The way that consumers research, find, and engage with dealership has changed significantly in recent years. In the past, dealers would buy newspaper and radio ads, put up a billboard, get listed in the Yellow Pages, and wait for customers to call or show up to their dealership.
Now, the process is much more detached. While traditional advertising and marketing are important to create awareness, they are no longer the primary sources car buyers turn to when deciding which dealership to choose. Online searches are now king. Today’s car buyer typically searches for dealerships near them, reads reviews, maybe looks at your website, and then calls or messages you directly from your listing.
The option for customers to message businesses is a new addition. Google recognized that more and more customers would prefer to message a business as opposed to placing a call. In fact, 90 percent of consumers want to use messaging to interact with a business – with 50 percent preferring to message via SMS text.
The problem is only 48 percent of businesses are capable of messaging with their customers, but that number will likely increase with the launch of Google Click-to-Message. To help you get started, we have outlined the steps to get your dealership’s account set up to accept messages from your customers.
Here are the four steps to setting up Google Click-To-Message:
1. Login to your Google My Business page
2. Select messaging in the left menu and add phone number
3. Verify that number with a code sent from Google
4. Now searchers can message your dealership
Tips for interacting with customers via text
Now that your dealership is all set up to take incoming texts, let’s review some tips that will help you successfully interact with your customers.
1. Be responsive
Oftentimes when consumers are conducting an online search on their mobile device, they want their questions answered immediately. This is because they are likely experiencing what Google refers to as micro-moments. These are when consumers want to know, want to go, or want to buy. If your online presence isn’t able to quickly answer their questions, they will probably move on to your competition.
One of the main reasons that online searchers want to connect with you via text is they feel like it is a quicker, more efficient method of communication. But that’s only true if the dealership is placing an emphasis on quick response times.
To ensure this happens, general managers should make sure their team is well equipped to offer quick responses to customers. If you don’t consistently respond to messages in a timely manner, customers will know because over time Google will post typical response times on your listing.
2. Don’t ask for sensitive information via text
This might seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Businesses should never ask for sensitive information like credit cards, banking information, or social security numbers over text. While text messages seem secure, the information isn’t encrypted so the data could be vulnerable.
3. Ask for customer feedback
Another valuable way to utilize text messaging in your customer interactions is asking for feedback. A lot of times customers don’t want to take the time to fill out a lengthy customer satisfaction survey, but they would be willing to answer a few questions via text. That is because asking questions via text comes across as more personal and less intrusive than a survey.
One way to approach this is by asking your customers after a transaction is complete, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely would you be to recommend this business to a family or friend.” And then follow that up with one or two questions about the service your business delivers. Our research has shown that approaching customer feedback this way results in significantly higher open and response rates than traditional CSAT surveys.
4. Invite customers to review your business
Text messaging is also a good method for collecting public facing customer feedback on your Google My Business listing. One of the biggest reasons to use text messaging to do this is many people are already signed into their Google account on their smartphone, so it’s much easier to connect them directly to your Google reviews page.
5. Encourage customers to add you to their contacts
Texting with your customers will help you build stronger more loyal customers. To help you reinforce that loyalty, try texting them a vCard with your contact information on it. If customers have access to your phone number in their contacts, it removes one of the steps in the car buying journey. It will help you evolve from being just a dealership to being their dealership.
Jon Eyre is director of content at Podium, which helps businesses drive user-generated content in the form of online reviews to increase visibility, improve business operations and drive the purchase decision. The company serves more than 50,000 users across all business sectors and has a robust automotive division. More recommendations from Podium are available through webinars the company has hosted with Auto Remarketing that are available here as well as here.