Booth Talk at NADA 2024 with Jason Harris and Eric Schlesinger

Booth Chat with Jason Harris and Eric Schlesinger at NADA 2024

Written By Eric Schlesinger

Jason Harris:   Hey, hey, hey, what's going on podcast nation? It is Jason Harris here. We're an NADA 2024 and I am at the ActivEngage booth with Eric Schlesinger . Eric, what's going on, man? How you doing?

Eric Schlesinger:  You know, fist bumping once again, it's all good. I mean, that's even the other common thread. We get to shake people's hands again.

Jason Harris:  I know, right?

Eric Schlesinger:  You know, it is a little weird though, when everybody's like still sanitizing everything,

Jason Harris:  but it's, still out there. It's out there, man.

Eric Schlesinger:  Think back four years ago where we were right now.

Jason Harris:  Yes. Lot has changed. A lot has changed. And that's why I'm so glad I get the chance to come over here. Hang with you. Always been a big fan of ActivEngage. I was an early, early adopter with live chat.

Eric Schlesinger:  I remember.

Jason Harris:  When it first came out, I mean, I thought it was the golden ticket, dude.

You know, I was just like, 'yes, my team's going to have this really meaningful conversation and then that they're going to come in and it's going to be, instead of a four hour process, it's going to be a one hour process.' and it's just, It's been a decade. I'm still waiting. I'm still waiting. But hey, we're getting closer.

We're closer. We were talking a little bit before we started recording guys about the great reset. We're going to get into that. But let's get into this. What's new with ActiveEngage?

Eric Schlesinger:  First off, I mean, this believe it or not, is a 17 year old company. This is the first time that we've ever exhibited at NADA.

See, it's the same exact reaction that I'm getting every place else. You know, is the fact that everyone's like, 'no, no, no. You guys were there last year. In fact, I remember seeing you, I was in your booth.' I'm like, 'no, you weren't.' 'No, no, you were there. I know you like.' You know, so unfortunately we're paying our dues a little bit.

You know, we're over in the North hall. We're like in a little corner, but it's honestly, it's been, it's been an incredible show so far. Like we started talking about right before the show as well. I mean, just the, like the reset that we've seen for us, there's so much new and so much that hasn't changed.

And a lot of that is the fact that we, we still very much believe in the fact that people buy cars from people, people buy cars from people they like.

Jason Harris:  Yes.

Eric Schlesinger:  And, you know, so we really still believe in the aspect of real humans having those conversations with the customers and not simply sitting there going, 'Oh, we can do this with, you know, AI or something else.'

It has a place.

Jason Harris:  Of course.

Eric Schlesinger:  It absolutely has a place. And we're absolutely sitting here and innovating with it and using it to be able to do certain things on the backside, but not necessarily going to be that consumer facing side of things.

Jason Harris:  Well to enhance the person, right? For, Many, many decades, we have talked about how our industry is a people business, and I'm with you .

I've seen some of you guys as competitors decided to kind of go a very different route and try to remove The person out of that communication and I'm always going to buy a car from a person. I am not buying one from a robot.

Eric Schlesinger:  Right. And that's it. And you know the purchase of a vehicle in this country. It's a single largest purchase that we as Americans happen to make, there's more emotion that's involved with it than any other purchase buying a house, believe it or not, it has more logic, like, how many bedrooms does it have? Is it in the right school district?

What are the taxes? And like your car, I think when I learned to sell cars as an example, same with you. One of the very first things I learned was walk those customers past as many vehicles as you possibly can to take them to that silver LX Accord that they think they're interested in. Why? Because you're going to pass the red EXV6 Accord and they're going to be like, Dude, Jason, that one.

That's the one. That's me.

Jason Harris:  We must've worked at the same dealership.

Eric Schlesinger:  So, you know, for us as well, I mean, we're always striving to figure out better ways to create communications to really be able to enhance how the consumer themselves has the ability to communicate. So our big thing, right now and during the show that we've announced, we've released as one, we just released a brand new app, which is something that's new and different from us, to allow the dealer to be able to engage in those conversations where they want to.

Like we've talked about as well in the past, you know, it's still the aspect that chat conversations are about the hardest to have. This (verbal) is the easiest, obviously you can hear, you know, tonal body language. You can understand what the customer's thinking, but when you're sitting there trying to type. Not as easy. And so, but we do have this app now that's going to allow the dealer, if they want to get into that process, to be able to sit there and to communicate. Our big announcement that we are, we're basically announcing at the show is what we call Flip2txt.

Jason Harris:  Yeah I heard about this.

Eric Schlesinger:  So this is really cool. This is to me, it's, it is so unbelievably cool.

And in many ways, it, the fact that it hasn't necessarily been embraced and figured out yet because other big companies are already doing this. But imagine you call the dealership. 23 percent of phone calls that go into a dealership. This is crazy. Go unanswered.

Jason Harris:  No, trust me, as a dealer principal, it was one of the biggest things I had to deal with.

Eric Schlesinger:  Right.

Jason Harris:  You know, because it's volume, you know, it's just like, I can't increase my volume of people just because those two or one and a half hours a day .

Eric Schlesinger:  That's exactly it.

Jason Harris:  Where the volume's going through the roof,

Eric Schlesinger:  Right.

Jason Harris:  And so, you know, Flip2txt now gives you the option as a consumer, that as soon as you hit the dealerships phone system, the IVR, 'hey, press two if you'd like to have this conversation converted into a texting conversation.'

And all of a sudden now, here you are, you're able to have that conversation with our dedicated staff that are automotive specific, you know, they're all here in North America and they can do things such as schedule their service appointment. They can find out about a car, they can find out the status of their car without having to do anything or add any people or any technology at the dealership level of things.

Well, and I think the coolest part of it is, is that communication experience doesn't end online when I turn my desktop off. Right. I mean, I think that's one of the coolest parts, you know, so it's like I start that conversation and, and maybe I get my, I get my answer, right.

You know, but three hours later, 'Oh crap. I forgot to ask this.'

Eric Schlesinger:  That's exactly it.

Jason Harris:  Insanely easy for me just to go back to that and just say, 'Oh, by the way, can you guys do this, this, and this?'

Eric Schlesinger:  Right. There's a, there's a curiosity question that I have just knowing that for instance, millennials. Would much rather communicate via text messaging and other contextual formats versus, you know, a telephone conversation. So I can't even imagine right now how many millennials are sitting there and texting a dealership's localized telephone number and they don't ever get an answer. And the millennials sitting there going 'well, I don't understand what I just texted the phone number. Why can't I text it?'

Jason Harris:  Yes. Well, no, I didn't find it for myself though. You know, I mean, it's just like, you know, I get to work. It is literally start at seven, go, go, go, go, go, go through five. Right. I mean, like, you know, what's funny, I'm actually trying to think, when was the last time I actually answered my phone?

No, no, no, no, seriously, though, because anytime anybody calls, it's the most inconvenient time humanly possible, right? So it's like, if they send me a text, then it's like, okay, I can respond to it quickly. I can send an audio recording. If I got to, I'll send a video, you know, it's just like, that's, I think the coolest thing that you guys done is that you met the customer where the customer wants to be met.

Eric Schlesinger:  That's exactly it. And this is one of the things that, you know, listen, as growing up in dealerships and everything else, it's one of the things that we as dealers have always tried to do was we've always tried to tell the customer how it is that they need to communicate with us versus being there and allowing the consumer the way in which it is that they want to communicate with us.

And the more consumer centric we can be, the more consumer. Uh, facing the better the experience, the better the overall aspect of that customer and how they're going to be able to sit there and do this, and they're going to be more likely to transact with you, to do business with you and refer business to you as well.

Jason Harris:  Well, it's because I feel like I now have that more immediate connection. The thing I'm also thinking is what the overall experience is. You know, we've been talking about the customer experience, right? I don't know, probably as long as we've ever been in the business.

And I'm sure people were talking about it even before then, right? But here's the thing I find super interesting about experience. It's never one big thing.

Eric Schlesinger:  No.

Jason Harris:  Because if it is, we'll fix it. Right. If there's a leaky roof somewhere and it smells weird, we're, we're going to fix that. Right. But you know, when you really look at the customers, you look at the comments and reviews they put back there, it's the little things.

Eric Schlesinger:  Always been the little things.

Jason Harris:  Always little things. And so I love this idea because as a customer, I'm just like, 'I feel like I don't have to go through three or four hoops to talk to someone at my dealership. I can just go back.' they're there. Like there's an immediate connection.

Eric Schlesinger:  And that's the other great part is that the one biggest problem that for instance, dealers don't think of or recognize.

First off, 45 percent of the phone calls that are coming into the dealership are initiated off of their website.

Jason Harris:  Yeah.

Eric Schlesinger:  Now, does the website ever close?

Jason Harris:  No.

Eric Schlesinger:  But your dealership does.

Jason Harris:  Yes.

Eric Schlesinger:  And the other thing that we've also experienced is that through COVID and through everything that's taking place, most dealerships that I know have shortened their hours as well.

They're no longer open nine to nine Monday through Friday for sales. Many of them are now closing at seven o'clock every single night. And so they're not as present as well. So now we're really trying to make these different connections even when the dealers themselves aren't available, but we are.

Jason Harris:  Look, it's kind of like , 'all calls get answered no matter what' kind of a scenario. Right. And I love this, right. I was always fascinated as a deal myself, just when I'd get in the morning and how... '37 voicemails? Like who's calling the dealership at 2am in the morning? like, what do you people do?' but you know what though, I think this is a beautiful opportunity. I don't think anybody expects to get a reply back at 2am in the morning, but you know, at least what it is is like, I got my thought out. I asked my question, right? And you know, when business kicks back in and someone can respond to it, how wonderful and awesome is that?

Eric Schlesinger:  That's exactly it.

And you know, it's, it's just for that aspect of things. We see a continuous transition of allowing customers to be, like I said earlier, communicate the way they want to communicate and allow the dealer to be able to then have all that information. The other great part about Flip2txt is now you have the ability to look at all this data.

Because the entire conversation is now contextual. So now that entire conversation, because we have the phone number, and we're going to send it as a lead into the CRM, so it all resides there now, and so for every time the customer's now engaging, in this particular way, now you, the dealer, have all this data as well.

And you can start to see those nuances that we were already talking about, like that little thing. Why was the coffee two hours old? I mean, at least it's two hours old. It's like, remember the old pot? Remember the Sanke?

Jason Harris:  The day old pot? Yeah.

Eric Schlesinger:  So I mean, it gives the customer also the ability to be a little bit more free in regards to what it is that they're saying.

Because they might say things, and they do, in a contextual format that they wouldn't necessarily say to someone.

Jason Harris:  No, and that's what I think I love about text messages, right? You don't have to really go deep into it. I find, you know, they're very direct responses. But then the other thing I was listening to as we're kind of talking about this, let's talk a little bit about the compliancy.

Because maybe they get it. This is me putting my dealer principal hat on and then I'm listening to you. And I'm like, 'wait a second here.' By product of this is going to be a substantially larger amount of compliant text numbers in my CRM, which is the holy grail of communication.

Eric Schlesinger:  Yeah,

Jason Harris:  That is cool.

Eric Schlesinger:  And it is. We figured out pretty much before anybody else because like, for instance, when the FTC was launching the whole, A2P 10DLC registration of text enabled phone numbers and having to do campaigns and everything. They had an initial rollout that was supposed to take place a year before they did it.

Well, We went through the steps to become compliant a year in advance. We didn't know that we found it out later on that we didn't have to have it done in that amount of time. But yeah, it's getting those opt ins. It's when that customer takes that action and they're actually pressing that number to engage into a conversation that they're, they are giving up, that right, and that freedom. And now the dealer has the ability, hopefully they don't abuse it, but they do now have the ability to be able to sit there and to use that in from a marketing side, sales side, service side of things, you know, being able to talk about whatever it is that they want.

Again, hopefully they don't abuse it and start getting unsubscribes. But yeah, we're going to be able to help the dealership really clean up their database as well and have so much better ways to communicate.

Jason Harris:  That is so huge. Eric, I know it's telling of our time. Hey, everyone out there watching, listening right now, if you're looking to increase and enhance your first impression, all right, make sure that you're compliant and really bring an amazing experience.

You guys have to check this out. ActivEngage. Eric, man, thank you so much, dude.

Eric Schlesinger:  Jason, you too. Thank you.

Jason Harris:  That was a lot of fun. Appreciate it. Thanks guys.