Web Chat is Dead, Declares Digital Marketing Expert

So your “omnichannel” customer support portfolio contains web chat. In theory, a customer can log onto your website, and if he or she has a question, the shopper can initiate a web chat session. Great! But is it? Do you have a dedicated person attending to the chats at all times? Probably not. Are you outsourcing it to some third party? If so, does the person picking up the chats have the knowledge needed to answer specific, in-depth questions? Probably not.

In a recent editorial, Digital Expert Ray Reggie noted that web chat is all but dead, at least for the vehicle sales business.

“When chat was initially introduced, it was billed as an innovative solution to deliver information, convert inquiries into sales leads, and process customer questions in a more efficient manner,” wrote Reggie. “Dealers soon realized that chat requests were not being responded to internally, so they began outsourcing that responsibility. However, customer service only continued to decrease from that point onward.”

Web chat was frequently sent to third party companies that lacked the knowledge to properly address customer questions. In some cases, these outsourced service providers were outside the U.S. and actually introduced language barriers into the customer relationship before it even got started. Not a great way to introduce yourself to prospective buyers.

In an era of customer support when buyers want the right answers and they want them quickly, web chat has proved to be relatively ineffective – even harmful – for dealerships. (Unless it’s a dealership large enough to put properly trained and dedicated staff to handling queries via web chat and social media.)

In many cases, customers caught on that chat was rather one-way: make a query, get a generic non-answer, and get a follow-up call from a sales rep.

“With chat really being used as a lead generator, too much emphasis was placed on immediately capturing the name, phone number, and email address of a prospect when they initiated a chat,” wrote Reggie. “Prospects are very smart — they don’t want to be hounded or harassed. They just want the necessary information to quickly solve their problem. Immediately collecting the prospect’s contact information before asking how they can be helped frustrated them even before the chat started.”

So what’s the alternative? Text messaging, or SMS, is a great idea, and resonates in particular with younger buyers. Sales staff could take turns being “on call” for text messaging, or messages could be farmed out to the right recipient by administrative staff. “Click to call” is another great idea, ensuring that a customer browsing the web site can initiate a call to the dealership with the click of a button.