Messaging has steadily increased over the past several years as a primary method for customers to contact dealerships throughout the purchasing process as well as post-purchase. A number of providers have emerged that provide website chat, typically as a managed service, along with the handling of other messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger and SMS.
Seeing the importance of this industry, and a dearth of research on the effectiveness of the leading providers, AutoSuccess undertook a research initiative to assess the capabilities of the five managed chat providers with the largest market share in the United States.
We identified dealership websites with each provider and developed a set of questions across the buying and ownership lifecycle. In the 125 conversations that followed, we asked about the availability of inventory, payments and credit; booked test drives and service appointments; and asked basic questions such as hours of operation.
Conversations were scored based on the ability of the provider to answer the customer’s question, timely responses that flowed smoothly and the quality of the conversation: whether it was friendly, professional, contextual and if it had a clear next step for the customer. The use of rich media to enhance the experience was also incorporated into scoring.
There was a wide range of final average scores across providers, and all five market leaders have room for improvement.
Gubagoo scored highest in four of the six categories, with CarNow scoring highest for their use of rich media and response times.
The largest differential between chat providers was in their ability to answer questions.
Gubagoo led with a score of 29.2, with CarNow coming in a distant second with 13.3.
Considering that customers engage with chat on websites in order to get questions answered or appointments booked, this was the most heavily weighted factor in our study.
In measuring how the conversation flowed, the timeliness of responses was measured, with a particular note of any delays longer than a minute.
CarNow and Gubagoo were the top performers here, although all chat companies have room to improve in their responsiveness to dealership customers.
Clear Next Step / Call to Action
It is important for customers to know what happens next, and to be left with a sense that their needs are being addressed. We looked for conversations to end with a clear next step or a call to action and scored accordingly.
Gubagoo’s perfect score of 10 in this category meant that every single chat ended with a clear next step for the customer.
Was the Conversation Natural?
Our assessment also took into account the importance of chat in creating a friendly connection with the customer. For many customers, chat is the first impression, so it is important that conversations are professional, natural and warm.
Gubagoo ranked 50% higher than the second-place provider, LivePerson.
Higher scores were garnered with conversations that went the extra mile to ensure the customer felt valued and that their needs will be handled. Those with lower scores sounded more robotic, scripted and lacked warmth.
Was the Conversation Contextual?
Customers have an expectation that chat representatives know where they are on the website and the vehicle they are looking at, especially. When in a digital retailing tool, customers want assistance specific to the step in their purchase journey.
We assessed the chat providers’ ability to use context to fuel better conversations. Some providers did a good job of identifying the vehicle of choice, even commenting on it conversationally. Others would start from scratch, asking the customer what vehicle they were interested in, even if the customer was building payments or actively in the process of purchasing the vehicle online.
Gubagoo led in this field, showing their attention to detail that reflects in their overall score.
Use of Rich Media
Messaging providers often send rich media elements in the chat, particularly inventory cards, video and other helpful resources.
CarNow scored highest for the best use of rich media elements, and used these consistently. Gubagoo also used rich media widely. ActivEngage did not use any rich media in their conversations.
Chat and messaging is one of the most important inbound channels to a dealership, arguably as important as phone and email.
Our research determined that the difference in the quality of conversations across the top providers in this space was quite pronounced.
With this channel widely managed by third-party providers, a dealership’s reputation and first impression are greatly impacted by the ability of the company to deliver a warm, professional and timely conversation.
As such, dealers owe it to their customers to pay close attention to chat quality when selecting a provider.
This survey was conducted in late September through early October of 2020. A mystery shopping firm (https://digitalmysteryshop.com/) was hired to make visits to 125 auto dealer websites. The sites represented five different live chat software companies, (Gubagoo, ActivEngage, CarNow, Dealer Inspire, LivePerson) so the five companies were each tested 25 times. The calls were all made during the day or during the early evening hours. Transcripts of the individual chats were saved.