Why Not All Dealership Texting Platforms Are Created Equal
Nearly half of consumers prefer text messages over phone calls from their dealership
Studies show that nearly half of consumers would prefer to receive text messages from their dealership, and that number is growing.
When customers are texting you, those texts may be going to the wrong place if you advertise separate “call” and “text” numbers. Most customers assume they can text you on your main business number, but if that number isn’t text-enabled, you’re missing messages and customers are not getting a response.
There are many texting platforms out there, but not all texting is created equal. Let’s look at the different messaging platforms in more detail to understand the variety of solutions available.
Pros: Many salespeople prefer to use personal cellphones to text customers because of the control it gives them over the sales process. They argue that they can build more intimate customer relationships by texting from their cell, and they don’t have to compete with other sales reps for the customer.
Cons: Management often takes issue with salespeople using their personal cell phones, and for good reason: It’s a liability. Not having the ability to oversee conversations between sales reps and customers means you risk sending an inconsistent message.
Plus, what if the sales rep leaves? You don’t want those conversations (and customers) going with them.
Finally, it’s hard to enforce Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) compliance, and to make sure that salespeople are adhering to TCPA best practices—a legal concern.
Pros: Over-the-top (OTT) apps and social media are valuable marketing tools, and good points of first contact for customers. A healthy social media presence makes you more attractive to customers, especially millennials.
You can allow customers to reach you via social media with questions and feedback. Retargeting ads can help generate and maintain interest in your dealership.
Cons: Although messaging apps are sexy right now, they’re not utilitarian enough to be your main platform for client communication in the long term. For one, they require your customers to go out of their way to download the app, and not all of them are going to be regular Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp users.
Also, if you don’t already have a social media manager, you’ll need someone to manage these channels—an additional cost.
Pros: Many dealerships like to have texting integrated into their customer relationship management (CRM) system or dealer management system (DMS) because it’s nice to have everything in one place. It ensures a paper trail all the way up to the sale.
If your CRM qualifies leads for texting, it can help you adhere to TCPA regulations because it tells you whether or not the individual has opted-in to receive text messages.
Most often, the communication path is not the same as your current voice system, so often you’ll have one number for voice and one number for texting. This creates a broken experience for customers.
Customers will receive text messages that come from a number they don’t recognize. And when you call them from your existing number—usually not text-enabled—they most likely will text back to it.
There are a handful of systems that unify that experience, so make sure you ask if you can text using your existing phone numbers.
Pros: Live chat puts a chat box directly on your site’s homepage, making it easy for customers to immediately start a conversation without leaving the page. Most live chat applications are automated, and answer questions without requiring an employee to manually respond.
On the dealer’s end, the user is anonymous, so it’s hard to follow up with interested customers. The anonymity has other consequences: Dealers report being overwhelmed by employees of competing dealerships posing as customers, trying to gather intel.
Pros: If you have brand equity in your main landline, toll-free, or VoIP number, a business texting service can be a huge advantage to your dealership. It means customers have to remember only one number to call or text you—likely the one they’re already familiar with.
Plus, you’re also catching messages that would have otherwise been missed when customers attempt to text your main number. Similar to email, you can log in from anywhere you are in the world, on any desktop computer or mobile device, via a user-friendly web application.
Whether you want to utilize texting in sales, service, parts, or anywhere else in the dealership, these companies provide flexible business-class features and customized solutions that others don’t.
Cons: A business texting service is not always directed toward the automotive industry, but does partner with many CRM and DMS platforms. Because business texting apps are conversational platforms, not automated services, you need to ensure that team members are actually responding to the incoming messages.
Lastly, unlike some platforms that are included in a bundle or a free service, you should have an enforcement policy like you do for your other organizational tools like a CRM, so that your usage justifies the cost.
Ask as many questions as possible when exploring your texting options, and remember that because texting isn’t going away, choosing the right texting solution for your needs will make all the difference at your dealership.
Leila Mozaffarian, firstname.lastname@example.org, is an account executive at Zipwhip. Zipwhip is the “toll-free texting carrier.” Zipwhip has direct binds with the tier-1 major carriers, serving 60+ verticals. Leila works with dealerships to provide texting for existing branded business numbers, preventing the need for new numbers for text messaging.