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The Benefits of AI: Perfecting the Chat-to-Sales Hand-off

Robot hand fist bumping a human hand in a collaborative way
Article Highlights:

  • Online chat functions help prioritize high-value leads.
  • Focus on high-priority leads and tasks by automating your to-do list.

Over the last year, artificial intelligence (AI) has made headlines; and although it’s not necessarily new, it’s worth revisiting every so often to really consider how we can use evolving tech to our advantage. Two significant areas where you could leverage AI are the chat function on your website and automating tasks within your dealership to help your team focus on providing exceptional customer care and cultivate long-term relationships with buyers. These kinds of tools help lessen the burden of keeping up with every online chat inquiry or finding time to complete repetitive tasks, which buys you and your people time to handle the tasks that require a human touch.

Website Chat as a Lead Generation and Prioritization Tool

A chat function on your website can help begin conversations with customers for you to identify what stage the customer is in. This can save you valuable time from following up on vague leads or trying to manage all chats in real time. If one customer is “just looking,” chat can suggest various models and answer basic questions until the customer is ready to proceed. Meanwhile, if another customer uses chat to set a test drive appointment, you can use the chat history to identify the vehicles they discussed, any features they highlighted, and refresh your knowledge of the customer’s profile.

While you may not have been the one to have the initial conversation because your system gathered the information, set up the appointment, and stored the conversation, you’re able to get up to speed quickly and sell!

Not only do you benefit from saving time — using a chat function provides consistent and timely answers. Once the information is in the system, it is accessible to anyone who works with the customer throughout the buying journey. Turning online conversations into in-store appointments — automatically added to your daily task list — helps automate processes and frees your team to assist other customers and prioritize leads.

Automating Daily Tasks to Increase Your Bottom Line

Even though the information is stored and available, it means nothing if you don’t act on it quickly! Chat teed up the opportunity so your sales team can close the deal.

The average salesperson sells 20 vehicles a month. The number of prospects at the start of the month is likely much higher, and will fluctuate every day as new leads roll in. As those prospects come across your desk, how many are basic inquiries from customers about inventory or costs, but aren’t ready to buy? On the other hand, how many are ready to buy this week, or even today?

If you’re manually juggling all of these moving leads without a way to sort the high-priority buyers from the rest, you have to personally decide which leads to follow up with first, what information to gather or provide, when to create follow-up plans for later on, and so much more, just to try and close as many leads as possible. And each day, you get more prospects to add into the rotation.

What about the time you spend answering questions already on the website, setting up appointments, or engaging a customer doing research with no intent to buy right now? Over the course of a month, you could be losing valuable time on tasks chat can handle for you, instead of focusing on closing more high-quality leads. What does closing even one more deal a month per salesperson do for your dealership’s bottom line, toward hitting OEM incentive goals, or earning commission?

The old way to use chat, or the best way?

Take a moment and think about which of these situations your dealership would experience.

Situation one: You walk into the dealership and get ready for the day. Early on, a customer walks in.

You greet the customer and ask what brings her in today. She explains she spent several hours on your website last night and interacted with your chat for guidance. It wasn’t able to answer all of her questions, so she wants to continue the conversation with you today. She is very excited until you ask her to repeat the conversation she had with the chat and she exasperatedly repeats it.

To rediscover some of the models and features she was considering, you walk the lot looking at options before sitting down to discuss price. By the time you agree on a deal, she’s spent hours at the dealership and is prepared to spend another hour or more with F&I.

Unfortunately, when you get to F&I, they are busy with other customers. She leaves, frustrated because she can’t waste any more time. This interaction cost your customer and your team several hours and it didn’t even end with a sale.

Situation two: You walk into the dealership, log in, and a notification pops up with an appointment at 8:30 with Stephanie Smith. It was added last night by your chat tool. You select her name to check out her profile. You see she has no previous history with the dealership, so you read through the conversation to get up to speed. She’s looking for something sporty, in red.

The online chat shared a few options with her, then suggested making an appointment and allowed Jane to choose from upcoming openings. While online, she completed a credit application, so you can see what she qualifies for. You have plenty of information to start this appointment on the right foot. Plus, your task list automatically accounts for these higher-priority tasks and moves other follow-up activities.

When Jane comes in for her appointment you greet her and engage in small talk as you walk her straight to the vehicle she was interested in, but let her know other similar options are available if she wants something different. During test drives, you’re able to narrow down her favorite and pencil the deal. Knowing Jane has already completed the credit application, you let her know the F&I process will begin as soon as you return to the store. Within the next hour, Jane leaves happy in her new vehicle.

Now, which situation would you prefer to be in?

The Secret to Using AI to Your Advantage

The secret to working with chat on your website and the automation of daily tasks is using the information gathered from customers to elevate the human connection throughout the sales cycle, and allowing those automated processes to free up time you can use for other important tasks.

It’s not about someone else doing the work for you, it’s about using the capabilities in a smart way to optimize your time and energy to provide the best customer experience possible; utilizing these systems in your dealership to improve your quality of work. If you can be more efficient, you can take on more business (or better business), provide better experiences, and grow your business and reputation.

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Brand Marketing, Vice President, Reynolds and Reynolds

Greg Uland is the vice president of brand marketing for Reynolds and Reynolds. He is responsible for customer communications and understanding and defining Reynolds unique position in the automotive retailing market. During his career with Reynolds, he has established a background in fixed operations, sales, and dealership marketing.

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