Ask Glen Demetrioff about current online chat programs on dealership websites and the DMT president and CEO gets straight to the point.
“For most cases, and I would say 90 per cent of the time, it is a pseudo-answering service that would allow the customer to provide information but never get any in return,” he says. “They are glorified answering machines.”
It was in that vein that the Winnipeg-based software company started its two-year journey that culminated in the release of DIGITAL! Interview, an online chat solution that connects a person browsing online directly to a salesperson on the floor in real time.
Released in early July, the product hits the market after years of research, mystery shopping, software development and a successful pilot program in approximately dozens of Canadian dealerships. DMT says functionality is such a departure from traditional chat services that Demetrioff prefers to qualify it as “conversation.”
Contact occurs with a customer being engaged by a pop-up screen offering a chat – nothing new here. But where DMT changes things is through the use of its own certified, bilingual concierge team. They work to gather a little information – customer name and email address – before sending an alert to the dealer’s staff via email and SMS text notifying them of the online lead.
It is first come, first served amongst staff, assuming someone is free to handle it.
The concierge will transfer the customer to the dealership staffer who can text or type directly to the customer. (It works on smartphone, desktop and tablet.) There is no app to download.
“Once the handover has occurred, you can have the same full-fledged sales conversation any customer would have with a salesperson on the floor,” he says. “Salespeople can also send assets including digital brochures, video content and anything they would need to support the process.”
All of those digital supporting files – OEM commercials, vehicle stat sheets, etc. – have been preloaded in the system so it covers all brands and as many models as possible.
The customer interface includes a picture of the salesperson in the chat. The dealership’s side offers full visibility of what is going on with the customer’s device and shows if the customer is watching a video or reading a brochure.
“We also tried to leverage technology that is native on different devices,” he says, noting that iPhone users will be able to use Siri for talk-to-text if required and even take a picture of the car or a feature without having to end the chat.
The company says DIGITAL! Interview will allow dealership staff to transfer the conversation from one device to another, meaning salespeople can start the conversation on a desktop and continue chatting via a smartphone while keeping the same interface and functionality.
Information shared over the course of the conversation is automatically added to a profile for that customer that includes name, phone number, browser, device and email address that will be fed into the CRM tool.
When the conversation is done, the salesperson can send a thank-you from a customizable template. An email goes out to the customer that includes all of the assets shared during the chat and a complete transcript of the entire conversation.
During a DMT demo, Demetrioff showed the system’s dashboard view where management can monitor performance and see things like the number of conversations generated, the source of those conversations and success in connecting with the customer, among other things.
General managers can review transcripts and see the performance of sales staff by the average number of interactions and average conversation length.
DMT figures from the pilot put the average length of time that a salesperson converses with customer at more than 20 minutes.
Cost has not been released but Demetrioff says it will be competitive in the industry. He also says DIGITIAL! Interview boasts a very high adoption rate coming out of the pilot program.
“There are people that will always walk into your store to buy a car, but buying online is coming. We see brands dabbling in it now in the U.S. It is coming. How are you going to facilitate a transaction online if you cannot talk to them? DIGITAL! Interview is the first step of digital engagement.”