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Using Dealer Chat to Close Deals? You Betcha.

Using Chat to Close Deals

At Contact At Once!, a LivePerson company, our mission is to make life easier by transforming how people communicate with brands. When we help you move customers closer to purchase via messaging, we consider it a personal “mission accomplished.” Your goal is our goal. So you can imagine how happy we get learning how our messaging solutions helped you grease the sides of your sales funnel.

Yes, collecting contact info and setting appointments are huge goals, especially for BDC specialists. However, there’s more to it than that (otherwise, we’d just have forms and calendars to fill out).

One Contact At Once! dealer, Josh Kisskalt of General RV, posed a question to our CONNECT Rewards advocate hub. He uses dealer chat as a way to close deals—not just gather information or set up a call—and he wanted to know how others do the same, progressing the sale through the funnel without forcing the customer to call.

In fact, Josh adds, “If you asked me what contributed the most to my large year-over-year increase in sales, without a doubt it’s chat.”

Many replied that yes, they found it much easier to gather contact info and set appointments using chat vs. phone or email. Even more found it to be a great icebreaker and a convenient channel to ask “why” questions.

Get the Answer to “Why”

As Angela Reed, Internet Manager at Brown’s Sales & Leasing, says: “There is a reason people are in the market for one model or the other, and figuring out the why is very important to me.” Once she knows how they prefer to communicate, she follows up…and not just on the business of selling that particular vehicle. “I reach out to visit with each of them about the reason they contacted me in the first place: the need or want that drove them to hit ‘Chat’ in the first place.”

Encourage Follow-Up by Avoiding Phone Calls

Kevin Graska from IQAutos likes to encourage customers to follow up with him and reminds them they don’t have to call him directly. They can text him! “I’ve closed many sales without ever talking to the customer,” he says (well, at least without talking to them face to face or over the phone). Plus, our Take It On The Go feature makes it super easy for a consumer to change from chatting to texting!

Help Shoppers Take Buying Actions

Some dealers go beyond making a personal connection via a chat conversation. After answering questions, sharing brochures and sending photos or videos of the vehicle, a few go straight to getting them pre-approved by sending a credit application link. Take what Halston Schaff, Internet Sales Manager at George Nahas Chevrolet, has to say:

“I think chat gives you the opportunity to take the deal as far as the customer is willing. I have often discussed soft numbers and done everything online right up until the customer has to show up (credit approval, final trade eval, etc.).”

In fact, Contact At Once! recently completed a study with Root & Associates that shows how messaging can positively impact car research and digital retailing. Almost 3 in 4 of those shoppers who said they would NOT fill out online paperwork (like the credit application Halston speaks of) said they’d be more likely to if they could message during the process.

From the beginning of the research process to the final buying stages, automotive messaging can play an important role. It’s all in how you use it, and we’re proud to support you all the way!

3 Ways to Connect with Customers During the Holiday Season

Don’t you wish November and December lasted longer? Weather aside, the holiday season seems to turn many of us into more cheerful versions of ourselves—even while we hunt for great deals. Obviously, not everyone buys vehicles as gifts. But there are things you can do to stick in people’s minds as the place to go if (or when) they are in the market.

Several Contact At Once! dealers shared how they grab attention and connect with customers in these months. Reading through may spark a few new ideas of your own for the future!

Have Fun with Themed Deals

If your dealership is trying to move inventory or encourage more service visits, it doesn’t hurt to put a holiday theme to your specials. Courtesy Ford, for example, offers “12 Days of Christmas” Service Specials. “Each day has a different special, from super low-priced oil changes to paintless dent removal,” explains Douglas Davis, their Director of Internet Marketing.

And when it comes to selling vehicles, you can have more than Black Friday in your pocket to convince buyers now is the time. Jennifer Griffith, Internet Marketing Coordinator of Tom Ahl Family of Dealerships, says they run a “Final 5” sale during the last five days of the year. “All of our vehicles are marked down super low, and we pack our inventory for this sale.”

Throw a Party

Another dealer rep suggested having a holiday party that customers can take part in. This can be a good way to show appreciation, and you can treat employees at the same time! Just make sure to hold it at a time that’s not inconvenient for customers—even though it’s a free party, people may choose not come in the evening or during a weekday (they have other priorities). Maybe a Saturday lunch buffet isn’t your idea of a holiday party, but it could be just the right touch and time to get people in your doors one more time.

Build Goodwill with Community Involvement

The last two months of the year is also the perfect time to get your dealership involved in the community. As Don Murray, BDC Manager at Ressler Motors Bozeman, says, “This doesn’t always lead to direct sales in the month of December, but it builds such goodwill that it’s worth it all year long!”

For instance, Don’s company promoted a pay-it-forward challenge last year. They gave service customers a $20 gift card (cash) and challenged them to do something good for another person with it. “The response was overwhelming, and word of mouth spread quickly. Our customers were blown away, and so were the people they picked to bless with the $20. Plus, it was fun for all of the departments involved! A real win.”

You can also generate goodwill and attention by joining established community programs. Hendrick’s Chevrolet often hosts boxes for Toys For Tots, says Melissa Dominguez, Business Development Manager.

Want to help a local shelter? Consider pulling a truck into your showroom and asking customers to bring in food donations to help you fill it up, like Josh Hoke, Internet Sales Manager, remembers doing at Laird Noller Dealerships of Lawrence. Brown’s Sales & Leasing does something similar, says their own Internet Manager Angela Reed. They run a Christmas Drive for the local Shepherd of the Hills, collecting toys, clothes and pillows. And with every donation or test drive, the dealership makes a donation as well!

Whatever you decide to do, the holidays can help you increase your “stickiness” with customers: current and prospective. How will you get involved this year?

Ghosted? 5 Ways to “Resuscitate” Conversations with Unresponsive Online Shoppers

We’ve all been there. Someone texts in, asking a question. You respond with an answer. Maybe you have a back-and-forth conversation for a bit then…poof! You’ve been ghosted. You’re now dealing with an unresponsive customer. How do you breathe new life into that conversation and determine if they’re gone for good or ready to come in?

One of our advocates posed that question to our CONNECT Rewards community. Here are some of the follow-up text ideas shared by other industry professionals:

1). Send a photo of what they were interested in.

Remind shoppers why they reached out to you in the first place by texting them a picture of the vehicle, apartment other other product they were eyeing. Have a little fun with it, too. Consider putting a sign on the window or door that says, “Reserved for Bob” or “Adopt me, Bob.”

2). Send a video.

You can get really creative here if you want. This is a great opportunity for you to “introduce” yourself and send a personalized video that showcases something new about the vehicle, home or apartment. Remember to get a shot of the interior or the part they were most interested in. (You can use the same sign as in the photo here, too.)

3). Give them an update.

If the product they’re interested in is still available or if new inventory that matches their specs has arrived, let them know. And shoot them a text if someone else expresses interest in that same vehicle or home! It’s an easy way to double-check if they’re still in the market or not (and create some urgency).

4). Share new incentives or promotions.

Just about everyone loves a good deal, so share any specials that have changed…or let them know of an incentive that is expiring soon. It might prompt action.

5). Sometimes, just a nudge works.

While you don’t want to be pushy and bombard them with communications, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Simply acknowledge that you haven’t heard from them for awhile and that you want to make sure all their questions were answered. One dealership (John Roberts, VP & GM at Roberts Motors, Inc.) has a great response rate by asking previously unresponsive customers if they’ve been eaten by alligators!

Regardless of how you follow up via text, don’t be afraid to have a little fun. Add some personality and make that communication different than the usual automated responses people often get. After all, the connections you make can set you apart from the competitor down the street.

2016 Dealer Survey Infographic: Automotive Chat & Text Bring Results


When you learn what shoppers prefer, do you ignore that knowledge? Or do you use it to appeal to—and win—more of them? Let’s say you learned that 4 in 5 people were drawn to the color red. You’d probably rearrange your inventory in both physical and virtual showrooms to feature the red cars (and possibly draw more attention).

Well, more than 4 in 5 car shoppers and buyers shared their preference for mobile messaging. And dealership professionals are using that knowledge to their advantage.

In the newly released 2016 Dealer Survey report, we share how messaging—automotive chat, mobile text and the like—continue to pay off for dealerships. After all, such communication allows you to meet shoppers where they already are, on the channel they’re more likely to respond on.

Check out the infographic below (or click here) for a peek at the numbers. Then read the full 2016 Dealer Survey results for more insights, including why the automotive industry may embrace messaging even more this year (and how you can prepare).

Why Answering Dealership Chats & Texts Is His Answer to Closing More Deals

The missing puzzle piece to close deals

What works for one company may not work for another. That’s why there are common debates about which messaging approach is best—have someone else manage it all, do it all in-house or a mix of both—let alone which vendor to use. But at Windsor Chrysler in Ontario, there’s no question left in Steve Desjardins’ mind.

“I’ve used several chat solutions,” recalls the General Manager. “Not only did they not allow my team to answer, they didn’t answer for us very well. But we’ve been seeing the best results since we switched to Contact At Once!’s co-managed solution two years ago.”

We recently sat down with Steve and discussed why he’s such a believer in personally connecting with customers (especially when it happens via text or chat).

Q: Why do you think you’re getting better results now?

Steve Desjardins: It’s a combination of good people, good technology and the fact that we can use that technology the way that best fits our dealership’s and customers’ needs. To me, the ability to self-manage the conversations is valuable. We know our customers the best! Contact At Once! helps my sales team connect with those customers and answer their questions, but we still get the after-hours backup needed to assist people who reach out when the dealership is closed: the Contact At Once! managed chat team treats those customers the way we would.

Q: So would you say using the Contact At Once! chat and text solution has improved the consumer experience? What about sales?

SD: We sell at least 5-8 cars per month that we can attribute back to Contact At Once!, and the consumer experience has improved significantly for both customers and sales reps! In fact, I recently set up the entire sales department to use the texting software; it’s just the way to go. I’ve had employees text me, saying they were able to sell a car from their own couch! It’s really a great experience for everyone involved. (Even I love getting the conversation transcripts; I read every single one.)

Q: What do you like most about using Contact At Once!?

SD: I can 100% say that my favorite part about using Contact At Once! is my dealership’s ability to self-answer and self-manage our customers, with backup when we need it. Today’s customers want answers right away, and they can tell the difference between talking with a robot or a real person…even over a chat or text message. Contact At Once! makes that personal connection quick and easy, so we can take care of our customers and keep them coming back.

The “Magic” Formula for Overcoming Auto Shoppers’ Objections


Psych! There is no magic formula to win every customer’s heart, much as we may wish for one. But don’t just give up at the first sign of contention. Consider steps you can take to appeal to those who raise objections or have doubts during the selling process, especially during a chat or text conversation (tips courtesy of our Contact At Once! dealer community).

Be Relatable

More than 3 in 5 consumers feel like they’re being taken advantage of at a dealership, according to a new Beepi / Harris Poll study. So this first tip is essential when speaking with any prospective buyer: Relate to them. David Bardeen of Mazda West Ridge says, “I do my best to remind the customer that I am one, too. I understand where they are coming from.” This helps people let their guard down a bit and be more open and forthcoming about any concerns that may arise in the midst of the conversation. When you know the objection, you can address it!

Stay Focused on Their End Goal

Another part of empathizing is to stay focused on what the customer wants. In other words, help them find the vehicle that meets their end goal. Dig into what that really means to each individual consumer—which can prepare you for potential conflict too—and look for ways to make the purchase process more convenient and simple (saving time is always a plus!).

Acknowledge the Objection

Don’t forget to respect the consumer’s opinion by acknowledging the issue they’ve raised, either. This way they know you’re listening to them. In other words, don’t just push ahead with your points as to why they’re “wrong” and why your vehicle and dealership are “right.” If they say they’re just browsing or researching, maybe you mention how smart it is to do that kind of research…and then offer some suggestions of what to look for.

Rephrase the Question or Objection

After acknowledging the objection, try rephrasing the original question or point.

  • Scenario 1 – Let’s put this in the frame of a chat conversation where the consumer doesn’t want to provide contact information, which means the chat won’t be considered a valid lead. If the consumer is legitimately interested in what you have to offer, asking for contact information to make an appointment (test drive, etc.) tends to have a high success rate. The key is being genuine in the ask, not just hounding them for information like a human form field.
  • Scenario 2 – Another common objection centers around pricing, which we all know can be tricky to handle. Many chat/text users try to avoid such discussions if possible because tension and miscommunication easily happen while discussing the price of a vehicle. If someone chats or texts and really wants to know the price, a good alternative might be sharing the base price that’s already listed online…and reminding the shopper about the many other factors to consider that might be better discussed in person, from trade-ins to credit history, etc. Denise Jackson of Fowler Toyota adds, “If [the objection] is money, I say everything is negotiable in person.”

Provide Good Service

All things considered, the secret to overcoming auto shoppers’ initial objections may often be as “simple” as providing really good service during that chat or text conversation. Listen and address their concerns. Be friendly, seek to answer all their questions, guide their next steps and follow up swiftly. If an issue can’t be resolved over chat or text, let consumers know why and reassure them that you’re getting them the help they need.

The above tips could turn your sales interactions—both digital (chat, text, etc.) and in-person—into better experiences for all involved.

It’s a People Thing: Why This Dealer Says Mobile Messaging Is Vital to the Customer Experience

Mobile Messaging Superhero

What defines your dealership isn’t just the vehicles you sell—numerous dealers sell the same thing. It isn’t just your location—there are often many nearby competitors, not to mention the growing number of online buying options. It also isn’t just your price. In fact, over half of car shoppers in AutoTrader’s Car Buyer of the Future study would buy based on a better experience vs. a lower price AND 73% would drive farther to reach a dealership that provided a positive experience!

As the stats above indicate, what really makes you stand out is customer experience. And that is a people thing, from your dealership staff to how your people use technology to connect with today’s ever more demanding customers.

Sharon Regan, BDC Manager of City Cadillac Buick GMC, agrees. Here’s why she thinks the right mobile messaging solution can empower your people (and why she chose the solution she did).

Q: What do you like best about mobile messaging, like automotive chat and text?

Sharon Regan: You have to engage consumers the way they want to be engaged—fish where the fish are, so to speak. This whole “pick up the phone because I want to talk to you” approach doesn’t work. That’s why we offer the options to chat or text with us on our website and third-party ads, and we’re seeing good results!

I also like how we’re able to empower our people with this engagement: We use a co-managed setup, so our two most experienced reps take the chat or text conversations when they’re available. When they’re not, the Contact At Once! professional messaging experts take over and send the leads to our BDC team.

Q: Any tips about how to use such communication options more effectively?

SR: START USING IT. I can’t stress that enough. Your product could be the best in the world, but if you don’t engage with customers the way they want to engage, it’s not going to matter. I tell every new hire that people can buy cars anywhere. The only difference in where they buy is YOU and your pitch. So we use the same script process via chat or text as when we’re talking on the phone. No matter how we interact, we’re there to help. We’re there to bring them into the dealership and help them buy.

I also suggest listening to how your technology sales rep suggests setting up the messaging solution. Use it (and master it) how it’s designed to be used first, so you can better adapt if necessary. Contact At Once! has been very flexible in helping us adjust our design and implementation, and I’m very happy.

Q: What do you suggest looking for in a mobile messaging provider?

SR: Obviously you want a provider who has real power in their technology (one of the reasons we went with Contact At Once!). But I think the people behind the technology is just as important. Contact At Once! has been very responsive, offers phenomenal support—and I have to say that my rep is the best! I trust her guidance, and she’s never once proven me wrong.

That’s the power of having the right people backing you up, from your dealership team to your vendor team!

After-Hours Chat & Text? Here’s What Worked for This Dealer


It’s 9:00 p.m. Many consumers now have time for car research or finally remember to schedule that service appointment. But your dealership staff have gone home for the day. What if those consumers have questions?

That’s a common challenge, one this BDC director has been trying to solve the right way. David Simonin of Stephen AutoMall Centre in Connecticut shares how automotive chat and text can help or hurt, depending on the quality of the solution.

Q: What got you interested in setting up automotive chat and text after regular business hours?

David Simonin: After several years of using Contact At Once! on our main site, we saw how that convenient online connection appealed to many customers. We wanted to offer access to such help on each individual dealership site too, including after-hours. It’s just a great service to offer customers who are used to taking care of almost everything else online at all hours of the day or night.

Q: You switched from Contact At Once! to another chat company…and then came back. What drove those actions?

DS: I simply didn’t realize that Contact At Once! (which we started using before I came on board) could also be set up the way I wanted: to include after-hours managed chat for all departments and all dealerships. Another automotive chat company came in and said they could do it all, so we switched.

To put it nicely, that product just didn’t work for us.

The chat company’s answering agents took all the chats but, most of the time, they didn’t even answer the questions our customers asked. I saw transcript after transcript where customers asked simple questions like “Can I change my oil change time?” and the answering agent responded, “Thank you for your stay on our site.” Or a shopper had a question about a vehicle for her father, but was hounded for contact details without getting the question addressed or making any personal connection. One customer even said, “I’m talking to a robot, aren’t I?”

That drove me to talk with Jason, my Contact At Once! rep, again. I learned that they could do exactly what I was hoping to do in the first place—help us connect with customers when we can and be available after-hours when we can’t.

Q: So what’s your managed chat experience like now?

DS: We switched back to Contact At Once! and went with their Professional solution. Now there’s an intelligent person on the other end of the line with our customers when we can’t be there. Their answers are pertinent to the question, and they actually connect with the customer!

And now the transcripts show stories like a customer chatting in about her car not starting at 7:00 a.m. (right before our staff arrives). The Contact At Once! messaging expert couldn’t help her with the service issue, but he empathized and made sure she knew that he’d have the service team contact her as soon as they opened. He passed her information on to our BDC, and we took care of her just a few minutes later. In fact, if the lead comes in while I’m at home, I can still forward it on to the correct team immediately!

We’ve only been using this version of Contact At Once! for about a month or so now, but we’ve seen several appointments and happy service customers as a result of the chat and text conversations. The difference is amazing.

The main thing I want people to learn from my experience is this: If your chat solution isn’t doing what you want, ask Contact At Once! They have all kinds of chat management options, and they’ll customize the solution to get you what you need.

Beyond Phone Calls: Why This Dealership Embraces the Latest in Messaging

Creative Thinking Messaging Trends

When you sell a vehicle, you are selling basically the same product consumers can buy from multiple dealers down the street. What makes you different—what makes people buy from YOU—is baked into everything your dealership does, from marketing to pricing, location, convenience and how you communicate with those consumers.

J.C. Baker, MBA, CPFS and Director of Internet Sales for Jake Sweeney Chevrolet, aims to make his team the “model of perfection” in those communications that lead to sales. We asked him to share his approach, from chat to text and beyond.

Q: What strategy has proven most successful when it comes to digital messaging (and interacting with prospective buyers in general)?

J.C. Baker: What consumers seem to want is what I want as a consumer: Someone to talk to me now and a real conversation with direction. So regardless of the communication vehicle, our team’s strategy is that we do not try to “sell” them during the chat or over the phone. We try to figure out what the consumer needs, articulate it and help him or her buy. It is how you speak and respond with solutions—how you create expectations and meet them quickly and conveniently—that makes the difference. (We actually teach communication strategy classes at our dealership that are mandatory for our team.)

Q: Where does Contact At Once! fit into that communication strategy?

JCB: Chat and text are simply different ways to communicate with consumers using our strategic approach. We use Contact At Once! to provide instant gratification, and we have too many text and chat conversations per month to count. So along with the accessibility and convenience of such messaging options, I like having an official solution for compliance purposes.

Consider this: My department receives 1,200-1,300 leads a month, and they are required to text them as part of our follow-up process. At any given point, we are holding 600-700 text conversations…all through Contact At Once! I like how the solution helps us ask for permission, keeps transcripts and allows me to see every conversation my team is having if needed.

Q: You mentioned the importance of using tools (including digital messaging) the right way. How have you gotten team buy-in for automotive chat and text?

JCB: Our theory is that people can shop wherever they want. If they choose us, we are going to capitalize on that chance and use every tool available to engage with them, including chat and text. So if you are working here at Jake Sweeney Chevrolet, you are going to embrace that new technology as a resource and be excited about it. It is all about providing excellence to the consumer.

Q: Speaking of embracing new tech…you recently beta tested a new Contact At Once! feature. Could you share your thoughts?

JCB: Yes, we are using a new feature called Hot Opportunity Transfer (HOT), and we can already attribute at least two of our sales to it. It is also helping us with time management issues and staying connected with prospective buyers. If someone chats in after-hours or while our team is busy, Contact At Once!’s professional messaging experts handle it, then bring us into the conversation directly via text the moment a customer exhibits specific purchase-ready signals.

What I like about it the most is how it helps capture opportunities when we would otherwise be unavailable. HOT keeps us accessible, and our team can jump in when the time is appropriate.

Q: How important do you think it is to keep an eye out for such technology?

JCB: You would hope other dealers would see the value, but some people simply focus on “how we’ve always done it.” The challenge is that things change so rapidly now. We either grow to become what we need to be, or we are not around for very long. For example, cars did not change much for 15-20 years. Now they usually change every two years. Malibu has changed model styles four times in three years!

I have also heard that the global automotive market value is expected to increase from $1.7 trillion to $2.3 trillion from 2013-2018. While my team is #1 in volume in the North Central region, I want more of that trillion-dollar market. To do that in today’s world, I think requires us to be ahead of the curve in every innovation. I want to maximize our opportunities, maximize our closing percentages and provide no bad experiences. That is why I said earlier we use every tool available to engage with people who want to shop with us.

So if dealers do not embrace the technology that will help them meet today’s customers on their own playing field…woe is them, they will fold and we will take over!

“There’s No Escaping Mobile”: What This Property Management Company Is Doing

How Lincoln Property Company Is Using Mobile Messaging

Mobile technology has quietly—but firmly—taken precedence in many of our lives, changing how we think and act and what we expect of others. Just consider what such tech has done in property development and management:

  • You’ve seen it change the way people hunt for apartments.
  • You’ve seen it change what people look for in apartments (like smart-home appliances).
  • And you’re starting to see it change how prospects and residents communicate with those apartment communities. (According to the 2015 “Today’s Online Renter” SatisFacts Research study, 38.1% of residents said they preferred to text with communities, a 10-point jump in preference from 2011.)

Sheri Killingsworth, VP of Marketing and Communications for Lincoln Property Company (LPC), puts it this way: “There’s no escaping the mobile trend. From tours to communication to lease execution and resident portals, everything will only get faster, easier and more readily available from here.”

The challenge is in how you harness such trends and make them work for you.

One thing Sheri and her LPC team are excited about in this regard is Contact At Once! mobile messaging. Here’s a quick glimpse at why this is a growing focus for them:

Q: What drew you to mobile messaging, from property text to chat?

Sheri Killingsworth: I drew from my personal experience and how I prefer to communicate. It’s always easier to catch me on chat or text, so why wouldn’t a lot of our prospects feel the same? Plus, we’re always looking for better results, better systems and better ways to serve our residents and investors. That’s why we’ve started adding Contact At Once!

Q: What’s your overall opinion so far?

SK: While messaging may not be a “necessity” for apartment communities at this point, I do think it’s an invaluable tool. Not only can it help you reach the growing number of prospects who prefer to communicate via text or chat, it can also help you nurture contacts through the know-like-trust stages, well into relationship building.

With that in mind, I really think the Contact At Once! solution can be instrumental in prospect communication and converting leads to leases.

Q: What’s something you’ve learned along the way?

SK: As you might imagine, the biggest challenge with chat is the accessibility of your employees: Are they able to answer chats at any given time? Leasing teams are busy with residents and prospects already, and are often not able to manage a chat conversation at the same time. But I learned that with managed chat and text from Contact At Once!, that issue goes away!

Their professional messaging experts are Fair Housing trained and certified, and they are currently managing all the chat and text conversations for three of our properties. Our leasing teams there don’t have to worry about missing the chance to help a potential future resident.

Contact At Once! internal data support the need for this expert backup: 1 in 4 people searching for a new place to call home engage with properties after hours or on weekends.

Q: Why is mobile and messaging something communities need to pay attention to now…and in the future?

SK: People—not just specific demographics, but all people—almost always turn to their mobile devices first when they want to do something, learn something, find something or go somewhere. It is imperative that we stay where our prospects are or we’ll miss them. That means we need to look into more mobile-friendly ways for people to communicate during and complete the different stages of the leasing process, from discovery to selection and, ultimately, community life.

Is your management company focused on the mobile present…and future? Text or chat with us below to learn how we can help you harness the possibilities.