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Chat Buyers’ Guide
11 Key Questions to Ask any Live Chat
Provider before You Buy
Although live chat has been around in one form or another for more than a
decade, the past year has seen a huge surge in the number of automotive
dealers (and other online retail businesses) leveraging the power and engage-
ment possibilities that proactive chat provides. The technological capabilities
and best practices have hit a tipping point and it’s now possible to avoid the
pitfalls and sub-optimum practices of the past. To maximize any investment
in live chat (time, money, dealership personnel, etc.), it is imperative to ask
any chat vendor the following questions and have a serious discussion about
each item. This will help ensure that you make the best decision for your
specific dealership needs and reap the rewards of successful live chat on the
dealership website. Each question is crucial for success!
Automotive Dealer Live Chat Buyer’s Guide | 3
Does the chat service provide business intelli-
gence or merely instant messaging software?
Important note: Although all questions in the buyers’ same language and words they having been search-
guide are important, this is perhaps the most important ing for online. This allows you to deliver just the right
part of the discussion you need to have with chat ven- message to encourage shoppers to engage in an ac-
dors. Chat business intelligence is what can help you tive conversation with you on your website.
significantly increase lead generation; merely deploying
technology or adding a “click-to-chat” • First time visitor or returning visitor, with current and
button will not increase your website previous click paths. You can review shoppers' click
leads by nearly as much as utilizing proac- paths to identify exactly which vehicles site visitors
tive engagement that leverages business are interested in. This is like having a print out of
intelligence. Your dealership needs more every webpage a consumer visited to prepare your
than technology to increase leads and sales pitch, before they visit the dealership. Under-
sales for all dealership profit centers; you standing your shoppers’ needs and desires allows
need a comprehensive service that lets you to craft a very powerful sales presentation. That
you understand consumer behavior and offer is what chat business intelligence can provide.
engagement at just the right moment, with • GEO IP targeting to identity if the shopper is local,
just the right message. or even a competitor checking out your website. Lo-
cation gives you insight into your online approach,
5 specific features required to especially if you are a dealership that will give more
leverage chat business intelligence aggressive pricing to a shopper outside your local
market. Chat intelligence, not IM software, gives
• Ability to view visitors on your website in real-time
you that information and more.
and watch as they shop around your site. Chat in-
telligence offers you the same power of watching an • “Shop With Me Technology.” This is a must, and a
up on your lot look at three Nissan Maximas, before term you will be reading more and more about in the
coming into your dealership. This incredible informa- coming months as chat technology continues to
tion helps you identify real shoppers vs. tire kickers, evolve. Sending a link to a shopper on chat is one
thus maximizing time spent chatting with shoppers. thing, but controlled co-browsing is much more
powerful. “Shop With Me Technology” lets you lead
• The referring URL and keywords shoppers used to
shoppers around your website, explain things as
find your website. This gives you valuable insight
you go, and lets you give you a powerful online
about what the shopper is thinking and looking for
presentation, with you in complete control. This new
as they start to shop on your dealership website. By
technology allows you to create a true online sales
having this chat intelligence you can proactively in-
process with steps to complete the sale.
vite your shoppers into a conversation using the
Automotive Dealer Live Chat Buyer’s Guide | 4
Ask any vendor if you will have access to this informa- prove chat agents’ skills and increase the service you
tion because it is incredibly valuable to help understand provide your site visitors. Very advanced chat intelli-
consumers and their needs. Also ask if you can mon- gence will also let you include the keywords originally
itor your sales reps during a chat. Do they have ”Whis- used in the online search that brought the visitor to your
per” technology that allows managers to coach site. This gives you a truly personalized experience
representatives while they are chatting with a visitor, in with each shopper, giving them the right message at
the same chat screen? This lets you continuously im- just the right time.
How much experience does the provider have
working with dealerships?
The unique needs of automotive online retail must be
understood by any chat provider. You will have better
Premium chat providers will also
results if you work with a chat service that was specif- offer these extended data points:
ically designed for dealerships and automotive, rather • Trade information
than just generic software. This is particularly true for • Financial disposition (cash, lease, finance)
chat data transfers. A general chat provider may not • Additional notes
be able to set up data feeds in the particular format • Zip code
needed for your dealership’s CRM or ILM, and this can
easily create an inefficient process for your dealership.
The difficulty of technical problems and manual data partner to help you incorporate chat into your overall
re-entry can easily out-weigh the benefits of live chat dealership marketing plan. For transferring information
and create headaches for the dealership. from your chat tool to your CRM here are the minimum
requirements for collected contact information:
Select a vendor with knowledge and technology de-
signed specifically for the automotive business, and • Full Name
xml/adf data feeds are a must for all major dealership • Email
CRM and ILM services. A chat service that under- • Phone Number
stands the shoppers' behavior and needs at dealership • Vehicle of Interest
websites is also going to be a more knowledgeable • Complete Chat Transcript
Automotive Dealer Live Chat Buyer’s Guide | 5
Is it easy to use for both you and your shoppers?
If you plan to handle the chat from within the dealer- to engage in live demos to see the chat in action, from
ship, it is important that the software be user-friendly. both sides of the system, the customer facing side and
As simple as chat may seem, some chat applications the console side so you can see how it all fits together.
are designed to be managed by technically-oriented,
highly trained professionals. The provider may tell you If your staff members aren’t comfortable with the tech-
that you can manage the chat yourself, but be sure that nology, they will either not use or not use it properly. In
the people who will handle the chat from the dealership either case, your dealership will not get maximum
(probably non-technical people) thoroughly test and value. In addition, and just as important, test how easy
feel comfortable using the interface provided. This is it is for your shoppers to use. Does it force an install
a good rule of thumb: if you can’t learn to use it in five on their machine to engage in chat? Does it launch
minutes or less, it is probably too complicated to con- quickly and smoothly? Does it crash during conversa-
sistently use in the dealership. Don’t just go on the tions? Can it translate the chat into multiple languages
service provider’s word about ease of use. It is crucial to meet the needs of diverse demographics?
How easy and fast is it to get set up?
Important note: Without proper planning and integra- your site. A good provider will take the time to under-
tion into your overall marketing plan, you will not realize stand your dealership and help you analyze your
the full benefit from live chat-- period. If a chat service unique needs and they will also have an existing rela-
tells you that you can be up and running tionship with your website provider. They should offer
in 24 hours or 48 hours, proceed with suggestions and help you plan the best course of ac-
Beware of Low Cost caution. Sure, deploying the code to tion, based on your goals and not some “canned” tech-
Chat Providers: make live chat available on your website nology or service. Can you change the location of the
You get what you pay for, can often be done very quickly, but the proactive invitation? Can you customize the invitation?
similar to your website provider. value of live chat is in the service, not just Can you create a custom look and feel for the chat icon
Make sure to compare each the technology. Thorough discussion on your website so it stands out and fits your dealer-
provider, feature to feature, so
you know if they offer exactly and planning can easily take up to a ship's overall website design? Can the graphic be
what you need to successfully week. On the flip side, it shouldn’t take a changed quickly to take advantage of a sales event that
engage your shoppers in chat. vendor much more than a week to get you want to promote to your website shoppers?
strategically planned live chat running on
Automotive Dealer Live Chat Buyer’s Guide | 6
What type of training is available
both before and after deployment?
Successful live chat, like all communication channels, are changing as consumers become more accustomed
requires its own specific skill set and knowledge base. to live chat and this means that training should be an
What works on the phone or in person isn’t always on-going process, rather than a one-time session.
what’s best for live chat. If you plan to manage the Also, having access to chat companies' best practice
chats from within the dealership, your staff must be ad- experience can set you on the fast track to chat suc-
equately trained. Agents need to be fast and friendly cess with your shoppers. Can you monitor your chat
and provide the right answers to consumers’ queries. reps to see how long the average wait time for a shop-
Make sure the provider you choose understands the per to engage in chat is? Can you see how long your
unique characteristics of automotive dealerships, on- reps have been logged into the system? How many
line retail and live chat communication. Make sure they chats have they taken? This information will allow you
will provide training before live chat deployment and to create a continuous improvement and training plan
on-going training—and get it in writing. Best practices to fully leverage chat for the dealership.
Does the service offer proactive
While passive chat (click-to-chat button with operators dealership. Shoppers immediately see that you are
standing by) can help consumers at your website, the there to help and provide great service with the infor-
real benefit of chat comes from proactive invitations. mation they request. This engagement can build a
Although chat is becoming more widely used by con- strong preference for your dealership, and it's just not
sumers, some shoppers may not think to ask questions an option without proactive live chat. Can different
through chat. Let them know that you are there to help proactive pop-up messages be deployed on different
and they will appreciate it. Lead generation rates can pages or is only one graphic available? How fast can a
skyrocket with proactive engagement invitations. And new proactive, branded invitation be deployed and at
this method helps create a great first impression of your what cost?
Automotive Dealer Live Chat Buyer’s Guide | 7
Can the service provide chat agents
to manage chats for the dealership?
With the staffing limitations of most dealerships, han- stand both chat lead generation best practices and the
dling the chat within the dealership is often simply not world of automotive sales and dealership websites. It
an option. You must make sure that trained profession- is important to find out if the chat provider merely out-
als are available to chat at all key dealership hours. If sources the chats to a generic call center, because this
you can’t manage it from the dealership, then you need method generally does not yield the best results. Also
to select a chat service that can manage using a service that performs poor chats can damage the
the chats for you with professionally dealership's credibility, thus eroding the benefits of chat
Very important: trained agents. Fast responses are key for your dealership. Further, discuss how the agents will
for chat success and chats can take up communicate with your dealership. Will there be regu-
Avoid any vendors that offer significant amounts of time; best prac- larly scheduled calls to discuss what’s going on at your
automated messages or serv- tices show that responses should take dealership? In addition, discuss details about how live
ices. Robotic offerings will five seconds or less and the average chat transcripts and contact information will be sent to
do more damage than good.
chat length is over eight minutes. You staff within the dealership for follow-up with chat leads.
can’t just ask one sales person (who’s
also greeting customers on the floor, an- Make sure to get straight answers about these issues,
swering phone calls and responding to email) to add and get them in writing. Personalized communication with
this assignment on. It just doesn’t work. your automotive shoppers is the best way to get shop-
pers engaged and into your sales process. How will they
If the chat service does offer chat management, make engage your shoppers? What information will be commu-
sure the agents are professionally trained to under- nicated? How will they respond to price questions?
Can the chat be incorporated into email, eNewslet-
ters, FaceBook, MySpace and other online channels?
Adding chat on the dealership website will go a long communication? These are just a few examples of ad-
way toward increasing website leads, but there are also ditional options to enhance service and lead generation
growing opportunities to engage shoppers anywhere for all dealership profit centers, and more will probably
they are online. Can the provider include live chat in come along as technology advances and consumer
the email signatures of your staff? Can live chat be in- behavior changes. If a chat service provider doesn’t
cluded in the dealership’s newsletter or other online offer these options, then you can probably bet that they
are not keeping ahead of the technology curve.
Automotive Dealer Live Chat Buyer’s Guide | 8
Is uptime guaranteed and what is the chat
provider’s security policy?
Although the service and business intelligence are the
true keys to live chat success, product reliability, sta-
bility, security and support must also be verified. Dis-
cuss vendors’ uptime. Is it guaranteed? Can they
show you historical reports of uptime to demonstrate
their claims? How is the data secured and transferred
between the chat and the dealership CRM/ILM? If
there is downtime, how will they communicate with you
and fix any problems as quickly as possible? Make
sure the provider you select has a plan in place and get
it in writing before signing any agreement.
Does the vendor offer a
broad selection of service options?
Partnering with a vendor that offers a wide range of adequately manage the chat? Or, can you begin with
service options will help you select the provider that out-sourced chat agents and then switch to managing
best meets your dealership needs, both now and in the the chats in-house if you hire additional staff in the fu-
future. With the speed of the rate of change, what’s ture? A solid vendor should offer a variety of options
best for your dealership right now may not be best for and help you select the right level of service based on
your dealership a year from now, or even six months your unique dealership needs. Your chat vendor
from now. For example, if you decide to begin with in- should also offer complementary services that will help
house chat agents, will you be able to switch to a man- you maximize the online chat experience.
aged service if you decide that your staff cannot
Automotive Dealer Live Chat Buyer’s Guide | 9
Can the vendor provide dealer references who are willing
to talk to you and can they provide case studies, reporting
and other objective material to support their claims?
This is very important for selecting any vendor, but reporting, media coverage and other objective materi-
often forgotten when time is limited or there is a rush als can also help you make an informed decision about
to make a decision. Make sure that the chat service vendor selection. In addition, supplying these refer-
can supply at LEAST three clients who will talk to you ences and materials helps demonstrate a provider's
about their experience with the provider, and actually commitment to helping their clients succeed.
take the time to talk with each of them. Case studies,
ActivEngage is the leading provider of
chat software & business intelligence in
the automotive industry.
Conclusion Our technology is helping dealerships
nationwide increase business from there
While live chat is a powerful first-party lead generator
when managed correctly, success requires leading-
edge technology, service and support. Understand More Information
that the skill set and knowledge needed to maximize Phone: 1-800-775-7358
results are very specific to the medium. In addition, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
dealerships will have better results by partnering with
Follow Us On Twitter:
a provider who understands automotive online retail
and provides an offering that is specifically suited for
the needs of automotive consumers. Chat business in- Connect With Us On Linkedin:
telligence, technology and service combine to create http://wwwlinkedin.com/in/activengage
more selling opportunities for the dealership. With the
right service, incorporating live chat in the overall mar-
keting plan is one of the fastest, most cost-effective
ways to increase website lead generation and sales.
Make sure you discuss these important questions be-
fore you decide on a service provider.