Pittsburgh store adds chat, gets results
Web site feature helps convert leads into sales
Bill Eggert: “Live chat has been the best tool in our arsenal to convert the lead to showroom traffic and sales.”
Bill Eggert said it took "some time" to get the courage to add live chat on his suburban Pittsburgh dealership's Web site.
The 58-year-old general manager of Day Apollo Volkswagen-Subaru had heard the warnings from colleagues.
Answer all chat requests within five seconds or irritate customers, they told him. Staff would have to be trained to engage customers on chat, they said.
But after adding live chat in October, Eggert wonders why he waited so long. The store, on track to sell 1,800 new and used vehicles this year, uses software from Contact At Once!
"Live chat has been the best tool in our arsenal to convert the lead to showroom traffic and sales," Eggert said last week.
Evidence is starting to roll in on the influence of live chat in auto retailing.
An analysis released last week by Polk for Contact At Once! found that one in three people who engaged in live chat with a dealer and gave contact data bought a vehicle within 60 days.
Polk analyzed 10,000 chat transcripts from conversations originating from dealership, automaker and third-party vehicle shopping sites.
The numbers show that shoppers who chat with dealers are serious about buying a vehicle, said Marc Hayes, Contact At Once! executive vice president of products and strategy. The suburban Atlanta vendor manages chat or provides software to most major third-party shopping sites and thousands of dealerships nationally.
About 20 percent of U.S. dealerships use chat, said Todd Smith, CEO of ActivEngage, an Orlando company that competes with Chat At Once! and other chat vendors. ActivEngage has about 2,600 dealership customers nationally.
Smith said that about 1.5 percent of visitors to dealership Web sites that offer chat use the service. While that's a small percentage, ActivEngage call center representatives who chat with shoppers get leads or contact information from 80 percent of users, he said.
In Eggert's three-member Internet sales department, one salesman chatted with 27 customers since the installation and made 12 confirmed appointments. All 12 bought vehicles, Eggert said.
Any of Eggert's 14 floor or Internet sales staffers can chat with customers who engage the dealership.
Initially, Eggert said he worried that the leads would be ignored. But competition for chats is intense, given the conversion rates shown by top salespeople.
"Chat is really like a phone-up," Eggert said. "It's the customer getting some last-second information before getting in the car and coming down here."
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