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Source says live chat brings 25 percent boost to interaction

Dave McMahon, Senior Editor
December 10, 2012
Filed under Features

Discreet communication a benefit for Delaware dealer

Some might call it a silent phone call. A prospective customer, likely searching the web during the workday, comes upon a dealership’s website and becomes intrigued. Maybe he wants to know more about a service department promotion. Perhaps he has a question about the color availability of a specific bike. Maybe he doesn’t see a part listed, and wants to know if your dealership can order it for him.

Then he sees a live chat option pop up on his website — complete with a name and photo from someone from the dealership — and within seconds, he’s one step closer to spending money with your dealership. Live chat, which allows anyone at the dealership to send instant messages and hold conversations with anyone who comes to the website, has gained popularity among powersports dealerships in recent years.

Why? According to Contact At Once marketing director Aaron Hassen, dealers with live chat increase connection and communication with consumers by 25 percent compared to those dealerships without it.

Atlanta-based Contact at Once dominates the auto dealership landscape, with about 45 percent of the share, according to dealerchatmarketshare.com. The same site shows that the adoption of live chat among auto dealers rose from 15 percent of dealers in December 2010 to 22 percent in September 2012.

Rates for powersports dealerships start at $200 monthly, and the company, which was founded in 2005, offers only monthly contracts.

“Chat is simple. If nothing else, it’s simple,” Hassen said. “We give you two lines of code that we can put in for you. You can manage it and oversee it on the back end. You can analyze the conversations and see how you might have answered them better.
“Chat produces sales results. The ROI is there, so we don’t have to worry about long-term contracts.”

Potential customers are not only seeing the live chat option on the dealership’s website. Contact At Once provides technology that allows for its live chat function to show on the dealership’s Craiglist ads, Facebook pages, Enewsletters and third-party websites.

“Anywhere you would normally put a phone number, it would allow to have live chat. So we’re adding 25 percent more communication not only from the dealership’s website, but from all of these other outlets as well,” Hassen said. “It goes from there as far as how many come to your showroom and make a purchase.”

Stewart Crouch, general manager of Diamond Motor Sports in Dover, Del., has seen the benefits of live chat from Contact At Once after one year of use.

“The dealership owner has a couple of car stores, and it had been very successful in the car stores, so he decided to use it here,” Crouch said. John Plummer, the Internet sales manager at Diamond Motor Sports, incorporates live chat duties into his daily job. Since he’s already on the Internet for much of the day, it was an ideal fit. He’s the lone staff member who oversees live chat.

“About 40 percent of our chats are coming in with questions about units,” Plummer said. “About 30-40 percent of the chats are related to parts, and 20 percent on service and other miscellaneous questions.”

Crouch admits that catering to an enthusiast market allows potential customers to feel at ease to hop on the live chat.

“For a lot of guys, it’s a way to interact. You wouldn’t believe the things that people look for when they come to a dealership’s website,” Plummer said. “With us, if they can chat with John to get their answer, it’s one more step closer to developing a relationship.”

Crouch says the service indeed does provide ROI.

“We have had direct sales from it, yes,” he said. “There are some customers that John has been able to initiate chats with, and that began the sales process. We’ve sold bikes to customers from as far as 100 miles away because of live chat.”

Crouch decided from the beginning to turn the live chat service off when the store is closed, although Contact At Once does offer a 24-hour answering service. An automated message during the times when the dealership is closed tells site visitors when Plummer will return.

Plummer recalled recent live chat questions related to parts. In those instances, he’s able to communicate with the parts department, and instantly send a message back to the customer — just as if it were a phone call.

“It’s like another phone, basically,” Crouch said. “People happen to be online, and instead of picking up the phone, they type in their question. A lot of people do surf online at work, and it’s more discreet for them.”

 

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