat leads. I would add though that there is a significant difference in lead quality between a managed or self-serve chat lead. A managed lead is just that... a lead. The on-line shopper recongnizes that they are dealing with a Call-centre or off-site support staff. They may give their personal information because those on-line agents are very good at gathering email adresses, phone numbers etc. They have to be, that's how they get paid, and how their agency generates income from the dealership. The Self-serve chat lead is an engaged lead, in fact, in our CRM we already move them to contacted status, because they have had dialogue with a dealerhsip staff member and have already begun to develop rapport. Our "contacted" percentage on managed chat leads is 67% meaning that a third of our leads have died on the vine without ever having interaction with a dealership staff member. And yes, you still pay for those leads regardless of whether you can get them on the phone or returning an email. Based on this, I would recomend a hybrid strategy where you utilize a Managed approach for handling after-hour chats, and those potentially missed when staff is busy. You can then have your staff (either sales or BDC) handle leads during dealership hours. The caveate here is that they have to be trained just as they would be to handle internet and phone leads. The whole idea is to generate showroom visits, not to chat themselves out of an appointment.
Dennis Galbraith
Great points Dave. If the skills are in place and the capacity is available, stores can handle chat on their own during business hours, and the hybrid approach is great. For a store not sure if it is ready to take on chats internally, I ask them how their phone call monitoring is going. If a store can't answer the phone right, or does not even monitor whether they do or don't, then they are probably not ready to handle chat themselves.
James Altemus
Our experience with chat was more in line with what Chris experienced; mostly parts and service requests. There was a wide gulf between what we were told to expect for results and what we actually experienced, in terms of chat volume (there wasn't this mass of customers on our website who were just looking for a way to communicate with us) and really in terms of results (chat was not an initial point of contact for any lead that resulted in a sale). I get the feeling that web chat is one of those technologies whose time has sort of come and gone. We're in the middle of setting up texting, which I'm more optimistic about.

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