Let’s face it. Most of us walk around with our phones in our hands or at arms-reach the majority of the time. Don’t overlook the easiest way to connect with your customers, text messaging. But, easy doesn’t mean you should do it without forethought and planning.
Make Texting Personal
This is your chance to really connect with the person. Plan your first message out in advance and make it memorable.
Just because you are using technology where you can’t see or hear the customer, don’t forget you are still talking with a person. Make it personal. Use their name, suggest information based on previous conversations. Don’t be a robot!
You aren’t texting your friends. While it’s important to sound friendly and connect with the customer, you need to be sure all texts are professional.
Try not to use texting abbreviations when communicating. Spell out your words and phrases. Write complete sentences and punctuate. All it takes to turn off some customers is a misspelled word or an incorrect phrase. Not sure you have everything right? Run it by a colleague or spell check it on a computer.
A tasteful emoji here or there is fine, but don’t overuse them. Limit them to a thumbs up or smiley face. Your texts shouldn’t look like an 8-year-old got hold of your phone.
Offer VIP Deals through Text
Texting is a great way to offer VIP deals.
Special discounts or deals make your consumers feel special during this time and like you’re taking care of them. The pleasant feeling VIP deals give customers may just be enough to close your own deal.
While your auto dealership may be closed or having to adjust the way consumers are allowed to interact, it is important to capitalize on the opportunity to provide your shoppers a great customer experience that begins on your website so that they choose to buy from you … whether that’s now or in the future. It is a crucial time for you to adapt to a digital sales approach. Follow these best practices to keep your dealership running smoothly to continue to gain revenue.
Personalize the Car Buying Experience
Personalize the buying experience to connect with prospective shoppers. Using tools such as text messaging, video chats, and 1:1 appointments will enable your sales team to make connections with shoppers without seeing them in-person.
Just because your dealership may be closed to the public, doesn’t mean test drives have to stop. It is time to bring the vehicle straight to the consumer by offering virtual and at-home test drives. Virtual test drives allow the shopper to experience the car from the comfort of their own home. Utilizing tools like FaceTime and Skype allows you to show off the features of the vehicle for your shoppers.
In addition to virtual test drives, you can also offer 1:1 at-home test drives. By offering at-home test drives, you can bring the car to the consumer who may be skeptical about leaving the house. Be sure to sanitize the steering wheel and handles of the car before and after the drive.
Adjust your communication with vehicle shoppers
The buying experience has changed and so should your communication with shoppers. Use this crisis as an opportunity to update your language and tailor your message to a more personalized approach.
Updating your banner ads and Call to Actions (CTAs) on your website is an easy and effective way to continue to drive traffic and sales. Changing the language on the banners allows your shoppers to see how you are catering to them during this time. Let them know that you are offering new virtual test drives, or to promote OEM deals or dealership trade offers.
Use emails to notify shoppers of special offers or financing that is currently going on. Email blasts are an effective way to reach your shoppers while still keeping the message personal to each shopper.
Lastly, updating your website to include chat bots and text messaging features allows your sales team to connect instantly with shoppers, rather than waiting for them to fill out a lead form and then calling the shopper back.
Communicate how you plan to keep your shoppers safe
The No. 1 priority should be putting your shoppers at ease. Follow these tips and tricks to make shoppers feel safe while in your showroom.
Make “special appointment” service hours available.
Communicate with shoppers the steps you’re taking to keep them safe online and by email.
Keep the pipeline for sales open by having one-on-one conversations through video consultations.
Post your cleaning practices around your showroom.
Avoid shaking hands with customers. Place markers on the floor if you have waiting spaces signaling 6 feet.
Clearly communicate changes with shoppers, like home deliveries, store hours and when your team is available.
Add extra hand sanitizing stations around the showroom.
No amount of automated marketing or AI technology will change the fact that customer service must remain at the top of your company’s priority list. If you’re not providing a quality shopping experience from start to finish, it won’t matter how many leads you generate or how much organic traffic you attract to the website. Unsatisfied customers will bust your bottom line over time.
“Customer service is No. 1 for us. Making our customers happy and excited about their purchase is what we are here for,” says Kelly Mullins, who oversees Marketing & Online Sales at Railway Freight Furniture based in Georgia. “And, we want them to come back and shop with us again … and send their friends and family! People want to feel like you truly care about what they need.”
Mullins says delivering that level of customer care starts on the website, where most people begin their shopping. They expect instant yet personal responses when reaching out to a business.
“It’s so important to be engaged digitally, because that’s where most start their buying decisions,” Mullins says. “They will have questions and want to talk to someone, and you have to be ready to help get their business.”
Create a Concierge Website Experience to Service Customers
Helping the customer starts with maximizing your company’s website, often a customer’s initial interaction with your brand, so it’s engaging and delivering information that’s relevant to each individual shopper.
“It’s important that your first touchpoint with the consumer, you’re getting across the information you want to, because that first touch sets the stage for everything else,” says Michael Norris, Chief Marketing Officer at Youtech, a full-service digital marketing and advertising agency with offices in Chicago and Scottsdale, Arizona. “It’s important to have a really good digital footprint, since that’s where people start their search, and then a really good response time after that.”
Make it easy for them to window shop and collect information on your products until they’re ready to visit in person to make a purchase. Create a concierge experience that serves customers with personalized, targeted content and leads shoppers to the next best step in their buying journey, based on where they’re at in the process. Offer appointment scheduling tools so they can book a tour or in-store consultation and receive VIP treatment. Then, be sure to follow up quickly with online leads or have a system in place to automate the initial response so they feel acknowledged.
“In today’s digital world, if customers want/need help or have questions, they want answers now! On their time!” Mullin says. “PERQ has helped us tremendously with this. We already talk to our customers on social media and email, but now we have a way to talk to the customer while they’re browsing on our website. It takes a lot of time and effort, but is a great way to engage with our online customers.”
As they shop around and interact with the website, put in place software to capture data about each online lead, so your sales team can use those personal details to close the deal. Knowing things like what kind of pets they own or their favorite pastimes helps you better understand what they need, and subsequently provide the customer with better service.
Your Customer Service Reps and Digital Sales Teams Drive Your Business
Customer service representatives and those who staff your digital sales teams will likely be the main people who directly interact with consumers before they come in to visit in person. Make sure they’re prepared to adequately answer all questions that come their way and appropriately direct shoppers to the right next person, because those initial interactions often determine how a consumer views your company overall.
“The people who they talk to are ultimately going to be the people who drive your business,” Norris says. “That customer service is so important, because customers now go and leave reviews online based on their experience and what they felt. It’s so important to make them feel good every step of the way, that they have a positive-enough experience they want to go and leave a review. People only leave reviews if they’re really happy or really mad. There’s really no in-between.”
Utilize AI Technology to Improve Your Customer Service
With consumers accustomed to getting an immediate response when online shopping with big brands, technology helps smaller companies meet those expectations and give leads the instant gratification (and the information) they seek.
Once a lead comes in or a consumer submits an inquiry, it’s critical for your sales team to provide an immediate response acknowledging their request and quickly follow up with additional information.
“People are used to very snippy-snappy results nowadays,” Norris says of consumer expectations across the many industries his digital advertising agency serves.
Businesses use technology to not only instantly respond but also personalize the response through automated email or text messaging. By capturing customer data as they engage with a website’s AI-powered experiences, like a chat-to-text Q&A tool or interactive quiz, lead information can be funneled directly into a CRM through a marketing cloud.
From there, schedule personalized email or text nurture campaigns to continuously nurture the lead that shows you care about their search for the perfect purchase. Cater to their needs based on what they look at on your website and the data they hand over as they shop around. Provide helpful content, offer a scheduled meeting with an expert on your staff or include an incentive to get them to take action — and to buy from you when they are ready.
“Getting all of that information into your CRM and then into an automation system is important, because that will allow you to follow up in both an efficient way for you and in an effective, personalized way for the potential client,” Norris says.
Meet Customers Where They Shop
Consumers now have more ways than ever to communicate with companies they do business with, from online chat and messenger apps to emails and text messages. To provide top-notch service, you must communicate in the customer’s preferred format.
“People are going to have issues that extend beyond just an FAQ page or what your website can answer,” Norris says. “Having different channels of communication are important. If a customer wants to email you, they are going to expect their response to that email. Same thing, if a customer reaches out on social media; or if they call, then they want to talk to a real person.”
Norris says consumer expectations remain steady across all of the various industries his digital marketing agency serves: they want quick, helpful customer service when they have questions or encounter a problem.
“I mean, in the end, people are all people,” Norris says. “Generally speaking, people buy the same ways.”
In this day and age, online consumers are interested in doing things on their own — everything from research to consideration and in some cases, making a purchase. The majority of today’s consumers prefer everything to be entirely self-service. Because of this, many retailers and auto dealerships have embraced digital retailing.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself, just what the heck is digital retailing?
Digital retailing, at its the most basic level, is a series of experiences that allow consumers to easily maneuver and engage with your website at different stages of their purchasing journey. One website experience leads to the next and then to the next. Simple, no?
The overarching concept of Digital Retailing (if explaining to someone who has no knowledge of eCommerce) is simple, but that isn’t the case when you look at “Digital retailing” from the perspective of different industries and whether or not they’re an auto dealer or consumer.
For consumers making a standard retail purchase, digital retailing looks like this: a consumer looks for a particular item/service (for a varying period of time), adds said item to their cart, confirms the price and then completes the purchase with payment.
For consumers purchasing a vehicle, digital retailing looks like this: a consumer adds their vehicle of choice to the shopping cart confirming the price and completing a purchase with payment.
However, digital retailing might mean something different entirely different…
For some dealers and retailers, digital retailing means assisting consumers with the actual deal-making process (ex: filling out paperwork, signing up for a test drive, etc.) and then conducting the actual transaction face-to-face.
On the flip side, it might mean doing literally everything online and simply having a vehicle or product delivered to your home.After looking at these definitions, you might be asking yourself: which definition is correct?
“The reality is that they are both correct.” says EVP of Product, Stephanie Ragozzino. “But at PERQ, we know most customers aren’t ready to purchase a vehicle online. Today, the experience at the dealership is as critical a piece to the buying process as online.”
Digital retailing is heavily personalized based on a retailer’s business and financial goals. However, it’s important to understand that there are a few things will remain consistently true for any “type” of digital retailing method you subscribe to:
2. Consumers are in complete control over their journey and their destination. Additionally, they can start and stop at their leisure and start right back up where they left off.
3. Digital retailing is NOT a tool or widget, and it isn’t a bunch of different tools stitched together that aren’t connected and don’t remember the steps the consumer has already taken in their shopping process online. It shouldn’t just focus on the end of the funnel: consumers who are in the “buy phase” of their car buying journey.
4. Digital retailing experiences are made solely for the consumer in mind.
Here at PERQ, we encourage dealers to focus on catering to consumers who aren’t directly in the purchase phases, but rather, the discovery and research phases, too.With so many consumers conducting the majority of their research online, it only makes sense for retailers and dealerships to offer up online experiences that help consumers receive trade-in offers, calculate their payments and narrow down their decisions regarding the right type of vehicle for them. The shopping experience online should help the car buyer in all phases of the buying funnel.
Next week, I’ll discuss the importance of connecting digital retailing tools and the impact they have on the consumer experience. Read our article here.
Data collected through Google Analytics provide insight into the traffic on your company’s website, but are you using the data to its fullest advantage? Do you know who those website visitors really are, or only that they spent time looking for a brown leather sofa or a midnight blue Honda CRV?
With PERQ’s recent upgrade to its Google Analytics Reporting, clients we serve in the multifamily, home furnishings and auto industries can easily connect personally identifiable information on every customer, as they journey from a website lead to an actual sale.
“That’s really powerful, because if you can come in and see the type of behavior that actually is attributed to only the people who are buying, it helps you understand the type of behavior that is creating the most value, the highest propensity to buy,” says PERQ Product Marketing Manager Russ Chandler.
While understanding how to effectively use Google Analytics may seem daunting, the PERQ upgrade makes it simple for companies to leverage website data for the most benefit. Here’s how it works:
Simple PERQ Google Analytics Integration
PERQ works with your website’s existing Google Analytics account. The only thing your company needs to do is give PERQ access to your GA account with edit permissions to set up the PERQ dashboard.
Your company’s unique consumer data is kept private, and PERQ uses the reporting for monthly and quarterly business reviews and to analyze performance and ROI.
Benefits of PERQ Google Analytics Reporting
Instead of waiting for a meeting with PERQ to show you how your company’s website is doing each month, you can see in real time how the interactive website technology is performing. You can run a report showing Google Analytics Conversions for All Leads vs. PERQ leads, or track information on the number of unique website visitors, total CTA clicks, total unique leads and average session duration.
By capturing detailed lead data on each person who engages with the PERQ Website Conversion solution, whether they’re shopping for a new sofa, car or an apartment, companies can finally connect the dots between their website visitors and sales data to know which traffic sources are working.
Using Google Analytics to Improve Business
Ed Massood, owner of Home Inspirations Thomasville, says his company converts close to 20% of its website leads with the detailed lead data captured on his home furnishings website. “The insights we’re gathering online are invaluable,” Massood says, from spotting customer buying trends to knowing when a website lead buys in-store.
Tracking leads to sales and understanding customers’ buying patterns gives companies the power to target their sales approach and give consumers what they want. Take the blind spot out of your marketing strategy with clear insights from PERQ’s dashboard in Google Analytics.
The concepts of AI technology and digital marketing don’t typically make the priority list when companies contemplate new ways to elevate their customer service experience. Let a computer automatically nurture leads?
For those who don’t fully understand how artificial intelligence works and the best way to utilize new business technology tools like a marketing cloud, the concept of online customer service seems counterintuitive. Yet, it’s the very key to successful consumer engagement in an online world that offers too many choices and endless access to internet research, resulting in shortened attention spans and higher demands for instant information.
Marketing clouds powered by AI aren’t designed to steal jobs, but rather make your employees more efficient and effective at their jobs by using a data-based approach that can adjust in real time as new data flows in from your website, digital advertising campaigns and in-person transactions. With everything connected, adjusted automatically and tracked in great detail, the online leads generated from an AI-powered solution guarantee your customers and your team enjoy a tailored customer service experience that makes buying (and selling) easier.
Instead of using your online website as an e-commerce platform or as a digital brochure, technology makes your strongest asset available online: your people, physical inventory and services like in-house designers or taking a tour of a rental property. It’s that customer service element that sets your company apart from giant corporations competing online for a share of your local market.
“Your job is to create a memorable website experience that’s both convenient and helpful as online shoppers research and narrow down choices from the comfort of their homes, while also highlighting the value of your in-store resources,” says Scott Hill, PERQ Co-Founder and Executive Chairman.
Here are 5 tips on how to create an influential customer service experience online that’s sure to capture and convert more leads, while giving your brand a big boost at the same time.
1. Give Consumers Information They Want Online
Don’t hold back on pricing and other details consumers seek when shopping online, thinking it will push them to visit in person. Our research shows they’ll likely bounce to a competitor’s website or click around Google and social media until they find what they want, because someone in your market — a competitor, manufacturer or industry group — surely offers the details or planning tools they’re searching for online. Help the customer help themselves.
“It gives transparency,” says Sandra Dellolio, internet manager at Atlantic Auto Mall in New York, of the leasing calculator and other interactive online tools available on the dealership’s website. “Especially in the car business, people go online because they absolutely want to have the knowledge before they go into a dealership. This is a way to show them what they want before they know what they want.”
2. Deliver a Connected Consumer Experience
Adding interactive tools on your website personalizes the shopping experience as it gathers lead data from each visitor who engages with them. You’re moving them closer to a decision by helping them along the consumer journey and narrowing down what they want to buy, while also delivering a customer service experience that mirrors the service your staff offers in person.
“The beauty of [the website experience] is that they’re designed to engage our guests in natural, small steps,” says Dave Weiss, Marketing Manager at Sherman’s furniture and appliance retail stores in central Illinois. “We can’t jump straight from awareness to asking for the sale. It’s much easier for the guest to make those micro-commitments, leading them further down the path to purchase without feeling like they’re being ‘sold to.’”
By connecting all of your online platforms through AI and cloud technology, the customer gets an online shopping experience that feels personal, like you know exactly what they’re looking for online.
3. Show Online Customers the Exact Product They Want
Embed helpful planning tools in your automated emails and digital advertising to drive traffic back to the website and keep consumers engaged throughout the lead nurturing process. AI and cloud technology tracks where each lead is at in the process, which touchpoints they’ve encountered along the way and what they’ve looked at online, then automatically serves the consumer with customized incentives, emails and website prompts every time they return.
With machine learning, a type of AI programming, cloud software can learn and adapt its content based on a company’s own lead data compared alongside millions of other aggregated data points gathered across markets and similar industries. It can predict the type of person most likely to buy from a particular company, show where those people are most likely to be reached, and deliver the best experience proven to convert that lead type. Gathering all of that data helps AI-driven software deliver the most relevant results for each individual website visitor, making their online shopping experience easy and intuitive — a sure win in the customer service department.
4. Capture Lead Data to Better Nurture Online Leads
Your sales or leasing staff get a detailed consumer journey that accounts for every device a lead used to look you up online and every visit, something most analytic programs can’t do. That allows salespeople to see the big picture and not just the last thing the consumer searched before coming in to visit.
“That personal touch is a nice way to develop instant rapport with a prospect,” says Cindy Scanlan, Director of Operations at Thalhimer, a property management company with apartment communities in Virginia and North Carolina.
Capitalize on that lead information to give the consumer a personal customer service experience that will make an impression, and save the shopper valuable time by starting the sales pitch right where they left off online.
5. Automate the Process to Focus on Live Interactions
Automating the lead capturing and nurturing process frees up your staff’s resources, so they can spend more quality time taking care of the customers who walk in the door ready to buy right now. It’s more efficient and effective than doing everything manually, and sure to be more consistent than any human.
Home Inspirations Thomasville in New Jersey automated its email nurturing campaign in late 2018, sending emails to website registrants that are personal, geared toward their interests, and scheduled and designed around the buying timeline the customer submits on the website.
“Our goal is to let the customer know we are there to assist them in any way, whether that be with design and we invite them into the store to work with our design team for a complimentary consultation or whatever else they require,” says Ed Massood, owner of Home Inspirations Thomasville.
With the right technological solutions, implementing an online customer service experience that converts online leads can be both affordable and easy. It also makes marketing decisions more effective, saving businesses additional time and resources.
More data and analysis mean more insights and better tracking of leads, ROI and results. That empowers your company to make smarter, data-driven decisions on what exactly your customers are looking for and how to best give them that shopping experience online.