Much like the printing press during the European Renaissance, the Internet has transformed the way we interact forever. “Googling” is now a verb synonymous with getting answers, we can communicate with people across the world in a matter of seconds and we can buy things without leaving the house.
It’s a fast-moving, interactive digital world, and dealers face the real challenge of engaging and connecting successfully with car buyers through new channels.
Where Consumers Go, We follow
Almost a decade ago, car dealers transitioned from having Websites with lead forms to having the ability to interact with customers in real-time using live chat. What some thought was a fad turned out to be a powerful tool that could allow dealers to:
- Engage and assist potential car buyers during the consumer journey
- Build rapport and lay the foundation for a relationship
- Convert casual browsers to sales opportunities and appointments
Recently, live chat software has evolved to help dealers communicate across channels like never before. For example, AutoNation, America’s largest automotive retailer, partners with a chat provider that recently launched the following innovations:
- Facebook Messenger — Allows dealers start real-time conversations with in-market shoppers directly from Facebook ads
- Google Click-to-Message — Helps dealers engage mobile shoppers straight from Google’s search results page with SMS technology
- In-Chat Service Scheduling — Allows the dealership’s live chat partner to set appointments right into the DMS and create more service lane traffic.
On the auto giant’s success enhancing engagement across platforms, Famous Rhodes, AutoNation’s VP of digital marketing and consumer experience said, “ While working with ActivEngage our conversion rates have almost doubled, and the response rates have been reduced by three to five seconds.” He added, “Our ability to respond and serve a broader set of consumers has led to a lot of gains seen in 2016 in the digital channels.”
Digital channels continue to expand, and car dealers are now linking their strategy across channels to motivate people to action. But rather than blindly following the herd, it’s important to understand what these trends mean for your business.
Establishing a Timeless Connection
The Renaissance Era was a time of enlightenment, self-awareness and a growing sense of humanity. That universal search for a Lisandra Ramos Where Consumers Go, We Follow Establishing a Timeless Connection How to Master the Art of Online Conversation human connection has transcended centuries and is still relevant today.
In an endless sea of online clutter, personal online interactions never mattered more. People’s fundamental need to be heard and understood are magnified, and today’s consumers demand unique and engaging experiences online.
Yes, technology has changed how we socialize. But technology alone can’t incite a feeling or want; only people can.
The Art of Digital Conversation
You may have heard that people buy from people they know, like and trust. Unfortunately, the phrase “car salesman” tends to have negative connotations that scare customers away.
Building a reputable and trustworthy business in the online world where articles like “How to Avoid Getting Scammed at the Dealership” are a dime a dozen isn’t easy. Digital conversations need to be strategic and expertly held to yield true results for both the dealer and customer. The pillars of live chat success are as follows:
Understand consumer expectations – Whoever is handling digital conversations on your behalf must understand why shoppers prefer this method of communication in the first place:
- Anonymity – Shoppers live in constant fear of giving out their contact information to then receive a million calls a day from salespeople. Live chat lets them engage on their terms.
- Cadence of Conversation – People chat in order to get answers, fast – not to go through the entire car buying process. If they have to wait, they probably won’t stick around!
- Personalized responses – Consumers don’t want robotic answers. They want dynamic responses that help them during the research process.
Answer questions quickly – When shoppers chat in, they want to get their questions answered quickly and continue their research. By making them wait, you’re wasting their time and giving them an opportunity to go elsewhere.
Provide excellent customer service – The treatment your online shoppers receive should be consistent and reflect the kind of service they’d get at your physical location. Remember that for many, chat is their first impression of your business; make it count.
“When you combine a proper foundation of conversation with the right engagement platform, your chat-to-lead conversion should be around 80 percent,” said Todd Smith, CEO of ActivEngage.
But if your bottom line is simply to get a lead or try to sell a car through chat, you’re missing live chat’s purpose. When leveraged to its maximum potential, digital conversations give you so much more; they give you the foundation to a lasting relationship that transcends the sales process.
You’re in the business of selling the same product as the car dealer across the street, which makes the competition fierce. But it’s for that very reason that innovation is a cornerstone of the auto industry. And it’s why you’re no longer in the business of selling cars; you’re selling an experience.
You see it in the investments dealers make to add new amenities to their stores and the evolving dealership culture that now focuses on making the car buying process faster, enjoyable and convenient. The live chat experience should not only mirror that in-person interaction but also support it by facilitating visits to your store.
When done effectively, digital conversations allow you to extend unique and memorable online experiences that can build relationships. We need to stop thinking of live chat as a quick fix, and realize the value of fostering relationships with customers. A true dealership-customer relationship is reflected in:
- Repeat sales
- High satisfaction scores
- Customer referrals
Can you really put a price on that? Yes, you can. Because if your competitors are building and nurturing customer relationships online, you’re going to be the one falling short.