By Billy Reynolds, Regional Vice President, Elead
What’s the most iconic noise of our time? I’d argue it’s the text message alert sound associated with the iPhone. No matter where you are – the grocery store, Home Depot, a wedding – if you play this sound, people around will freeze and make an instinctual grab for their iPhones.
We’ve all been trained to react to it. That’s why texting is such an effective customer communication channel. People can’t help but respond, like Pavlov’s dog, to that sound.
Various studies back up this claim. Research shows text open rates are as high as 98 percent, compared to just 20 percent for emails. And, on average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text and 90 minutes to respond to an email.
That doesn’t mean email is dead – far from it. But it does mean that texting is an extremely effective way to communicate with customers and should be included in every dealership’s communication strategy.
Like any type of communication, there are best practices. These texting dos and don’ts will help your team get the best results from this highly effective way of communicating.
Keep it simple – Don’t try to say too much with a text. Your message is supposed to be short and sweet. If you have paragraphs to say, put them in an email. Then send a text asking the customer to please check email for an important message.
Limit videos to 30 seconds – Text is a great way to share videos of vehicle walkarounds, service inspections, sales introductions, and more. But keep videos to 30-seconds or less. It’s difficult to hold attention past that point. So, keep it precise, get to the point, and make sure you’re smiling and welcoming throughout.
Transcend language barriers – Have a great conversation with customers who speak another language by using Google translate, or another service, to translate texts. You both “speak” in your native languages, something you cannot do effortlessly over the phone, for a seamless and gratifying experience.
Limit no-shows – Start texting customers to confirm sales appointments instead of calling. Confirming via text is easier and less pressure for customers. Think about it: Sales wants to close the deal so they probably convey a sense of urgency over the phone that can cause anxiety in customers and lead to no-shows. Text is a low-pressure, more neutral channel with better response rates.
Allow employees to use personal phones – This has been said before but bears repeating. Supply dealership-owned, CRM-integrated mobile phones to employees and mandate only those phones are used to communicate with customers. When employees use personal phones, you cannot track, manage, or review texts for quality control or continuity of customer records. Plus, if that employee leaves, those conversations and relationships go out the door too.
Allow messaging without templates – Text templates are hugely important to make sure messages are professional, on-brand, and include the right call to action. Create categories and templates for different messages that you want to parley into sales, including service appointment confirmation, payment portal notification, CSI follow-up, sales appointment, and recommended services notification. Make sure to include a map hyperlink so customers can easily navigate to your store via GPS.
Ignore texting rules and regulations – The Telephone Consumer Protection Act includes specific rules about obtaining consent before sending texts to customers. It’s important to play by the rules. Fines are as high as $500 for every unsolicited text that a consumer reports.
A couple more tips that don’t necessarily fall into the dos and don’ts categories include initiating texting while a customer is in the store. Face-to-face is the quickest and easiest way to nudge customers to opt-in to messaging. Ask if you can send them a text, then encourage them to save your number under your name, while they have their phone out. Becoming a saved contact and a customer’s “go-to car guy” is a powerful opportunity to establish a relationship that will continue beyond the initial transaction.
The last tip is to think ahead to all the possible ways you want to use texting in the future and find a solutions partner that can handle what you want to do now and grow with you. A good list starts with sales quotes and worksheets, inventory links, vehicle photos and walk-around videos, secure credit app links, and completed work notifications. I’m sure you can think of more. Also, ensure that all texting will integrate with your CRM so you can track and manage conversations for quality control and better customer experiences.
Thanks to that iconic ‘ping’ alert and the ease and simplicity of responding, text messaging is an extremely effective way to communicate with customers. With a few dos and don’ts and a couple of tips, you can use texting to establish strong customer relationships for years to come.
About the Author
Billy Reynolds is a 20+ year veteran of the automotive industry, holding various retail positions in sales and general management before joining Elead. As regional vice president, Billy currently oversees the sales division located in the Southeast region of the U.S.