Manage multi-channel communication with a human touch

OPE Business has turned to Shawn Puckett, director of Product Management at ARI, to provide insight on the critical role your OPE dealership’s website plays during COVID-19 shopping.

By Shawn Puckett

Are you leaving money on the table by not offering quick, hassle-free contact methods for your OPE dealership’s online customers? Today, customers expect businesses to have multiple communication channels available, both online and offline. By providing better access to your customer support, you can convert more prospects into buyers and increase your ROI. Optimize your digital communication strategy to draw in more prospects while maintaining the human touch that converts browsers into loyal customers.

Now that online browsing has replaced in-person window shopping, 45% of online users look at 7-10 websites before making a purchase. As a result, they typically communicate with multiple businesses along the course of the buying journey. While in the past, phone calls, direct mail and in-person visits presented the only options to contact a business, prospects are now accustomed to using text, direct messaging apps, social media and even video chats to inquire about products or seek customer support. In a survey of consumers who recently purchased from a dealer, 90% reported wanting multiple communication channels to connect with the dealership.

The type of available communication matters just as much as the amount. By diversifying your communication channels, you can target more of the preferred methods of communication and increase customer satisfaction. Even though consumers have embraced the internet as the primary platform for browsing and buying inventory, they still want the human touch of communicating directly with a dealer. Texting is ranked as the most preferred option, followed by messaging the dealer online through live chat or email.

Despite the high demand for virtual communication, many dealers don’t have an effective digital communication strategy in place. The Internet Lead Effectiveness Industry (ILE) Study, developed by Pied Piper, found that half of prospects who contact a dealership online wait more than 24 hours for a response. This is especially unfortunate considering that 90% of consumers identify rapid response time as a “must-have” quality for a dealer. At bare minimum, dealers should respond to online leads within a business day — ideally, though, dealers should respond to all online inquiries immediately in order to keep potential customers engaged.

The digital age enables dealers to mimic in-person response time by implementing live chat channels. Live chat is an excellent way to engage potential leads who are still in the early stages of their search and may not feel comfortable texting the dealer directly. A total of 79% of consumers appreciate the option of live chat because it offers an instantaneous response. Live chat also offers a higher ROI, as consumers who chat online with a business are 85% more likely to become customers.

When starting your multi-channel communication, incorporate as many of the popular channels as possible and monitor them closely to see which channels receive the most engagement. Listen for any feedback from online chatters about communication channels they want to see on your platform. Having a multi-channel approach doesn’t mean you will use all channels equally; the purpose is to drive more business to your dealership by meeting your online customers’ needs and providing a quick and friendly turnaround on all digital inquiries.

Shawn Puckett is director of Product Management at ARI Network Services, Inc.

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