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Just because car shoppers aren’t sending traditional email leads like they were five or ten years ago, it doesn’t mean they’re not sending signals that they’re ready to buy. With widespread access to vehicle and dealership information, it’s now more likely a consumer will view a map of the dealership, visit your website or look at directions before visiting the showroom than send a formal email. Speed matters, and when car shoppers want information, they turn to the communication channels that fulfill that need: phone, text and chat. While many dealers have incorporated chat into their sales and marketing strategies, it’s easy to miss out on the benefits of it if it’s not managed properly.

A great way to get started is by activating chat on your own website, as well as Cars.com and other sites that provide the ability. Once you’re up and running, remember these three things:

Time Online

The most important metric for tracking the success of chat is the percentage of time your store is showing up online. Simply put, if you’re not online, there’s no way customers can contact you, even if they want to. Strong dealerships should try to be online a minimum of 50% of the time. To manage this, make sure you’re asking your Cars.com representative and/or external chat provider for regular reports to hold your team accountable.

Chat Engagement Rate

Once you’re showing up online, look at the number of chat messages your dealership receives versus the number of chats answered. If you’re missing chats, you’re missing direct opportunities to engage with customers. Akin to letting phone calls to your sales line go voicemail, if you miss chats, you leave customers hanging, often with a poor impression of the dealership.

Get Your Team to Go Mobile

Cars.com chat partner ContactAtOnce! offers a helpful smartphone app for both iPhone and Android devices. Once you’re set up with a chat account for your dealership, work with your Cars.com representative to provision additional team members so they can be available to respond to chats. Prompt them to download the smartphone app to increase time online. Once installed, multiple members of dealership’s staff can answer chats whether they’re in the showroom, making a delivery or on the road, which will increase your store’s chat engagement rate and conversion.