How to ‘Power-Up’ your Lead Count With Live Chat – Four Critical Tips To Boost Sales Without Killing Them

In some ways selling cars in the digital era can be similar to video game battles, except that it’s a real fight for deals, with real financial consequences when opportunities are missed. That’s where live chat comes in, especially when dealers choose a quality fully-managed option. It’s like a power pellet in a video game; it provides an incremental boost to your leads – and sales – from your dealership website. Since website leads typically close at the highest ratio and with the highest profit margin, chat leads are kind of like video game Easter Eggs, or bonus prizes.

The number of dealer websites with fully-managed chat continues to grow, but using chat to generate automotive leads is nothing new. Contact At Once! pioneered dealer website chat more than a decade ago, yet dealers still struggle to manage it on their own because of many factors. Even when staff only respond to chat requests during the 12 automotive ‘business hours’ per day, there are 720 minutes they need to respond in a window of 10-seconds or less.

This challenge spawned managed chat, in which a vendor uses its staff to handle all or some chat conversations for dealers and forward the leads. The vendor-rating website,, lists 33 different chat vendors. In addition to Contact At Once!, their top five providers in all-time ratings include ActivEngage, CarChat24, Dealer e-Process, and Gubagoo. Additionally, CarNow and ZMOT are two others growing in the automotive chat market.

Even though there is great potential to increase sales with chat, there are virtual landmines that can derail your deals, as well. Here are four tips to ensure chat is a profit booster and not a deal killer:

  1. Make mobile chat your highest priority. Because mobile traffic now accounts for more than half the visits on most dealer websites, it’s critical for that experience to be seamless for shoppers. From page load speeds to the interface tabs on the website, to the chat windows, to the server technology, mobile chat efficiency is critical.
  2. Use the popup – but not on every page. It’s the digital equivalent of a salesperson greeting a shopper on the lot. You want to greet them and offer assistance but not smother them. Too many invites will turn a potential buyer away from your site.
  3. Ensure operators have a quick response time. Five to six seconds is ideal, but not more than ten. There’s nothing like delayed response from a chat operator to bounce a customer out of a conversation.
  4. Respond quickly to the lead. More than any other internet lead, shoppers expect a timely response, since a LIVE PERSON told them the dealership would be in contact, whether the chat conversation took place at noon or midnight.

That fourth tip actually holds the secret to success for chat. Because a real person interacts with the website visitor, there is more trust generated in the process. For starters, many dealers don’t require a shopper to provide their name up front, so the conversation can begin with anonymity, similar to a phone call. Additionally, a well-trained chat operator will politely converse with them while also trying to collect accurate contact information. Because the information is provided to an actual person, the shopper can feel more confident than a form lead that someone from the store will respond to their inquiry. As with any lead source, how chat leads are handled can make the difference between a 5% conversion rate and a 25% rate.

Chat continues to grow as a source of leads and revenue, so dealers need to watch their current and potential ROI with it as they look for ways to maximize their website performance. Selling cars is no game, but it is definitely a competition that every dealer wants to win, and live chat is one digital tool with a direct impact on sales.

A veteran of 10-plus years in automotive retail, Big Tom is a digital marketing consultant with CarChat24. His background includes Marine Corps public relations and web development at Johns Hopkins University. @TomLaPointe 727-638-0195