communication

Why Face-to-Face Conversations are More Important than Ever

By Timmy James

 

By nature, humans are social creatures. Need more proof? One of the worst punishments our legal system has come up with is solitary confinement. Not only is this dreaded by inmates, but it can also affect their mental health. Whether an introvert or an extrovert, we all crave personal interaction.

Like many of you, I am currently working from home. And, at the end of one day last week I had an impromptu meeting with one of my customers. The meeting started on the phone but, after 15-20 minutes of the call, we decided to switch to a live-stream one-on-one video call. While we continued talking about the business matter, the conversation quickly changed into a personal chat. Just two people who have been working from home for many days now. While we both interact with people throughout the day, most interaction is via the phone or text. When we switched to the live-streaming video call, emotions changed into joy and excitement that we were having a personal, live, face-to-face interaction with an individual outside of our homes.

Even before this health crisis, people wanted to have live interaction. That’s exactly why sales managers are renowned for telling salespeople to “Just get them in.” Of course, at the moment, we have a quandary. Many salespeople are out of work, CRMs are still spitting out the same messages and consumers are still shopping for vehicles… but nobody is answering them.

We’re dealing with a situation unlike anything seen since the measles or polio breakouts decades ago. The entire country is hunkered down, sitting at home with their families. And many are very bored. What do people do when they are bored? They tend to accomplish tasks they’ve been meaning to but have not yet found the time for. And guess what? This could very easily include researching a vehicle purchase. 33 states have either halted or limited vehicle sales forcing salespeople to stay at home. However, in many cases, their CRMs are still receiving leads. OEMs are offering aggressive incentives and interest rates are low.

Car sales are all about emotions. That’s why the standard has always been to get the customer to test drive, kick tires, breathe in that “new car” smell and take mental ownership. However, before any of that can happen, a salesperson or BDC agent needs to create rapport to get that specific customer to choose their dealership.

Customers currently don’t have the luxury of visiting the dealership. But you can approach that level of face-to-face contact with live video chat. It builds the rapport needed for the customer to decide who to buy from and what to buy. Your dealership can interact with these customers in a personal way while building that emotional relationship with the salesperson, the dealership AND the vehicle. And what do those interactions produce when doing this via live-streaming video calls? The same as it produced for me and my customer — Joy and excitement. It helps move that customer down the line to the sale.

Many dealerships are experimenting with virtual test drives and video calling to provide that in-store face-to-face experience right now and having amazing success. But like all sales processes, it must be done right to have the most effective impact. Many of the popular video calling platforms out there require both users to install plugins or download the same apps to assure cross-platform and cross-operating system compatibility. These platforms are great for organized meetings, entertainment, or educational purposes. But when you need to engage a customer or a lead from your website, or for email/texting communications, the best video calling technology to utilize is one that allows a “one-click” audio and video communication to work inside web pages through direct peer-to-peer communication. This eliminates the necessity to install plugins or download apps and ensures an instant video connection; no matter what device or platform the customer or lead is utilizing.  This could alter the entire experience completely and make the difference between a GREAT video experience, and no communication or experience at all (another lost lead).

So, consider using live video chat to have that face-to-face interaction with your customers that is very much desired, especially right now. Combined with good storytelling through strategic vehicle and dealership marketing videos, it could easily slingshot your dealership into a consumer’s first choice. Not just in these times when it is even more crucial to communicate this way, but also when everything goes back to normal. And now is the time to start planning for the future. You don’t want your competition to beat you and take your customers away!  Get that competitive edge and create those loyal customers now!

What Do You Do When Car Buyers Aren’t Coming into Your Showroom?

By Tim James

With all the worry and concern out there regarding the Coronavirus and the impact it will have on public health and business, this is a great time to talk about video communication. It has always been the perfect tool for connecting with consumers without having to be fact-to-face.

To be really effective your video communication platform should integrate New Model Test Drive videos, Inventory Videos, Video Calling, and Real-Time Notifications.

Google estimates that approximately 70% of all automotive shoppers are searching for New Model Review Videos early in the buying cycle. Stand out from the competition by offering shoppers video content, rather than the standard pictures found on common dealership websites. Using the right platform, it is easy to add New Model Review Videos to your website and deliver information in an emotional video presentation for those customers that prefer not to visit a showroom, and still effectively move them through the buying funnel.

Automated Inventory Videos are also proven to transfer more information and inspire more emotion from your VDP Pages than pictures or words alone. They are a great addition to internet and phone lead follow up.

Another critical tool that can win over car shoppers is New Model Test Drive Videos and Full Motion Walkaround Videos. These types of videos are great for car shoppers early in the shopping journey. Inventory videos are then the next logical touchpoint.

During a time when fewer people will chose to visit the showroom, wouldn’t it be nice to know if your leads are still shopping or not? They may not be coming into the dealership, or returning your calls, but what are these folks stuck at home actually doing?

Our platform offers real-time notifications and sends an alert every time one of your prospects is live and watches one of your inventory videos –  whether on your website, AutoTrader,Cars.com, or other third-party marketplaces. You then know exactly when you should attempt to contact them. Even if you cannot reach them at that moment, you can see exactly how active that prospect still is.

Speaking of lead management, one of the easiest ways to increase shopper interaction and convert more website traffic into on-the-lot shoppers is to enable your shoppers to talk to one of your professionals “live” from the comfort and safety of their own home. Live Video Communication is quickly becoming the preferred means of communication.

You can increase the humanization and personalization of your communication touchpoints dramatically in both sales and service by utilizing live video and texting. Live communications make it easy right from that start, and you can scale your video calling strategy throughout your entire dealership, regardless of size. Encourage your customers to video call you and get that face-to-face interaction without actually being face-to-face – something that would certainly appeal to car shoppers nervous about coming into the dealership.

If customers are spending more time at home, they probably have more time to shop online. Provide stimulating and emotional product information to keep your dealership top-of-mind not just now – but in the future once life returns to normal.

In this period of social distancing, video can help your dealership continue to respond to and communicate with car shoppers while moving them down the sales funnel while your competition is waiting.

Body Language Is Important…But Even More So In Digital Marketing

Interpreting meaning through communication can be hard.

For example, the simple statement “Fine.”

What does that word really mean? Ultimately, it depends on the context and, more importantly, how it’s said and the body language which happens in that exact moment.

When your significant other says “fine,” you darn well better know what it means, or you can be in a whole world of trouble! Or, if you tell a teenager they must clean their room before they can go out with friends, play video games or whatever they want, there are many ways fine” can be expressed. If they say it loudly while slamming the door in your face, that has a much different meaning than if they say it in a low submissive but agreeable way.

Humans are masters of perception. We all communicate, and that communication comes across in different ways be it vocal, physical, or via some activity.

But what does all this mean as far as your dealership and communicating with your customers?

As marketers, with all the data available to us today, we can better interpret customer interactions and more effectively communicate with them than ever before.

An argument could be made that a customer’s digital activity can tell us more about their intent than a face-to-face conversation. Ultimately, the digital footprints a customer leaves throughout their car buying journey are, in fact, a conversation. You may not be able to see the customer, but they express their intent through their online activities.

That customer looking at your website and bouncing through your entire used car inventory, who also jumped around on third-party listing sites, is much higher in the sales funnel. They are having a conversation with you. Something along the lines of, “I’m in the market for a car but I don’t know what I want.”

A customer visiting your website, viewing every Honda Civic in stock, is not only telling you they want a Honda Civic but, if you want to get granular, also which trim level, price range and mileage restrictions they value.

Whatever they spend the most time viewing is probably the best fit for what they are searching for. An unlimited amount of data is out there to help you identify, define and motivate customers. You must just take the time to look at it.

Now that you know the customer’s intent, where they are in the funnel and what they are interested in, what’s the best way to communicate with them?

VIDEO!

While you have the secret-agent advantage of all this relevant data showing the customer’s intent, the customer still wants good old face-to-face interaction when it comes down to the sales process. Simply sending a templated email accomplishes nothing. It’s not personal, is not directed to them, fails to really interact on an emotional level, and usually has little relevance.

Of course, you “could” take the creepy road and tell them everything you know about them but that would likely be counterproductive.

The best way to engage a customer is through a personalized video response. They can see you, hear you and read your body language. If you’re sincere, friendly and engaging, and use the data you have about the customer’s digital journey to craft a personal response, the customer will be able to relate; rapport will be established infinitely better than any “Buy from us because we love you” e-mail template.

Don’t be afraid to send video email responses to your customers. Most of your competitors simply send those canned templates from their CRM with ZERO impact – if they even make it through the customer’s spam filter.

Make an impression and win business using technology that allows you to interact with customers the same way business has been won for decades… in person. With video you can now interact in person, without the customer even being in your showroom.

The statistics show that customers respond to video. They can read your personality and intentions more clearly via video than a written communication, because emotions are more clearly illustrated. And, more importantly, as a result they will connect with you better and choose your dealership to buy or service their car. Then everything will be just “fine!”

Are You Throwing Customers Away Due to Lack of Communication Channels?

I was recently in need of a moving company. There was one in my community that had done such a great job of branding and building consumer awareness that I decided to give them first shot at my business. I WANTED to do business with them because of their brilliant marketing.

When I was ready to pull the trigger, I Googled their business name and went to their website searching for an email address so I could interact with them and get information via email.  However, when I landed on their website, the only contact option offered was to call them.

Well, I had seen their number all over the place already, on signs throughout the neighborhood, on the side of their vans, through paid search ads, organic search ads and their organic search listing. But that’s not how I wanted to communicate with them! I wanted to email them, as that is what I prefer, but they didn’t provide that option. So, guess what? I bounced from their website and searched for other companies that would allow me to communicate with them the way I felt comfortable communicating.

This is an interesting analogy as the same problem is so prevalent in our industry — Do you know how many times potential car buyers have moved onto your competition as you do not allow them to interact with you by their preferred method of communication?

If you aren’t offering every form of communication possible, or fail to clearly post all methods of contact throughout your website, you are probably losing potential vehicle sales and service opportunities more often than you think. Consumer preferences for how they wish to contact and interact with a dealership can vary greatly. Some want to call and talk to a live person. Some want to text. Some want to email. And now, with today’s technology, the younger crowd wants to communicate via live video stream – something most dealerships aren’t prepared for.

Regardless of how the customer wants to interact, my guess is that you want to sell them a car. If they are of the same mindset that I was, you could easily lose that opportunity by failing to provide the form of communication the customer wants to use. And therein lies the problem.

There are many generations in the market today buying vehicles – and each one (not just generations but people) prefer different forms of communication.  They may even prefer a different sort of communication at different times, or with different businesses. Imagine if I wanted to communicate with that moving company at 1:00am. I couldn’t even send them an email because all they had was a phone number!

Our goal shouldn’t be just to move shoppers through our sales funnel, it should be to make it easy for shoppers to move through our sales funnel.  To accomplish this, you must ensure that all your bases are covered when it comes to providing your customers – or potential customers – their preferred means of communicating with you.

If you are like most dealers, I am sure you try, unsuccessfully, to communicate with customers that submit lead forms all day long. Why make it difficult for them to engage with you when, in fact, they may really want to?

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Those of you with spouses have probably heard this at least once: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!” Whether at home or at work, miscommunication can cause plenty of problems.

Have you ever misinterpreted the tone of an email that a colleague wrote to you? Perhaps you thought a tersely written email meant that person was angry, but in fact, they were just rushed. Or someone joked about something in an email, but you took offense because you thought they were serious?

Miscommunication is so common that it’s one of the main reasons why some dealerships require BDC staff and salespeople to use templates for customer communications. And it’s why some CEOs are issuing video recommendations to employees, instead of email memos.

Videos allow people to see how you’re saying something, leaving little room for error in the interpretation of what you’re saying. In fact, videos are so effective at expressing personality and tone that it’s become trendy for job seekers to send video resumes to prospective employers.

Let’s face it: a public perception still exists that in general, car dealers are not humble, caring or honest. One bad experience with an overeager or aggressive salesperson is all it takes to forever sour the car-buying experience for a consumer.

As a dealer, how do you change this perception? You could try creating marketing slogans and post them on your website, in ads and in emails, but words by themselves don’t have much impact. Online consumers are very adept at scanning information to find out what’s important to them; which isn’t necessarily what the dealership thinks is important. We all have the ability to ignore or visually ‘tune out’ messages right before our eyes.

When a consumer watches a video, however, it’s not as easy to tune out the message. Videos offer a multimedia experience with live action, sounds and sights, so the entire message is absorbed. Retention rises too. Video viewers retain 80% of what they hear and see in videos, versus just 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they see.

This is partly due to the fact that so much of our communication is non-verbal. Think about your own experiences. Have you ever had a customer service experience and were put off by the customer service rep, even though they were saying all the right things? Perhaps you believed the person wasn’t truly sincere. Or perhaps their tone started getting defensive, leaving you with the impression that they didn’t care about your problem.

When we communicate, we pick up multiple cues from facial expressions, gestures and tone. This happens largely on a sub-conscious level, but the end result–the emotion we feel–is very conscious.

If you’re looking for ways to improve customer perception and communications at your dealership, try creating the following videos.

  • A value proposition video that features a dealer or other company spokesperson showing, not telling, what your dealership has to offer
  • Vehicle walk around videos that generate emotion and excitement about your inventory
  • Customer testimonial videos that feature real customers saying nice things about your staff; these do a lot to alleviate car shoppers’ fears about a bad experience
  • Lead follow up videos from salespeople that engage car shoppers; if the salesperson comes across as likeable, these greatly increase the probability of response
  • Service videos that feature service staff help to build trust and the perception of honesty

Of course, you have to make sure that your videos are conveying not just the right message, but the right tone. When you first start to create videos, ask as many people as you can for their objective and true opinions. Don’t get emotionally attached to the videos you’ve created, and don’t get defensive if the feedback from others isn’t what you want to hear. The last thing you want to do it spend time and money creating videos that turn prospective customers off.

Video communication is powerful, so use it wisely. More than two million years of evolution has equipped most humans with the ability to accurately sense insincerity, arrogance and plain old hogwash. So say what you mean, and if you don’t truly mean it, don’t say it.

How to Use Video to Turn Leads Into Shows

by Tim James

All dealerships get leads that originate from the Internet. Not all dealers, however, are equal when it comes to how they handle these leads. Ever wonder why some dealers are able to close Internet leads at 12+ percent, while others struggle to reach 6 percent? The reason has everything to do with how these leads are handled – from speed of reply to the content in the reply itself.

One of the most powerful ways to communicate to today’s tech savvy customers is with video. It’s a highly effective form of communication because it engages the customer’s senses. It can help capture the customer’s attention and increase the amount of leads that turn into appointments.

There are three basic types of videos that I find work best when created and integrated into any lead follow up system :

  1. Lead Response Videos: When you receive a 3rd party Internet lead, chances are really good that lead also went to multiple other dealerships. This interested buyer then gets bombarded by e-mails and phone calls. Quite frankly, most of these responses are generic, contain no information, aren’t personalized and tend to start looking alike. Gain a competitive edge with your response — rather than simply send a template email, create a personalized video response that thanks the customers for the inquiry. Introduce yourself, mention the vehicle the customer inquired about and invite them in. Your video will stand out and make you the memorable one. Customers will also feel flattered that you took the time to create this video and realize that there is a real person communicating with them, not just a computer.
  1. Appointment Confirmation Videos: When you do get a customer that is interested in test driving a vehicle, it’s important to create a sense of obligation on their part. It’s proven that e-mails that contain videos get opened at a far higher rate than those that do not (especially when the word “video” is in the subject line). Create an appointment confirmation video and you can increase the chance that the customer will open and view it. In addition, use the video to tell them that you’re looking forward to seeing them and make it “personal” so they feel guilty if they blow you off and don’t show up. Let them know that you are doing something “for them” by making sure you have the vehicle cleaned up, pulled around and waiting for them…and offer to have an ice cold bottle of water or a cold Coca Cola waiting for them.
  1. Personalized Walkaround Videos: Nothing is stronger than sending a personalized walkaround video to your customers. The fact that you took the time to video and explain the features and benefits of the specific vehicle they inquired about JUST FOR THEM, can impress them and can also increase their interest level. People appreciate it when others go that extra mile to help them. Make your vehicle AND yourself memorable and you’ll have a better chance of building trust and rapport with your customer and, ultimately, getting them into your dealership.

Give one or two of these a try, I’m confident you’ll be impressed with the increase in the lead to appointment rates and appointment show rates that you receive.