Customer service has been an important aspect of business for, well, forever!
Communicating with customers on a human level is a foundational part of a good sales nurturing process. Striking up a friendship, and having organic conversations in a familiar way, establishes trust and comfort in a way that static and straightforward selling just cannot accomplish.
Just take it from this article by the Forbes Business Development Council titled ‘What Makes a Good Salesperson’: “Good salespeople shouldn't treat client calls as a chance to pontificate; they should treat them as equitable conversations. You should still lead the call, but you need to give the customer time to respond.”
A successful sales approach basically requires the above-mentioned equitable conversations.
That brings us to the concept of conversational commerce. What is conversational commerce, and why is it so important to the automotive industry?
Conversational Commerce; What is It?
Coined by Christopher Messina (inventor of the hashtag as we know it, open-source advocate, and former Developer Experience Lead at Uber), conversational commerce refers to the marriage of messaging and the purchase process.
Here in the age of the internet, Amazon, and click-point-shop, the prospects of messaging are very attractive to the modern consumer. The modern customer is a busy person, and us being in the midst of an unprecedented situation has many wary of physical store visits. Couple that with either being phone-shy or maybe having bad experiences with botched phone exchanges when it comes to customer service, and a text-based way to resolve a situation can be one of the most frictionless, stress-free avenues with businesses.
Conversational Commerce in Car Sales
Those expectations for communication and customer service have undoubtedly leaked into the automotive sales sector.
Just as the internet forever changed researching a car purchase for a consumer and marketing for dealers, the messaging you make available for consumers can have an exponential impact on your results. Customer satisfaction scores (CSI), gross, service revenue, and loyalty are impacted by the initial interaction online.
ActivEngage was the first fully managed automotive-only messaging service. In 2007, in the heart of a recession, we understood how to allay the fears and anxiety of shoppers who probably did not have the best credit. As the market shifts and customers have different focuses, so does the focus of our conversations.
At one time, sharing information about technical aspects and features was most important. Today, we see consumers are looking to relate to real people. Perhaps the pandemic has driven this desire to have someone acknowledge what you are saying and respond with a pertinent answer. They are less concerned with all the technicalities. They do want to understand the service you can provide pre-dealership visits, and what the process is moving forward.
This is where we have always structured our conversations as "conversational commerce.”
Long before any digital retailing tools were available, we trained our team to build trust that encourages action. That action is whatever the next step is in the buying process. We know that a lead, in and of itself, is not the goal for our dealer clients. It is the commerce aspect of the conversation that is the goal. How do we build trust on behalf of our client so this shopper feels at ease to move forward to a sale?
From 2007 continuing today, we analyze the conversational trends of consumers and adjust our training, coaching and flow to ensure our conversations result in commerce.
3 Consequences of Poor Conversational Commerce
ActivEngage recently won an AWA Award for excellence in conversational commerce. We’re so honored to receive the award and, at the risk of sounding self-righteous: we’re not surprised! With our excellent standing in the realm of conversational commerce, we have also seen what happens when a messaging platform doesn’t focus on the conversation when utilizing the medium.
Here are three pitfalls of cutting corners when it comes to conversational commerce:
As a car dealer, you can’t sell a car if you can’t communicate, right? A transaction is a relationship, and like any relationship, communication is key. Messaging platforms that employ a bot, A.I., or even live agents that aren’t trained to speak dynamically all run the risk of uneven communication.
Customers message into a website to ask questions, alleviate concerns, and begin a potential relationship with your dealership. If a bot’s responses aren’t congruent with your potential customers' needs, friction will be created before your sales team can even have the chance to further assist them.
Where miscommunication happens, soon follows mistrust. If your potential customer can see that your first point of contact isn’t reliable, how would they trust your team to take them to the end of what is likely the second biggest purchase they’ll ever make?
There is a living person on the other end of your website, seeking advocacy and guidance for a huge life decision. A bot and/or A.I. cannot resonate with their very real needs. A customer cannot trust an entity that has not experienced what they are experiencing. Similarly to any relationship, friendship, etc.: trust is necessary.
- Memorable (Not the Good Kind!) Experience
Customers certainly remember good experiences. Customers especially remember bad experiences and are keen to warn their friends, family, and the community at large about them. This goes beyond the vehicle sales process and into reputation management, but every part of the process has ripples that extend to your status in the community.
It might sound cliché, but first impressions are often everything. If the first impression of your conversational commerce experience already displays elements of miscommunication and mistrust, your potential customers’ memory of you may already be ruined, and the message can spread fast.
ActivEngage: The First People-Powered Automotive Conversational Commerce Platform
ActivEngage introduced the first fully people-powered conversational commerce approach in 2007, and we’re still the only all-human platform in the industry!
Good, equitable conversations are necessary at so many touchpoints for car dealerships. Check out these other solutions ActivEngage offers from our flexible suite of products: