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ATLANTA — An online chat session using ContactAtOnce software not only helped a Utah dealer complete a sale, it pushed the company to a significant milestone.

ContactAtOnce recently surpassed 2 million chat sessions powered by its live dealer chat service. The conversation actually took place just before 2009 ended on Dec. 30.

"It was a happy coincidence that the conversation led to a sale for one of our dealer customers, Ken Garff Nissan in Orem, Utah," noted Marc Hayes, founder and executive vice president of ContactAtOnce.

The company also presented the dealership with a plaque to commemorate the landmark chat session.

ContactAtOnce anticipates hitting another milestone mark in the near future as more dealerships utilize online chat technology. Company executives contend that the number of dealer chat sessions spiked 200 percent last year. They made the point while referencing that less than 20 percent of dealers use the technology.

Hayes projects that percentage to rise significantly this year.

"We expect the vast majority of dealers will be chat enabled before the end of this year, compelled by the business benefits, easy-to-use technology and widespread support by major automotive sites," he pointed out.

Hayes reinforced his stance by mentioning what other automotive Web sites are doing. He mentioned that Cars.com, CarsDirect.com and CarSoup.com have added chat features to advertising packages.

ContactAtOnce officials also reiterated how its platform can make it easier for dealers to enter into this marketing realm. Personalization options are available to coordinate with a dealer's existing Web site along with notifications to prompt store salespeople to engage with interested customers.

"The popularity of text-based communication has exploded, including SMS text messaging on mobile phones, Twitter and instant messaging services such as Google, AOL, Yahoo, MSN and Facebook," Hayes stressed.

"So it naturally follows that many consumers prefer text-based communication while car shopping," he continued.

"As the leading provider of dealer live chat software, with over 6,000 dealers using the ContactAtOnce dealer live chat service every day, we have made it easy for dealers and other automotive Web site providers to capitalize on this trend as evidenced by the dramatic growth in chat conversations," Hayes concluded.