Fostering great customer relationships 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, and an essential part of their buyer's journey. Striking up a friendly conversation, and having organic conversations with shoppers in a familiar way, is a business strategy that establishes trust and comfort in a way that static and straightforward selling and brand philosophy 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 and business strategy basically requires the above-mentioned equitable conversations.
That brings us to the concept of conversational commerce. What is conversational commerce, what are it's benefits, and why is it so important to the customer journey in car sales? Let's get started!
Conversational Commerce; Not Just for Messaging Apps
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 live chat and the shopping process.
Here at the peak of the age of digital technology, Amazon, and click-point-shop: live and personalized messaging (the very essence of conversational commerce), are very attractive to modern consumers.
The modern customer is very busy, and with us being in the midst of an unprecedented situation (I don't think I have to say what that is), it has many customers wary of physical store visits; that being said, they still want to connect on a human level during their customer journey. Conversational commerce, along with messaging, focuses on turning what can sometimes be an impersonal, routine, and transactional process into a humanized experience.
Couple that with either being phone-shy or even having bad experiences with botched phone exchanges when it comes to customer support, and utilizing conversational commerce principles with live chat (whether it's directly on your website or from integrating with a messaging app, like Facebook messenger) to resolve a situation or make purchases can be one of the most frictionless, stress-free avenues of communication buyers can have with a business.
Conversational Commerce Helps Deliver an Amazing Customer Experience for Auto Dealers
Those expectations for conversational commerce, communication and customer support in online shopping technology have undoubtedly leaked into the automotive sales sector.
Just as the internet forever changed researching a car purchase for a consumer and marketing for car dealers, the messaging you make available for consumers (and the benefits of conversational commerce you can get, if done right) can have an exponential impact on your sales results (present and future) and customer retention. Customer satisfaction scores (CSI), gross, service revenue, and loyalty are all examples of what can be impacted by the initial interaction online.
ActivEngage was the first fully managed automotive-specific messaging service to bring great conversational commerce into the dealership world. 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 too does the focus of our conversations.
At one time, sharing information about technical aspects and features with consumers was most important. Today, we see consumers are looking to relate to real people in real time. Perhaps the pandemic has driven this desire to have someone acknowledge what you are saying and respond with a pertinent answer. The ever-increasing usage and influence of social media also plays a not-so-small part in all of this. Customers crave conversational commerce.
They are less concerned with all the technicalities; they often have done their feature research. They do want to understand the service you can provide pre-dealership visits, what it takes to get started, and what the process is moving forward. They want to connect and engage with you. Conversational commerce allows them to understand this and accomplish their goal.
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? Better customer relations makes consumers more comfortable. This is the ultimate goal of, and the results of a truly great conversational commerce principle.
From 2007 continuing today, conversational commerce allows us to analyze the trends of consumers and adjust our training, coaching and flow to ensure our conversations result in commerce.
3 Consequences of Poor Conversational Commerce in Live Chat
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, and knowledge of the benefits of conversational commerce, we have also seen what happens when a message platform doesn’t focus on conversational commerce when utilizing a live chat/messaging platform as a service.
Here are three examples 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. Conversational commerce facilitates that. Messaging platforms that employ chatbots, A.I., or even live agents that aren’t trained to speak dynamically all run the risk of uneven communication and lack conversational tone; and consumers can detect this kind of disparity.
Customers use live chat on your 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 in the showroom, and harm any chance of them encountering a good customer experience in-store. And, this also serves to destroy faith in live chat: something that could be a vital lifeline for your browsing customers.
Great, real time conversational commerce at the front end of your customer's connection with your dealership website improves retention and possibility of future purchase. Having an open communication on social media is vital as well, which is why we have messaging for Facebook messenger. Social media influences these new conversational expectations, so having live chat in their messaging apps (where available) is important to consider for your customer support strategy as well.
Where miscommunication happens, soon follows mistrust. If your potential customer and car shoppers can see that their first point to connect in your conversational commerce setup 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? They've done their research, chose you, but the smallest things can give shoppers pause about the choice they've made. Customer experience matters.
Shoppers need to have details repeated back to them, acknowledged as they are stated, and have the interaction summarized. These are the hallmarks of good listening and service in conversational commerce. Acknowledging specifics in real time messaging can make your customer feel comfortable to make purchases; they can feel good about the business they've chosen to take a chance on.
The world of ecommerce can make for a lot of potential mistrust, as many businesses look to cut costs with automation and chatbots or any other tool that can help them save money. However, you may be losing money in the long term by alienating customers with a subpar engagement tool or tools. Separate from the pack and use technology in tandem with real people to connect with your community!
There is a living person on the other end of your website, seeking advocacy and guidance for a huge life decision and large purchase consideration. A bot and/or A.I. cannot resonate with their very real and unique needs. A customer cannot trust an entity that has not experienced what they are experiencing. Similarly to any relationship, friendship, etc.: trust is necessary to customers when it comes to shopping with brands.
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.
This LinkedIn article references psychological studies that show that "...as many as 59% of customers will walk away from a brand they love after several bad experiences, 17% after just one bad experience..." and "...psychological research suggests we are more likely to remember negative experiences over positive experiences..." This is important to remember when you start to consider live chat or other forms of conversational commerce in the grand scheme of your services.
It might sound cliché, but first impressions are often the perceptions that customers will take with them well beyond their journey with your business. 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 among their closest friends and family.
ActivEngage Perfected Conversational Commerce
ActivEngage introduced the first fully people-powered conversational commerce approach in 2007, and we’re still the only all-human platform in the industry! We're wherever you are (or should be): your website (mobile and desktop), Facebook messenger, your Google business profile. Don't let a chatbot or chatbots man these stations!
Good, equitable conversational commerce is necessary at so many touch points for car dealerships. Check out these other solutions ActivEngage offers from our flexible suite of products: