Live Chat Fails
And How Smart Dealers Use Live Chat to Sell Cars
Engage the thousands of shoppers who abandon your website
each month & get more leads from your website today
This eBook, the first in a series, is a resource to help automotive dealers use live interaction to increase
customer satisfaction and qualified lead generation from websites. The automotive consumer market
has migrated and shoppers now spend more time on dealership websites than in dealership showrooms. Sponsored by
Success in today's market requires a fundamental change in thinking about meeting shoppers' needs
at the dealership’s website.
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 2
Top Seven Reasons Live
Chat Deployment Fails
1. Belief that the technology alone will produce results 4. Chat is not
Technology, without proper planning, implementation and ongoing
to overall sales
management, will not improve your business. This is particularly
true for live chat. It is not a “set it and forget it” technology. It
requires highly involved planning, manning and ongoing analysis
to produce success. Live chat can produce amazing results, Live chat is most
but not simply by adding a chat button on your website. effectively used as a valuable component of the dealership’s
marketing strategy, rather than merely an add-on piece separate
from other initiatives. It is most powerful when it is integrated
2. Lack of dedicated staff to manage the chat during
with the dealership’s overall branding and promotions, working
to communicate your offline promotion to your web shoppers.
If you include a “click to chat” button on your website, then you
must have trained staff available to answer questions in a timely
5. Untrained staff without understanding of the
fashion. Shoppers become very frustrated if they think the op-
medium's unique communication requirements
tion of chat is available, when it’s really not. The golden rule for
chat is: either use it, and fully commit the required resources, Live chat, like all media, has its own special characteristics and
or don't use it at all. There is no in-between. (Similar to the methods for success. What works on the phone or in person
phones at your dealership, if your staff doesn’t pick them up is not always what works in live chat. Whether you decide to
when they ring, you will likely have angry callers.) Immediacy manage chat from within the dealership, outsource it to a
is essential for successful chat. If skilled, dedicated chat agents provider, or use a combination of the two, the dealership and
are not available within seconds, then the immediacy is lost. the vendor must understand the unique characteristics of the
medium and the requirements for success. Chat agents must
be trained, knowledgeable, effective and engaging with your
3. No pre-implementation planning
Chat, like any addition to business operations, requires fore-
thought and integration with the overall strategy. Although chat
can be deployed very quickly, it should not simply be put on the
dealership website without a full plan to successfully incorpo-
rate it into your dealership’s operations. Important questions
need to be answered and goals must be set and measured for
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 3
6. Lack of consistent data analysis to guide continuous 7. Deploying passive chat, rather than proactive chat
improvement InternetRetailer.com estimates that 15% of web visitors accept
Dealerships that use chat software which tracks visitors' movement proactive invitations to chat. That statistic is for "proactive in-
throughout the website have greater success. Chat agents can vitations" only. Sites that merely have a "click to chat" button
send more helpful, personalized messages when they can mon- have far lower engagement rates. While some shoppers might
itor what visitors see and do on the website. For example, if click to chat, offers to help at key points in the shopping
someone began completing a form and stopped, the chat agent process produce much higher results. Proactive chat lets you
can ask if they need help. If someone has tried to configured a “Meet & Greet” shoppers and offer assistance on your website,
Prius three separate times, they probably have questions about just as you do at your physical dealership.
options. Other key metrics must also be analyzed on regular
basis to create a continuous improvement system.
The number one reason live chat fails at the dealership is the mis-
conception that just adding a chat application to your website will
produce results. The technology in and of itself adds no value to a
website. In fact, it can produce negative results if site visitors think
they have access to live chat but receive no response when they
attempt to engage in the chat session. Lack of planning is another
culprit for not receiving the full benefit of chat.
Some Key questions to ask
during planning are:
• How do we expect our dealership to benefit from live chat?
• What are our goals? Are they realistic?
• How will live chat fit into our overall marketing and
• Who will manage the chat?
• How will they be selected & trained?
• How will we track and measure results?
• How often will revisit our practices to make sure we're
When these questioned aren't asked and thoughtfully answered,
failure is almost certain. Live chat also needs ongoing data analysis
to determine what is working effectively and what is not. Today's
premier chat providers offer this data and analysis, and it is vital for
maximizing success and continuous improvement. Armed with the
knowledge to avoid pitfalls, smart dealers can then move forward to
make live chat the best generator of qualified leads for the dealership.
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 4
The Evolution of Chat
and the Growing Impact it has on
Automotive Internet Sales
Live chat is not new. Early incarnations were available more than Statistical analysis concludes that dealership web leads outperform
ten years ago. What's new is the sophistication, targeting and all other lead sources; your dealership website leads are the most
tracking ability, and best practices that are now available. Many valuable of all leads because they have the highest closing ratio.
dealers and other online retailers tried earlier, less effective, versions Therefore, it is financially beneficial to drive more leads from your
of chat only to be disappointed with the results, and abandon the own website into your dealership’s Internet department. Today’s
technology. As with most new technologies, early adaptors did not professionally managed live chat is a proven method to increase
actually know how to be successful with the new tool. They were website lead generation, so the question becomes what keeps
just trying it out to see what they could make happen. Now, how- dealerships from embracing this technology? Reviewing the history
ever, after years of data collection and research, the keys to effec- and evolution of live chat provides valuable insight.
tive chat are known, and it is estimated that 10% of dealerships
currently use some form of chat.
Chat Failed to Live Up to the Hype in the Beginning of the Dot.Com Revolution
1996-2001 — Software and applications become widely available to 2002-2005 — Commercial application began to be ex- 2006-Present — Online retail websites begin to ex-
allow synchronous text communication between people on the Inter- plored. Retail websites installed chat to answer site perience significant benefits from the now, more
net. It was predominantly used for personal chat, entertainment and visitors' questions. Best practices were not devel- mature medium. Best practices and sophisticated
relationships. "Chat rooms" became popular, particularly on AOL. oped at the time and chat agents, and companies, analytics now allow commercial success with live
There was little to no commercial exploration. In the few early retail were learning how to best serve visitors with chat. chat. This third and most recent iteration of chat
examples of this "unintelligent chat," customers could click a button Commercial attempts were often unsuccessful be- offers "business intelligence interaction." The ear-
to initiate a chat session. This version of chat was completely reactive cause agents were "winging it", and site visitors were lier versions of chat are combined and now include
and offered little insight to the interests of the customer prior to the not yet accustomed to live interaction on retail web- statistical and behavioral modeling to know which
conversation. Businesses were unable to effectively monetize chat sites. However, this "rule-based" version of chat was shoppers have the highest probability of convert-
because conversations were generally tedious and long, due to lack an improvement., with the ability to automatically ing into leads. This new version revolutionizes on-
of any process and structure. There were no chat tracks or best prac- message customers as they took predefined paths line shoppers' experiences by providing the right
tices to direct the conversations, and this "fly by the seat of your though a website. This advancement encouraged message, at just the right time during the shopping
pants" method yielded little benefit for consumers or businesses. more website visitors to engage in chat because they experiences. It is the most labor-intensive type of
were being invited to do so with personalized mes- chat, but is also clearly the most effective overall
sages. But, the medium had still not advanced far for increasing customer satisfaction and lead gen-
enough to realize its full potential, and the initial ex- eration. Today's premium live chat services also
citement over chat had died down due to less than offer targeting, behavioral intelligence and GeoIP
stellar results. Thus, causing only a small adoption tracking to increase overall business effectiveness.
rate in B-to-C operations.
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 5
Is Your Dealership Losing 2,440
Sale Opportunities Each Month?
Dealerships lose sales opportunities every day by not engaging ditionally, most of them do not want to have to stop what they're
their website visitors. In a web 2.0 world, most dealership sites still doing to write and send an email or go pick up the phone and make
offer only one-sided communication (website billboards) for visitors, a call to get answers to their questions. They expect to find what
and up to 99% of site visitors leave without submitting any contact they're looking for quickly and easily, right from where they are,
or other information. Automotive dealership websites receive an without changing mediums. Answering even simple questions on
average of 2,000 to 3,000 visitors per month. So it's very likely that your website lets you start the relationship earlier and lets you start
your dealership is losing literally thousands of sales opportunities guiding consumers through your dealership’s sales process funnel.
on your website if it is static, with no way to directly engage site As you know, a vehicle purchase is a big deal for most people, and
visitors in two-way communication. Proactive live chat is the only all vehicle shoppers have questions that you can answer and use
technology so far that allows live connection through the same to begin building relationships. This is exactly where professional
medium with customers while they shop on your dealerships web- live chat can help shoppers and your dealership.
site. People on your website have questions and a lot of them need
help. Are you prepared to help them? Your Competition Isn’t Just Local
Automotive Dealers Anymore
Online, shoppers want instant gratification. They don't want to
have to wait or look too hard to find the information they seek. Ad- Another important concept to realize is that consumers do not
differentiate between industries in their online retail experiences.
They compare their experiences on your dealership website with
the experiences they have at other sites. So the website experience
you provide them is being compared to the likes of Disney, Google,
Amazon and Overstock, just to mention a few. If they cannot easily
find and navigate your site, receiving the same high level of service
they can get on these other sites, they will simply surf to another
dealership’s website looking for the features that they are accus-
tomed to online. Benchmarking your site with only your direct com-
petitors is not wise because consumers are comparing you to their
global experiences, rather than industry-specific online interactions.
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 6
Is Shopping for a Car Easy on Your
Website? In the Eyes of Consumers,
Your Website is Your Dealership.
Dealer websites are virtual representations of your physical dealer- 2,000 and 3,000 visitors per month. Of these visitors, an average
ship. Make no mistake about it; consumers now see your website of one to three percent submit leads. This means that a dealership
as your dealership. And yet, here is what happens in a typical sce- with 2,500 site visitors receives roughly 50 leads per month from
nario: A website visitor enters the site, clicks a few links and leaves their website. According to NADA, 15% of these convert into ve-
the site within minutes without taking any action. hicle sales, meaning the average dealership is just
It is highly unlikely that a shopper would enter the over eight sales per month from website leads.
physical showroom, look around and not be
In addition, with the average vehicle sale gross of
greeted. But, it happens in your virtual showroom
$2,000, the average dealership earns $16,000 per
every day. Five years ago, it was okay for dealers
month, or $192,000 per year from leads generated
to merely have a website. Just being found on the
through their own website. But what happened to the
web was an advantage. As the Internet has
roughly 2,440 monthly website visitors that did not
evolved, consumers’ expectations have evolved.
submit a lead or initiate further contact with your deal-
And now, they increasingly expect live, instant
ership? They are all lost sales opportunities with
service and the ability to get additional information
would-be prospects that have the highest closing
without changing the medium. According to Paul
ratio of all of your lead sources. These anonymous
Sloan of Business 2.0, "For all the advantages that
site visitors represent money left on the table, so to
come with selling on the web, one disadvantage
speak. Increasing your site’s visitor-to-lead ratio by
has constrained online merchants: They haven't
50%, 75%,100% or more can potentially double the
been able to approach customers as they're shop-
gross earned from your website lead sales. The av-
ping and pitch them on the spot." Used properly,
erage $192,000 per year could easily become
live chat enables this interaction for your dealership.
$384,000, with minimal additional investment. Would you know-
Statistically, automotive shoppers visit dealership websites to get ingly leave an additional quarter of a million dollars in gross sitting
a better understanding of available inventory and pricing informa- on the table? The difficulty many dealers have had in the past was
tion, and also to find the store with which they want to do business. the inability to cost effectively increase website leads without
This is generally the consumer's first introduction to a dealership spending more money at the top of the sales funnel driving more
and how they treat their customers. Therefore, it is crucial to start traffic to your website. Chat acts as a net for your dealership’s
building the relationship with your customers when they first visit website, collecting more leads as consumers pass through your ex-
your website. The average dealership website receives between isting website.
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 7
Where Did all the Showroom
Traffic Go? It’s Now Online.
In the earlier days of the Internet, people who visited websites for
research and shopping tended to have different characteristics than
people who visited the showroom to research and shop for vehi-
cles. Today, however, with up to 80% of automotive consumers
conducting at least part of vehicle shopping online according to a
recent Cobalt study, virtual and physical visitors are the same peo-
ple. Live chat lets you “Meet & Greet” your customers on your web-
site in a way that was not possible in the past. Offering better
service on your website yields not only an increase in sales, but
also a boost in customer service and satisfaction. It really is just
that simple. When someone walks into your showroom, you im-
mediately acknowledge them and let them know you are there to
help. They may say they don't need any help, but you let them Live Chat Accelerates Leads and Sales for
know you're available, and they typically appreciate being recog- Dealerships Across the Nation
nized. Providing the same level of service on your website will gen-
Technological advances, and more than a decade's worth of trial
erate the same results.
and research, allow a new class of live chat service for dealership
Many dealers who tried early versions of live chat received little or websites. In addition, shoppers are not only more accustomed to
no results. This was the result of a multitude of reasons. In the engaging in chat, many are beginning to expect the option. Deal-
past, customers didn’t know how to use chat, and neither did the erships can better serve and capitalize on previously anonymous
businesses that were trying to use it to sell. The problem was that website visitors by engaging them in proactive two-way communi-
most earlier versions failed to address the key components needed cation while prospects are on the dealerships’ websites. Used
for successful live chat: planning, implementation, and ongoing properly, chat has the power to provide instant gratification to site
management and analysis. Today, however, automotive retail web- visitors by answering their questions and helping them with any is-
sites can reap the benefits of over ten years of live chat trial and re- sues, and it creates a great first experience for the prospect with
search. A more scientific approach is now possible to maximize your dealership. According to a recent CNNMoney.com article, "…
the benefits of live chat to increase customer satisfaction and sales. [chat] continues to evolve. Now some savvy website operators are
Live chat has the power to turn anonymous website visitors into finding that, when used tactfully, it can be a powerful way to boost
highly qualified leads, complete with contact information, trade-in sales - not just as a passive customer-service tool but as a way to
data and extended consumer information to set the stage for a bet- engage customers, in the manner of a showroom salesperson."
ter sales process when the customer finally walks into the dealer-
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 8
Ultimately, successful live chat means that site visitors benefit from hav- In addition to generating more revenue for dealerships, today's live
ing the feature of chat. They have a better experience at the website chat can also save dealerships money. The average live-chat ses-
than they would have without the feature. In the end, this generates sion costs about $4, compared to the $10 or more for the average
more leads and sales. Research confirms that today's premier versions customer service phone call, according to Forrester Research.
are capable of this. Earthlink found that 15% of shoppers who interact Dealers who can convert would-be phone calls into chats can save
with chat ultimately buy services during their session. Furthermore, ac- an average of $6 per conversation, a 60% decrease in cost. So, in
cording to phplivesupport.com research, site visitors who use live chat addition to increasing sales, chat can also help the dealership re-
are 20% more likely to buy than shoppers who do not chat. Even with duce costs. Also note, a well equipped chat staff should capture
varying estimates, properly deployed and managed live chat can dra- information on at least 85% of the visitors who chat. Compare that
matically increase leads and sales. Apple, Home Depot and Disney are to what your salespeople capture on phone ups and you can see
just a few of the major corporations that use live chat to successfully that chat allows your dealership to capture more prospect informa-
engage website visitors on the retail Internet space. tion for better follow up, all at a lower cost.
A key reason for the increase in leads and sales from visitors who en- For websites that best utilize chat, InternetRetailer.com estimates
gage in chat is that smart dealers are using skilled chat agents that can that 15% of web visitors accept proactive invitations to chat. Note
capture detailed information about the shoppers interests. Another that statistic was for "proactive invitations." Sites that merely have
success factor is the favorable first impression the dealership receives a "click to chat" button yield far lower engagement rates. Proactive
from visitors who are proactively asked to chat at moments when they live chat lets shoppers know that help is available to them right
are most likely to have questions or need help. Visitors who receive there, on the dealership website, just as it is at physical dealership.
fast, helpful answers to questions stay longer, buy more products and
have more confidence in the dealership. It is an incredibly cost effective
method to begin building trust and a solid customer relationship with Use Live Chat to Engage Your
Today's live chat can also provide reporting to help you better under- Here are some Ideas to Increase Customer
stand your consumers, including: Satisfaction and Sales
• Referring URL • Offer an Exclusive Internet Offer
• Visitor’s hosting domain name • Co-browse with Visitors
• Geographic location • Answer Questions
• Help with Inventory Searches
• Entrance and exit point for the website
• Provide Vehicle Specials and Pricing
• Pages viewed during each visit
• Provide Hours of Operation
• Keywords used by prospects to reach the dealership website
• Engage Site Visitors
• Previous visit dates and chat conversations
• Build Consumer Rapport that Leads to a Relationship
Further, the use of multiple languages for chat is also now available • Help Schedule a Service Appointment
from the most advance chat providers. Dealerships can now engage • Help Schedule a Test Drive
visitors in their preferred language, providing a higher level of person- • Help Find that Special Part
alization and convenience. • Help Fill Out a Finance Form
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 9
The Anatomy of Successful Dealership
Live Chat: What Does it Look Like?
*Hi, Welcome to Ben Taylor Acura, How can I assist you?
Hello John. My name is Christian how can I help you?
I am interested in a 2008 MDX. Is Acura providing promotional financing to purchase?
Note the steps the chat agent took with the
Oh that's a great car. We have a wide variety of financing suited to all ranges of shopper. The chat engagement was proac-
customers. tive. The opening was friendly, not pushy,
John says: with an offer of assistance. The agent an-
My question is whether Acura is providing promotional financing? swered questions and supplied the re-
My brother-in-law had purchased an MDX and at that time Acura gave
1.9% financing for up to 36 months. What is Acura providing currently? quested information, while simultaneously
getting the shopper's contact information.
I can look into that immediately sir. Do you have an email I can forward the By the end of the short chat the dealership
information to? now had the full name, email address,
John says: phone number, vehicles of interest and fi-
yes, it is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also e-mail pricing on a base mdx and
mdx with technology package. Add as a separate line item sport running boards nancing information, all for an average of $4
and all weather mats. Thank you. per chat. The dealership has begun build-
Christian says: ing a relationship with the shopper, and now
And your full name sir? We like to be as professional as possible when dealing has contact information and knows what
with prospective clients.
they are interested in. Without the live chat,
John Sellers this visitor would most likely show up only
in generic web traffic stats and not as a
Fantastic, Mr. Sellers. If you'd like to hasten the process, I can have a sales highly qualified lead.
representative contact you very soon via telephone. Is there a number we can
best reach you at, sir?
But just so I am clear I purchasing the car on behalf of a client. I can be reached
at 327-376-1383. Thank you.
That's great sir. Well I'll send this to one of floor associates immediately.
Have a wonderful day and I'll be sure they contact you very soon regarding
the 2008 MDX.
*Actual live chat transcript, with names changed for anonymity.
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 10
Hi, Welcome to Timothy Halpert BMW, How can I assist you? Four Step Conversion
Hello Terry. My name is Chris how can I help you?
1 Establish Rapport
questions about leasing.
2 Steer the Conversation
Sure! How can I help? 3 Give Options
I hear leasing is terrible cause you have mileage limits. 4 Provide Information
Well, that would certainly depend on how much you
drive, & whether or not the limit affects you.
Terry says: Terry says:
here in Miami we drive everywhere. 2000 'Mercedes c230
Terry says: Chris says:
can limits be adjusted? Beauty, I bet!
Chris says: Terry says:
Sure, if you're concerned about going over the limit. eh, its seen better days
That is something to consider. Chris says:
Chris says: Terry, I want to give you the most info on this possible. I
Well, there would probably be a fee for going over the limit. could have my manager email you some general info on
leases, if you like. What's the best email to reach you on?
That is, your lease would include a certain number of miles, & Terry says:
if you exceeded, you'd be charged extra. Probably per mile. email@example.com
Chris says: Chris says:
But that's something you would really need to examine before. Thanks! Did you want to leave a number, in case you need
There's plenty of wiggle room in working out leases. Terry says:
that's ok. not yet w/ the #. thanks for your time Chris.
so the set miles cannot be adjusted, say to 15k rather than 10k? Chris says:
You're welcome, Terry! Could I have your last name
Terry says: before you go?
10k is not a lot.
Chris says: Mulally.
Again, it's possible, it would just depend on many factors.
Chris says: Thanks again, Terry. Consider that info sent!
If you like, I can put you into contact with our sales manager
who can give you ALL the details. Far more than I can get Chris says:
into here. Have a great day!
Terry says: Terry says:
can you trade in a car in a lease? you too.
That's certainly possible! What kind of car do you own?
Seven Reasons Live Chat Fails | 11
To Sum It Up
Used properly, chat lets your dealership offer the same level of serv-
ice provided at your physical dealership-- to an increasing number About ActivEngage
of shoppers who might not make it to the bricks and mortar loca- (www.ActivEngage.com)
tion. Live chat allows you to helpfully engage site visitors, capture
ActivEngage’s proprietary business logic was designed in
valuable information about them and move them into the sales
dealerships to meet the needs of sophisticated automotive
process funnel. Industry estimates that dealers, on average, lose
shoppers. It laser targets each website visitor with the
literally thousands of sales opportunities each month from shoppers
who abandon the dealership website without taking any action. exact right message at the exact right time to get them to
You can now reach out to those consumers and offer a higher level take action. It works because the company founders have
of service than your competitors. Shoppers will reward your online over 30 years of retail automotive and technology experi-
and interactive assistance with loyalty and sales. Dealers can easily ence, giving ActivEngage a true 360° understanding of the
double their Internet leads and sales using professional, proactive needs of automotive shoppers. Partnering with ActivEn-
live chat. In addition to increasing revenue, chat can save the deal- gage increases lead generation and offsets the increasing
ership money by offering a more cost effective alternative to ex- marketing costs associated with the sale of new and pre-
pensive phone calls. To successfully leverage this potential best owned automobiles. ActivEngage offers three tiers of serv-
practices must be understood and followed, and the needed re- ice to ensure that all website visitors' experiences are
sources must be dedicated to effectively maximize chat opportu-
enjoyable and uncomplicated, thereby increasing the value
nities and results. Merely adding the technology to the website will
of dealership websites through better lead generation.
not produce results. And finally, chat agents need to be dedicated
and skilled in medium’s unique characteristics. Contact ActivEngage to learn more about live chat
and your dealership!
The next eBook that discusses what to look for in live chat service
providers to make sure your dealership reaps maximum benefits.
Phone: (800) 775-7358 • Email: firstname.lastname@example.org