How to get to the heart of actual chat performance and ROI
Chat for dealer sites has been around for eight years, but current industry estimates are that only about one in three dealers has embraced it…rather underwhelming, given all the years of buzz.
The lack of meaningful, clear chat metrics, especially in the early days of chat, is probably a major reason more dealerships aren’t on board with this high-potential website engagement platform. And murky chat metrics would be a major reason that those dealers that have adopted chat can be totally confused about what they’re paying for.
“Total Chats” and “Visitor-to-Chat” Metrics Are Misleading: When I say “murky metrics,” many of you may know firsthand what I mean: “monthly performance reports” that lead with metrics like total number of chats. This is a wrong, often useless, metric. Because much of what gets counted as a chat or a “chat conversion” can go like this:
Chat operator: “Hi! Can I help you? Visitor: “No thanks.” Or, operator: “Hi, we have a great $19.99 oil change deal. Can I tell you about it? “ Visitor: “No, I’m looking at new cars.” These are dead, go nowhere non-conversations. And many chats engaged in, of course, need to be serviced but are about things that have nothing to do with a person seeking to buy a car or book service.
Chatting for the sake of adding up the number of chats, as opposed to what chat should be aimed at: meaningful, polite, relevant, productive conversations that convert into something more is not the kind of metrics dealers (or chat vendors) should focus on.
While reporting on metrics like “total chats,” or what pages dealer website visitors visit most, is great…it doesn’t measure what a dealer really should, and does, care about: appointments and test-drives set, and lead info captured so that that shoppers can be followed up on like any other online lead or showroom “up.”
It’s as simple as that: the key performance metric you should care about in chat, as with all your other marketing, is how many actionable leads are generated. Because a zillion chats, without true leads generated and captured, is nothing but idle chat.
What’s a Chat Lead? A chat (or any website-driven) lead certainly includes all sales and service appointments and test-drives directly set by an agent, and it’s also the capturing of that visitor’s critical information so that it can be automatically poured into the CRM tool for follow-up. At the very minimum, the threshold for a true lead is the visitor’s name, and either email or phone contact info. That’s true whether that contact info was captured via chat, at a call center or by a person filling out a form to redeem a published offer.
Ideally, your chat provider should go much further with lead info by having the chat agent info-collection process, and the analytics technology, in place to provide many more information points for each lead delivered. It shouldn’t have just the name, phone and email, but what vehicle makes/models/years they expressed interest in – what exact pages they viewed – and a complete transcript of each chat. Robust lead info, of course, makes follow-up communications relevant and personal. And that is the key to converting at much higher rates.
More common sense: every chat provider should make sure that a service lead automatically goes to the service department, and that a new-vehicle lead heads to the sales department, etc. And, of course, ‘cars sold’ is the holy grail for all marketing metrics — and the same should be true of chat.
The Online Stealth Shopping Crisis – Chat Must Make More Visitors VISIBLE: Not having a chat (or website engagement) solution that is entirely focused on inciting the kind of conversations that set appointments and capture a visitor’s basic contact info for follow-up is fast becoming a costly dealer problem. It’s a crisis, really.
Because the research keeps mounting that car shoppers are becoming wildly dealership-adverse: they want to sneakily comparison-shop dealers/inventory online without hassle. For instance, a recent study by McKinsey confirms earlier research from J.D. Power, and finds that the average buyer now only visits 1.6 dealerships before buying, down from 5 a decade ago. As McKinsey put it: “This is the most dramatic change we’ve seen in…how people buy cars in the last 50 years.”
An unprecedented level of inventory and price hunting is now happening online – at your and your competitor’s sites. If dealerships don’t have a chat platform that can make these shadowy, anonymous visitors visible, by engaging them meaningfully, politely, and relevantly enough to capture their information at least in lead form – they’re missing what now may be the only opportunity to identify them, to have a shot at their business. And they’re also throwing all those dollars spent driving traffic (all those big PPC spends, etc.) right down the drain.
Remember: many people choose chat precisely to fact-find more invisibly, and to avoid filling out lead forms at the site. And incessant, ‘spammy’ chat interruptions will send that visitor fleeing back into their cloak of anonymity. Bad chat means leads lost.
That’s why your standard metric for chat performance must be the actionable lead: whether appointment set, or what the industry has come to mean by “lead”: shopper contact info captured and entered into the CRM. Every dealer should, of course, measure how many chat-driven leads actually convert into sales, so they can judge the true quality of these “conversations” taking place, and establish not just true cost-per-lead, but true cost-per-sale.
Leads. Sales. Cost. Every dealer marketing investment needs clear, meaningful ROI-based metrics. Without them no dealer can compare chat vendors meaningfully against each other, or compare chat to their other marketing investments. We believe that not using meaningful metrics is one of the big culprits holding back chat adoption. And dealers need every weapon possible to engage and convert more site visitors.
Now, that’s not the only missing “meaningful metric” that has held back adoption. Chat 1.0 solutions didn’t use behavioral analytics technology to collect the important metrics on what each visitor was actually doing at the site (what cars they’re interested in, how many times they’ve visited, etc.) So, by nature, chat has been stuck as a jabbering, uninformed, annoying “mouth,” with no brain to inform when it interrupts a visitor, what it “says,” and what offers and vehicles are presented. It’s only by relentlessly collecting info on each visitor, 24/7, that you can unleash informed, polite, super-relevant chats, which become real conversations that convert into next-step leads at far higher rates – and that is what Chat 2.0 is all about.
The point is: the chat tool is hardly dead. It’s really just getting rolling. And replacing murky metrics with meaningful ones is a key first step in moving it into the future.