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CAR CZAR CONSULTING

August 29, 2009 - 7:53 pm
CAR CZAR CONSULTING
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Car Czar Consulting

CarChat24 Raises The “Ante” In Retail Dealer Chat To Include True 24/7 Chat Service

Car Czar Consulting says: We thought it was time we do a “deeper dive” into the world of dealer chat services.

We were pleasantly surprised at the number and kind of services available to dealers today, as well as the price elasticity that makes a reasoned study challenging but rewarding.

Our journey starts below.

DEFINITION

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversation

CHAT: A conversation is communication between multiple people. It is a social skill that is not difficult for most individuals. Conversations are the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other. A speech, on the other hand, is an oral presentation by one person directed at a group.

For a successful conversation, the partners must achieve a workable balance of contributions. A successful conversation includes mutually interesting connections between the speakers or things that the speakers know. For this to happen, those engaging in conversation must find a topic on which they both can relate to in some sense. Those engaging in conversation naturally tend to relate the other speaker’s statements to themselves. They may insert aspects of their lives into their replies, to relate to the other person’s opinions or points of conversation.

Conversation analysis is a branch of sociology which studies the structure and organization of human interaction, with a more specific focus on conversational interaction.

The field is almost endless, so we narrowed it down to five: https://www.carchat24.com, and some of the “oldest” live chat support providers: and http://www.outsell.com/site/.Two other services that would be important to review are: http://www.activengage.com/ and http://www.contactatonce.com/.

PRICE POINT

SiteLive’s Approach: Minimal Chat Activity to provide a live quote form-type service that causes them to utilize as little resources as possible. (Offers Free Trial; Requires a long term contract)

SiteLive is a discount live chat support provider, and if someone is just looking at it as an expense it may seem like the best value. However, as in most things, “you get what you pay for.” So, we were not surprised to learn they apparently do not offer 24/7 coverage, nor do they appear to use proactive greetings often, and, finally, they do not appear to provide actual “support”.

Thus, we were struck that employing Site Live would be like having a part-time live quote form on your site.

Using Site Live, or any other provider that doesn’t actually provide “support,” can have a negative effect when site visitors’ expectation of support are not being met.(Recall our definition of “chat” above)

Thus, the leads a dealer receives may, in turn, be minimal or under-mined in a sense (no pun intended), and we were struck again how these “savings” may be at the expense of potentially upsetting site visitor’s that just wanted basic information, or a simple question(s) answered; (again, the whole purpose of a prospect’s notion of the word: “chat.”)

MULTIPLE CHOICES

OutSell’s Approach: Minimal Chat Activity to provide a live quote form-type service that causes them to use as little resources as possible. (No Free Trial; Requires a long term contract)

OutSell does a good job of getting visitors attention via gif-icons that employ motion – they move, shake, etc. They use proactive greetings depending on the type of support plan you ultimately contract with them to provide.

They appear to do a better job of interacting with clients than some price-point services, but, arguably, do not provide the higher level of support available through some others (see below).

They are more focused on some of their other (BDC-type) solutions, at the apparent expense of their core business (i.e. Live Chat).

They do not appear to provide 24/7 coverage, use proactive greeting 100% of the time, and like most of the service providers out there, are somewhat weaker when it comes to providing complete support.

That said, they offer different plans; the one that they appear to contract with dealers most often is flat fee based, with (key) the lack of apparent incentives to increase chat volume, or generate more leads.

They appear to be heading more towards the type business model Site Live (see above) uses, once again, that does not use the proactive chat 100% to increase chat volume in order, we suppose, to lower their resources needed per account.

PREMIUM SERVICES

ActivEngage’s Approach: Maximizes Chat Activity to provide a live quote form-type service that causes better results (No Free Trial; No long term contract is required).

Summary: They offer services from $299 to $2000 per month based on the package that is selected. Their Set Up Fees are based on the package that is selected and the level of customization that the dealership requires. Again, they have no long term contract requirement. Although they appear to be one the more expensive services, with an interesting 9AM to 9PM coverage pattern, we were struck how ActivEngage appears to do a lot of things right.

They always use proactive greeting. Their site appears to be very well written, and they have done a great job marketing themselves. Limiting factors include expense, including charges for weekend monitoring, and, no 24/7 coverage.

Their coverage is better than Site Live, but, we’re told they may be “too quick” to go for customer information with their scripts, and do not provide true support. Almost all query questions are answered with a question that is intended to get information.

One area of possible concern is somewhat subjective in their use of obviously, perhaps intentionally “sexy-appearing” women icons and chat windows making it appear that you are chatting with the person in the image.

I know beautiful women are used in many advertisements, and have some benefit for click-through rates, but they could have done a much better job with their selections to be professional. For what it may be worth, it appeared as if some young guy with limited business sense picked out the pictures.

ContactAtOnce’s Approach: Sell their live chat software to as many users as possible to create monthly reoccurring income. They offer back up support to try to be competitive with true full service providers at a $5.00 per chat charge.

ContactAtOnce offers great live chat software, and has a solid product for dealers wanting to install live chat software and take the chats themselves. Their back-up service is flawed because they charge a flat fee per chat, and don’t use the proactive greeting when the dealer is offline to increase chat volume.

A flat fee per chat means there is little or no incentive for the chat service to get the lead because they get paid either way.

They also do not provide actual support, and act only as a live quote form provider. Also, it appeared to us that the charge for their software is somewhat high compared to what dealers could find if they researched other available options.

For example, the service below charges a little more than they do for their software, but includes support staff and parts and service leads 24/7, (i.e., not just the software). They also offer the software to dealers with them as a backup (just to be competitive), but don’t recommend that dealer staff take chats unless they are properly trained and dedicated to just that position as they will not get the same results on chat as they would with a phone up (for example).

Moreover, we’re struck how these communications need to be handled with a BDC type mentality, using proven scripts to capture data and set appointments (When was the last time you heard a dealer say they were able to implement phone or chat scripts and use them effectively 100% of the time?)

CarChat24’s Approach: Appeared to us to provide the best true live chat support possible – one aimed at building rapport with site visitors.

It employs BDC style scripts to extract the maximum amount of information, and sets appointments for clients to visit the dealership. We were pleasantly surprised to learn they purposely over-staff to insure they are able to handle their chat volume effectively and provide the best quality support.

Their support pricing for singe point websites for 24/7 coverage (672 hours monthly) is $295.00, or, as they pointed out, 44 cents an hour. (Note: They said they will negotiate better rates for dealers/dealer groups with multiple websites, and in some cases even include support for some sites free!) For dealers with more than 3 websites they charge $195.00 per website per month, or approximately 29 cents an hour for complete website support coverage.

Their pricing for leads and appointments is a varied lot: $10 for an email lead; $20 for a phone lead, and $25.00 for a “VIP appointment.”

Interestingly, they pointed out – for publication – that their internal metric for a dealer’s average cost per lead is $15.23, which they point out is well below what they tell us is the “going rate” for quality leads, including leads generated by the dealers own website.

Service, Parts, and Query Leads – (A Query lead is where someone mentions that they have been recently dealing with someone at the dealership) are offered FREE of charge. (Obviously, these leads also create revenue as well as future marketing opportunities for the dealer).

Other Key CarChat24 advantages include:

24/7 Live Chat Support Coverage to insure no opportunities are missed (Again, to our knowledge this is not generally offered by any of the other companies mentioned above.)

They proactively greet 100% of the site visitors, increasing chat volume and leads by over 75% from the static live chat icons placed on the site.

They provide true live support where they answer visitor queries, and help them find the dealership website content, and improve current and prospective client customer satisfaction and loyalty. (We saw where they really provide support, and don’t appear to run people around in circles trying to get info. They actually do the best they can to answer their questions straight away.)

As such, they’re the low cost per hour true support provider. (Again, we have yet to find a provider that really offers true support as defined here other than them.)

Other Cost Benefits: No set up fee, and 100% Free 30 Day Trial.(note: No long term service contracts, support is on a month-to-month basis that only requires a 30 day notice to cancel.)

We were impressed how they’ve retained a remarkable 98% of their clients.

They also offer an Exclusive Automated Honor Lead Return System, where dealers can easily return duplicate leads, and leads with bad information for instant credit. (A link is provided in every email, and CRM transcript to receive credit.)

Their instant cell phone text lead/appointment notifications allows sales personnel to respond immediately after the chat has ended.

They employ Ajax technology that allows them to see what visitors are typing before they send it. This allows them to start looking for answers before the question is sent, and provide a resulting superior customer service experience more often than not.

While no system is 100% fool- proof, theirs leaves little room to fall off track.

They use a knowledge base of over 1,000 well-crafted responses to communicate with site visitors, and proven BDC style scripts to extract info after they build rapport.

Their operators rarely have to type responses. This insures little/no typo’s, and effective professional communication, as well as the correct implementation of their proven scripts.

They draw on tens of thousands of automotive chats, and have used the knowledge they’ve gained to create a chat system exclusively for dealer websites that, we’re told, in side-by-side comparisons of same and like-sized dealers/dealer groups, produces the most leads and highest customer satisfaction.

We’ve learned how most chat service providers push for the shortest chat communication times (more work/less people). CarChat24 actually wants chats to be as long as possible in order to build rapport and improve visitor satisfaction.

They appear to manage their support operator teams just like a dealership runs an automotive sales team. Their operators pay is based on customer satisfaction, chat pick up time speed, and commission per lead/appointment generated. They train every day on product knowledge, and, we’re told, are always looking for ways to improve their service. They update their knowledge base daily with manufacture’s incentives and updated product information to insure they provide accurate data. They appear to measure everything imaginable, and constantly strive to improve their performance.

Importantly, they told us how they check the dealer’s site every day, and report any site problems to their providers to ensure the dealer’s are not losing business on their sites.

This company is owned and managed by “car guys” (and gals) that understand the business, bringing over 40 years combined experience. They explained how they are truly hands-on and active in all aspects of their business and only bring the best quality people into their company to interact with their clients and the dealers website visitors. Finally they explained how they’ve been very fortunate to have been successful in all of their automotive endeavors, and use their knowledge to improve their company daily.

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