According to Insider Intelligence, it’s predicted that consumer retail spending that results from website chat widgets will be as much as $142 billion, fifty times more than it was in 2019. Their popularity has become widely used in every retail sector, and automotive is no exception. Dealerships have integrated some of the most intelligent, seamless solutions that enable them to communicate at any hour of the day, bring potential shoppers further through the sales funnel, and inevitably collect their information with the intention of developing a customer.

However, the real-world implications appear to be less than perfect. Major deals have been made by CDK Global and Reynolds & Reynolds to enable their clients to provide comprehensive end-to-end online retailing, starting with the ability to connect via the web. While solutions from providers like Gubagoo and Roadster put all the right tools in the dealers’ hands, some stores are failing to implement them fully.

Real-world missed opportunities

This experience is first-hand. Looking to locate a specific make, model, powertrain, and color for an acquaintance, I messaged a dealership on the chatbox from the VLP on their own website. The chat gave canned messages to collect my info and the “attempted” to connect me with a sales agent. Apparently, no one was available after about ten minutes but they would contact me shortly.

Moving onto another store, the same process was repeated with precisely the same results. In this chat, however, I wrote, “Is this a live person?” with the response that they “assured” me, it was a real person. Yet, the same canned responses… strange.

At a third store’s website, the same process was once again repeated. No answers again.

Frustrated and with three dealerships now collecting my lead info, I left it. Two days later, the third store responded by text message, albeit unable to help with the search. Nine days later, the other two stores have not yet replied.

I have zero doubt that the chat widgets of all three dealers have been fully functioning in their integration. My gut feeling is that my lead fell through the cracks at two dealerships due to human-caused issues. Perhaps the salesperson responsible for the lead was too busy or they didn’t respond because the vehicle wasn’t available. However, as a shopper, it leaves a very nasty taste in my mouth.

Live communication still paramount

For customers who don’t understand the industry, the effects are likely amplified. When they’re expecting a live agent in the chat and their left wanting, consumers lose the bond or trust they’ve formed with your store. But when a live agent is on the other end or there’s a quick response to the lead when it’s generated, the experience is very different.

Gubagoo’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Drew Delaware, says, “Gubagoo’s data across millions of monthly conversations shows that when dealership team members jump into conversations to deliver a personalized experience, there is a 77% increase in the likelihood of a sale. The dealerships who are winning big are the ones who take the time to implement the strategy and processes to deliver an authentic, personalized conversational experience for their customers.”

To enhance the customer experience, online tools are designed to establish a connection with the shopper. Delaware mentions that automated conversations alone are cold and lack the human connection when what customers want is warmth and to build trust.

Like all other processes, dealers should test their online tools including chats to ensure that every lead collected is followed up on. What barely matters is if you have a vehicle on the lot that matches their interests or if a service appointment is available at the time they requested. What matters most is that customers receive the communication they expect – timely, accurate, and warm – so they can establish trust with your store.

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