Chatting & Texting Are Now Essential: Here’s How to Do It Right

smartphone with text bubbles

As the owner of a dealership, the first question I asked when looking into live chat and mobile text was should our dealership be doing this at all? In today’s marketplace and with the research I continue to read, including Google’s latest auto shopper study, there is no doubt. Dealerships not engaging in live chat or mobile text in 2014 are losing out on potential business. So now my questions all center around how to chat and text the right way, giving our customers the best possible experience.

My dealership, Lasco Ford in Fenton, Michigan, has been working with Contact At Once!, the leading live chat and mobile text provider, for years now. We’re continually evolving our response process in order to help raise appointment rates and increase sales opportunities from chat and text. Over time, I have discovered several key insights that I believe other dealers would be wise to take into account when developing their own live chat and mobile text strategy.

Here are four essential questions and insights that will help you do just that:

Who should chat and text with consumers?

For the best customer experience, I recommend assigning qualified salespeople at the dealership who are able to answer shoppers’ questions knowledgeably and with professionalism (using appropriate grammar). Right now at Lasco Ford, we have four desk managers, six team leaders, four BDC staff members, and 12 salespeople who have each been trained then approved by our GSM or myself to chat and text on behalf of the dealership. That is how serious we are about the benefits of chat and text for our dealership and about protecting the customer experience.

What kind of shopper chats and texts with the dealership?

The simple answer (based on our reporting)? Everyone. Those who chat or text include our third-party leads, the direct mail and media shoppers we’ve directed to our website, and people who have read our reviews and are looking for signs that Lasco Ford is better than their other options. Believe it or not, our sales originating from chat and text conversations span in age from college students to baby boomers.

When is the optimal time to try and convert a chat conversation into a sales appointment?

Our chat transcripts teach us that, in general, the first 1 1/2 to 2 minutes should focus on directly responding to the prospect’s request and building value in the dealership. After that, a soft request for contact information (if the chat gets disconnected for some reason) works very well. From this point, our chats are treated exactly the same as lot-ups or phone-ups. In fact, our results show that over 50 percent of chat clients will set a same-day appointment or purchase within 24 hours.

In which department (and how) should the dealership engage in texting with shoppers?

With texting, it is important to note that there are specific regulations (known as TCPA) that govern how merchants are allowed to engage in text conversations with consumers. In a nutshell, there are privacy laws that protect consumers from being harassed or put at risk. Currently, we ask our service customers if we can text them updates concerning their vehicles. In fact, with permission, our service advisors are able send customers pictures and videos of concerns prior to a repair authorization. This in turn has helped us invoice a higher percentage of repair orders, resulting in quicker delivery times. In sales, we also avoid potential litigation and text by permission only through a central tool (the same one we chat with), which is monitored by the dealership. The sales team uses mobile texting to send vehicle photos and video walk-arounds to prospects, creating more opportunities that lead toward phone calls and showroom appointments.

These are just a handful of the strategies that have made our dealership’s chat and text efforts successful. I hope that they prove helpful to other owners, GMs or internet managers, and that you are driven to review and adjust your own strategy for even better results. As the adage goes: You can only fix what you inspect. And it’s beyond time to inspect your chat and text strategy. As a high-volume dealer, I can say with certainty that this is a source of sales we can no longer ignore.

Matt Lasco is a dealer principle at Lasco Ford in Fenton, Michigan. Matt was born in Flint and attended both, Michigan State University and Northwood University. In 1998, Matt joined the family business and began offering great automotive products and service to the local community. Like the vehicle brands he sells, Matt is driven by a passion and desire to be the very best. Matt is best known for the moto: “Tell me what cannot be done and I’ll show you how it can.”

Michael Bowen


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