A Better Website for 2011

As Seen in the Chat Room

As we kick off the new year, looking back on ways to improve sales tactics and marketing techniques is a number one priority for most company brands. One obvious area any company should look at is their website, especially for dealerships when online research is becoming a more frequently used customer tool.

The Montreal Gazette had a helpful article on rebooting digital marketing tactics, listing several tips on what to ask yourself this year as you prepare for 2011, including:

Does your website suck? There has been such a focus on social media that many business websites look tired, out-of-date and lack the functionality consumers expect. It might be time for a refresh or an overhaul of your website.

Everything starts with the website once a customer decides to check out a dealership online before heading to the store. The Outsell Live Chat Center gets feedback on hundreds of dealership websites daily. There are several common complaints and expectations our chatters receive when dealing with consumers online.

The three most common questions in chat are about availability of a vehicle, pricing of a vehicle, and credit concerns for financing. You can see our last “As Seen in the Chat Room” blog where we discussed customers with credit concerns here.

“When asking about availability sometimes customers are interested in a vehicle they found listed in a newspaper, on Cars.com, craigslist, or any number of other sites,” reported Customer Interaction Specialist, Andres Perez, “But those vehicles are rarely also listed on the dealership’s main site.” This can be frustrating for consumers and can make it more difficult for chat agents to capture a lead when there is no confirmation the vehicle might be available.

Keep your online inventory as up to date as possible, especially if there are listings other than on the main site.

In the Outsell Live Chat Center we understand that inventory listing cannot always be perfect, and explain to customers that a sales manager will always need to confirm availability, but being able to offer the simplest peace of mind can be an important step in securing a sales lead.

“Along with availability, customers want basic specifics about the vehicle to be easily accessible on the website, like exterior and interior color, transmission type, mileage, what packages are included, etc.,” said Perez. These basics are usually listed with every vehicle, so when they are not, especially on a new model, customers can be more reluctant to offer information for a sales lead.

Likewise, CARFAX is available for viewing on most used vehicles for free right from the inventory page. Customers can become suspicious if that feature is not offered.

While chat agents cannot confirm pricing or any finalized deal on a vehicle, and most shoppers understand that, they still expect a starting point and are often turned off if pricing is not listed online, or listed as “Please Call” or “Contact Us”. Many dealership sites list at least the MSRP if not a general price for every vehicle. Those that do not can often get left behind in the sales race.

Since inventory status and pricing are two of the most important questions coming into chat, before these issues can even be addressed the inventory search on the website must first be easy to navigate. Not being able to search new vehicle inventory, for example, or having any general navigation issues with the search function can immediately turn customers away.

National and dealership specials also need to be current, as well as any coupons. “Service coupons, even the ones mentioned in email notifications sent to customers, are often complained about in the chat room as being out of date,” said Sarah Thorson, another top Customer Interaction Specialist in the Chat Center. Make sure such coupons are updated regularly.

The use of pop-ups should be considered carefully, since many customers have pop-up blockers and can be irritated by even one unwanted pop-up while they are searching online. Often these pop-ups are of specials or coupons that are impossible to find elsewhere on the website if the customer closes the window. One helpful option for sites with specials or coupons in local papers is to have a PDF or image file available of the current ads.

Chat agents also mentioned that while vehicle info is usually a priority for any consumer, occasionally they also want to remember a salesperson they worked with previously or get an email address. A website can look much more professional and trustworthy if there is a personnel list, especially including pictures and contact info.

There are many simple ways of staying on top of customer satisfaction with online shopping. Have you looked over your website plans for the New Year yet?