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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!

The Bird Is the Word

One of the reasons video captures your customers’ attention and engages them so effectively is that, when done properly, it tells a story. I came across a great article on AdWeek.com, which shares how the scooter company Bird created a clever video telling a powerful story. It’s not overtly promotional or in your face but instead has some key factors which make it so engaging.

First, it’s story-based. As in any story, it begins with character development, introduces pain points and then provides a solution. When you watch the short video, you see a street line painter endure multiple obstacles while trying to do his job. From traffic congestion, to exhaust, his life is frustrating. Then commuters riding Bird scooters enter the scene. He recognizes they would alleviate the obstacles and decides to take steps to solve the problem.

This illustrates the key factors which should be used when telling a story via video. You don’t have to create an animated masterpiece to convey your dealership’s (or your) story effectively. If you keep the essential elements of storytelling in mind when planning video content for your customers (or potential customers), they will end up more engaged. This translates into a desire to do business with you.

Video content is not all about selling. Sure, you should have videos of your inventory on your VDPs; send out personalized video email responses; communicate with customers via live video and have “Meet the Team” videos so customers can learn more about your dealership’s most valuable asset – your people. But, depending on where the customer is in the sales cycle, some types of videos work better than others.

Video works because customers feel included. When it comes to live video, customers know you are addressing them directly, and they can talk to you in real-time from the comfort of their home. However, even personal video responses can elicit a similar emotional connection. If done correctly, the customer can see that the salesperson is responding to them personally, rather than merely communicating via a generic email template. That personalization, combined with the critical factors of storytelling, not only engages your customer but builds rapport and stimulates emotion.

Here are some quick tips on how to do this:

Regardless of if it is a live video or a personalized pre-recorded video, the structure is the same. Introduce yourself, acknowledge the consumer by name, reaffirm the vehicle they are interested in and then walk them through key factors, identifying pain points by choosing appropriate stories. “Mr. Customer, my name is Bob, and I have been working with Toyota of Mars for 5 years. I’ve helped many customers find and secure vehicles that meet their needs and their budgets. [character development]. I realize that you’re concerned about safety. It’s certainly something that is a concern. Not all drivers are patient, follow the rules of the road and are aware of their fellow drivers.” [pain point addressed] This 2018 Toyota which you inquired about is an excellent choice. It has many safety features, including… [solution addressed].” Then finish the video with a clear call to action expressing what action you would like the viewer to take next and why they should take it.

Adding a touch of storytelling elements to your video content can transform an ordinary video into an engaging and emotional piece that captures and keeps your customer’s attention. More importantly, it separates you from your competition by personalizing that interaction and creating an experience that goes far beyond a simple walk-around or introduction video… and that’s how you get their attention —- and keep it!

Islands in the Stream, that is What We Are

Live video is taking over. If you have been on social media anytime lately, you probably noticed the barrage of streaming Facebook Live videos. In addition, videoconferencing has replaced boring teleconferences on just about every major platform. Why? Because, while we supposedly live in a super connected world, people are, in fact, less connected than ever. We communicate via text in short sound bites that are constantly misinterpreted. Emails are frequently misunderstood and social communications via platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are often incorrectly perceived.  This is because the majority of human communication occurs through visual cues such as body language, tone of voice and facial expressions… and you cannot see any of these through text or email.

Why the rise in live streaming with telecommunication companies and social media platforms? Because it’s engaging. Video, in itself, is engaging. But add in another dimension where it is not pre-recorded, but live, and conversations occur in real-time. It takes video to the next level as a communications tool.

If you think this is not already happening, let me tell you, it is. And it could be creating problems for your dealership if it’s happening on a salesperson’s personal Facebook profile or on a Facebook page they created to represent the dealership. First, if it’s happening on the salesperson’s personal profile or a Facebook page they created, there is truly no dealership connection, record of the conversation or ability for oversight. Second, when salespeople are representing the dealership, those conversations with customers belong to the dealership, not the salesperson. What happens if the salesperson says the wrong thing – even innocently?

Now don’t misunderstand my point here as live streaming video is an excellent way to engage customers. The customer can talk to a salesperson as if they were on your lot. The salesperson can walk out to the vehicle the customer is interested in, do a walkaround and interact with the customer live while answering their questions and showing them features they are interested in. It’s like taking a phone call to another level. Live streaming will certainly grow in used, just as video-conferencing has. If you are not doing so already, you would be wise to investigate solutions that allow these types of engagement between consumers and your dealerships in a way that’s measurable, and controllable, while enabling customers to communicate in the way they prefer and find the most productive.

Here are 62 statistics about live-streaming that are important to know. This blog would be a book if I went into all of them, but the key point is that live-streaming is quickly becoming the medium of choice for consumers for brand interaction.

In our era of smartphones with built in Facetime and Google Hangouts, consumers are utilizing real-time live streaming to connect with their loved ones and friends because it’s more intimate and personal. And that is spreading to the retail world. Consumers can gain a more intimate and personal connection with your dealership in the same communication manner. Whether it’s from a one-way video call (the customer can only see the salesperson) or a two-way video call (both can see each other), they are equally effective.

People want to deal with people. This is easy to do via live-streaming, right from the comfort of their home. Salespeople have a much better opportunity to build rapport and trust and help the customer while telling the car’s story. They can show customers what they want to see – all in real-time.

Oh, and just a quick note in closing, as I don’t want to make you work too hard — for those of you too young to remember the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers song “Islands in the Stream,” the title is a word play on the title of that song – stream – streaming video – get it?

With shoppers flooding the streams of video, your dealership needs to be the island they can rely on for great content, a personal connection and to get exactly what they want in the format they choose to engage.