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How This Digital Manager Uses Car Dealer Chat to Maximize Opportunity

Technology is a wonderful thing…when it’s put in context for your needs. The sad fact is that many dealership tech investments get used for a little while, then forgotten in the rush. Not so at Stoneacre Motor Group.

We chatted with Sasha Miller, Stoneacre’s Digital Manager, tasked with ensuring the group actually uses and makes the most of their digital investments like car dealer chat.

“It can be a hard transition to change a team’s mindset to match the consumer’s and channel the tech investment to match, but we have to try new things,” she says. “Our customers are changing every day. When I first started, it was telephone communication; now, it’s text or chat. If there are any points we can identify to connect with the customer, we need to be there and be constantly reviewing it.”

Here’s what has her so excited about their current chat partner and consumer-to-business messaging in general.

Q: Why is messaging like chat an important communication option to have?

Sasha Miller: Offering chat gives us more opportunities to engage. Some people do prefer this type of communication, some are at work or home with children and sending a quick chat is more convenient. Why not be there to communicate at that point when the customer is ready? Customer service is the forefront of my aim because without the customer, where would we be?

This customer-centric approach isn’t felt just in offering new communication options. It’s obviously a theme throughout their company: 92% of their customers would recommend Stoneacre to a friend!

Q: What do you like about using Contact At Once! messaging?

SM: Contact At Once! presented a lot of data for us to consider, and we ended up switching chat providers. As far as what I like best, there are three big areas where they’ve helped us already:

  1. Constant, two-way communication – We use their managed chat services, and we can call with quick updates. We even share ideas to see what the managed chat team suggests vs. what we see. This makes resolving any issues easy and quick!
  2. Ability to identify areas of improvement – We use their tech to identify where we’ve fallen short in the past without Contact At Once!, and that is helping us grow in the digital sales department. The insight into real-time areas where we maybe aren’t performing the best (like response times or after-hours availability) allows us to correct and improve it (like adding managed chat).
  3. Ability to use one tool to manage messaging in multiple places – We need to deal with shoppers where they want to deal with us…but we’ve never had the technology before to do that beyond our website. Now we can manage messaging from our site, listings, even chats that might arrive via Volvo Seleckt and Nissan sites. We were missing sales opportunities, and we didn’t realize it!

Q: How do you use the managed chat component you mentioned?

SM: When my team leaves at 8:00pm, our managed team of Live Advisors from Contact At Once! logs in and handles every conversation after hours, 8:00pm to 8:00am. Plus, if none of my agents are available during the day, the chats can roll over to these Live Advisors again. We identified that this extra availability is needed: Those customers were being missed without it.

Q: You talked about growing sales. Are there any numbers you’d like to share?

SM: One of the joys in my work is yielding results—maximizing opportunities for the entire company, not just my sales team. We definitely see an uplift in sales conversations when we shifted to Contact At Once!, added AutoTrader messaging and after-hours support. Even though our chat department is small, we can attribute 5% of our total April sales due to this technology after hours. And within operational hours, the technology has contributed to a success of more than 20% lead-to-deal conversion.

I believe part of our success is because we can now be available wherever (and whenever) the consumer is in the buying journey. I’m keen to keep watching the data and use it and this technology to constantly improve how we respond to car shoppers!

Why Answering Dealership Chats & Texts Is His Answer to Closing More Deals

The missing puzzle piece to close deals

What works for one company may not work for another. That’s why there are common debates about which messaging approach is best—have someone else manage it all, do it all in-house or a mix of both—let alone which vendor to use. But at Windsor Chrysler in Ontario, there’s no question left in Steve Desjardins’ mind.

“I’ve used several chat solutions,” recalls the General Manager. “Not only did they not allow my team to answer, they didn’t answer for us very well. But we’ve been seeing the best results since we switched to Contact At Once!’s co-managed solution two years ago.”

We recently sat down with Steve and discussed why he’s such a believer in personally connecting with customers (especially when it happens via text or chat).

Q: Why do you think you’re getting better results now?

Steve Desjardins: It’s a combination of good people, good technology and the fact that we can use that technology the way that best fits our dealership’s and customers’ needs. To me, the ability to self-manage the conversations is valuable. We know our customers the best! Contact At Once! helps my sales team connect with those customers and answer their questions, but we still get the after-hours backup needed to assist people who reach out when the dealership is closed: the Contact At Once! managed chat team treats those customers the way we would.

Q: So would you say using the Contact At Once! chat and text solution has improved the consumer experience? What about sales?

SD: We sell at least 5-8 cars per month that we can attribute back to Contact At Once!, and the consumer experience has improved significantly for both customers and sales reps! In fact, I recently set up the entire sales department to use the texting software; it’s just the way to go. I’ve had employees text me, saying they were able to sell a car from their own couch! It’s really a great experience for everyone involved. (Even I love getting the conversation transcripts; I read every single one.)

Q: What do you like most about using Contact At Once!?

SD: I can 100% say that my favorite part about using Contact At Once! is my dealership’s ability to self-answer and self-manage our customers, with backup when we need it. Today’s customers want answers right away, and they can tell the difference between talking with a robot or a real person…even over a chat or text message. Contact At Once! makes that personal connection quick and easy, so we can take care of our customers and keep them coming back.

Consumer Survey Infographic: An Easier Homebuying & Renting Process for All

Mobile messaging is what homebuyers and renters of all ages want

Property management and real estate in general are industries that thrive on referrals, which are fueled by good experiences. But what constitutes a good experience evolves with technology…because technology can change our expectations.

For example, we, as consumers, increasingly expect to engage with your real estate or property management team wherever we are, however and whenever we want to connect. In other words, we expect mobile messaging. Don’t believe me? Check out the infographic below, and consider the following:

Today’s Trends Can’t Be Ignored

  • MORE micro-moments – Consumers turn to smartphones or other mobile devices when they need to find answers or complete a task like researching apartments (91% of smartphone users do this).
  • LESS patienceMicrosoft says that our attention spans have gone from 12 seconds to eight seconds. No wonder we don’t like to sit on hold or wait for emails.
  • MORE expectations – We’ve come to expect a much smoother experience from start to finish. Many smartphone users immediately switch sites or apps if the one they’re on “doesn’t satisfy”: 70% switch if it’s too slow (by seconds); 67% switch if there are too many steps in the process.
  • LESS brand loyalty – Perhaps because of all the information at our fingertips, consumers consider more companies/brands than they did 10 years ago…and almost half say they’re more likely to switch.
  • MORE mobile research – Almost 90% of buyers use a mobile search engine during the homebuying process. And homebuyers aren’t just researching on mobile, many are also ready to connect and contact an agent.

It All Adds Up to Mobile Messaging: Text, Chat, Etc.

The good news is that the same technology fueling the above trends can help you adapt. If you make it easier to connect and get things done with text, chat and in-app messaging, you’re setting yourself up to provide the type of experiences that can lead to more referrals. According to our 2016 Consumer Survey results…

  • 83% of respondents would prefer to use mobile messaging to communicate with businesses about purchases.
  • Almost 9 in 10 respondents agreed that they’re more likely to buy from a business that offers the option to communicate via mobile messaging.
  • And 98% of those who used mobile messaging during their buying cycle said it improved their experience.

The people have spoken. Read the full 2016 Consumer Survey here, or check out the infographic below for a snapshot of why chat and text are such smart options for your team:

2016 Consumer Survey Infographic for Real Estate Teams

How Mobile Messaging Helps Your Business Benefit From Laziness


We are lazy. Yes, that includes you and me—at least when we put on our consumer hats. Spare time is precious (those of us 25-54 spend most of the day working), so no wonder we put off what’s not convenient in the small moments of leisure!

The good news is that your business can benefit from such consumer “laziness.”

It’s all about making life easy for them (us). Businesses who do, win. Here’s how.

Remember: Consumers Can Be Lazy. Businesses Can’t.

True story: My husband and I are mid-30s, and we don’t own a desktop computer OR home phone. We have Wi-Fi, laptops, a smart TV and smartphones. But if I need to do something online—like pay a bill—I don’t go through the hassle of pulling out my laptop. I do it all from my smartphone.

I’m not alone: More than one-third of all engagements between a consumer and a Contact At Once! retailer (in 2015) involved a mobile device.

I also procrastinate on errands that require a phone call. Whether getting pre-approval from our insurance company to seeing if a store is open on a holiday or checking on the status of our house being sold, I don’t like wasting my time on phone calls, automated systems or even just small talk.

I’m not alone: Text (and other forms of mobile messaging) has displaced talking as consumers’ preferred interaction, per this IDC InfoBrief.

How to Embrace These Lazy Tendencies & Win

It’s never been more important to be the convenient part of your homeowners’ or residents’ day. Why put up barriers to people doing business with you? Instead…

1.) Allow consumers to take every action necessary, right from your mobile site or app. From asking questions to scheduling relevant appointments and possibly even making payments or starting the paperwork process, let them do it all from the device at hand.

There can be a hefty price for inconvenience here. For example, one business required me to log into the desktop site to change my account (couldn’t do it from mobile). So I did that…and canceled. I’m not alone in this action, either: A 2015 IBM and Econsultancy study found that 49% of consumers recently changed service providers—banking, mobile, internet or satellite/cable—due to experience-related factors.

2.) Streamline the steps to your most desired actions. If you want people to schedule a tour or just inquire about a listing, help them do it in as few clicks as possible. Mobile messaging (be it a chat or text), can help them do it through a natural conversation without having to navigate through your site.

3.) Offer multiple options for the times when a conversation is needed: text, chat, in-app messaging, phone, etc. What’s convenient for one moment may not be convenient for the next, so let consumers choose. Then the face-to-face or phone interactions you do have may have a stronger effect. They weren’t forced there; they chose it.

4.) Make it personal by remembering them. It’s annoying to fill in the same information about yourself again and again, whether via an online form or through an automated voice system. Text and in-app messaging let you easily identify customers, follow up, pick up conversations where they left off and build on that relationship whenever they return.

5.) Build a start-to-finish mobile messaging network (here’s an automotive video example). When you offer mobile messaging at every customer touchpoint, you’re fitting into their busy lifestyles and making it super-easy to get in touch with you, from their first sales question to customer service inquiries over the days, months and years to follow.

There’s a big bonus to such action: Contact At Once! customer sites adding mobile messaging have shown engagement increases of up to (and over) 40%. And that doesn’t count the lifetime value of a happy customer!

In other words: Make it easy and make it mobile, and you’ll win more often. Because we consumers are just lazy like that.

CPO Forum Connections: Beyond the Conference


Although we rely so heavily on digital nowadays, nothing changes this fact: People need people. They just want to connect in a different way. In fact, that’s the topic of the CPO Forum talk by Contact At Once!’s very own Adam Flegge (Nov. 16, 10 a.m.)!

So if you’re headed to the event in Scottsdale, Ariz., next month, don’t miss that presentation and the new ideas that are sure to spark after learning about live ads, in-app messaging, etc.

We also don’t want you to miss the chance to connect with your fellow auto professionals in different ways too—outside of the conference itself. To help, we’ve gathered a list of “ways to connect” around the area, from comedy clubs to great restaurants and even a Pony Express experience:

Connect Over…Fun Things to Do

Connect Over…Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner (including delivery for when you’re just too tired to connect)








Pizza & Pasta

Pubs/Wine/Bar & Grille



Steak House

All set to make some great connections this CPO Forum? Enjoy, and we hope to see you there!

(Whatever you do, though, don’t pick up cacti. You can be fined $10,000 for transplanting a saguaro catcus without the proper license.)


Ready for Last-Minute Halloween Community Connections?


Let’s take a break from digital connections for a moment. Let’s focus on in-person connections with your property management team and your residents! Because although we all love digital communication, the strongest relationships are still built the old-fashioned way. Luckily, the holidays give some great excuses for community-wide get-togethers!

Whether you already have something planned for this weekend or are just realizing that it’s Halloween and need to scare up some ideas stat, we’ve got you covered. Check out these resources and don’t sweat it…unless you’ve forgotten to buy Halloween candy for all the little goblins and ballerinas headed your way:

What to Do

From decorating your lobby or office to offering scary movies, a community trick-or-treat event, a pumpkin carving (or painting!) contest or a costume party, there are lots of great ideas shared on AppFolio’s and this post. Wondering what sort of quick food you could provide guests in your lobby or during an event? Go simple with brew-ha-ha punch and some yummy caramel corn.

(If you decide to do some pumpkin carving before Saturday, here are printable pumpkin carving stencils to help.)

How to Stay Safe

Of course, as a property manager, Halloween isn’t just all treats and fun. Whatever you do, you have to ensure that your residents and guests are safe too, from distributing flashlights or reflectors to reminding residents to secure their pets. and the Institute of Real Estate Management offer some great advice on the subject.

What to Wear

So now that you’ve got your event settled, what are you going to wear? One quick idea is to dress as a pun: To be a “big waste of time,” you could wear a gigantic belt with watches strung on it. To be “someone you can count on,” simply cut out numbers and stick them to your clothes. Here are some other last-minute costume ideas.

So tell us: What are YOU going to be (or do) for Halloween?

The Latest Mobile Migration Data & How to Respond


There’s been a flood of studies about how mobile Web use is still skyrocketing in the auto industry and almost everywhere else. Yet only a shocking 55% of businesses have a mobile-optimized website (in fact, 70%94.5% of SMBs don’t).

That shouldn’t be you…and here’s why.

Mobile Is Where Consumers Research

You’ve probably seen statistics that speak to the rise of smartphone and tablet users worldwide. According to the latest Mobile Path to Purchase Study, those mobile devices now account for about 51% of total time spent online. In fact, 35% of auto shoppers researched exclusively on smartphones.

Even auto dealers, who are typically slow to adopt new technology (just kidding!), are shifting this way. We here at Contact At Once! compared our 2013 and 2014 website traffic (January to May), and saw some pretty obvious trends:

  • Mobile/smartphone visits increased 188%
  • Tablet visits increased 149%
  • Desktop visits decreased 25%

So if auto dealers are increasingly researching via mobile devices, you can bet car shoppers are too…on at least one of those 24 research sources Google talks about.

Mobile Research Spurs Action

Consider this: While over half of consumers reach for their mobile devices at the start of their research, only 1 in 5 know exactly what they’re looking for. If you can optimize your sites, provide persuasive information and be easily accessible to answer questions (all via mobile), you could be guiding their final actions…because they will  take action:

In Other Words, the Mobile Migration Has Happened

Take a hard look at your current digital assets. Are they as robust and optimized as they could be? Do you have the appropriate processes in place to meet, greet, help and track shoppers that visit you via mobile? From responsive design to mobile ads, mobile text and mobile chat, there are multiple ways to prepare for this mobile-driven research.

Do so, and you’ll put yourself in the position to influence a growing number of purchase decisions at the moment of truth…instead of assuming that they’ll just find you another way.

Steal This Tip: A Simple Way to Increase Website Conversions

increase website conversions

Ever wonder why you’re not receiving as many sales conversations as you’d like? Well, your contact options (like chat and text buttons) could be drowning in a sea of other choices, blinking buttons, pictures and videos. It’s time to clean the clutter, so shoppers are drawn to the options that convert.

Here’s a simple way to help increase conversions on your website:

  1. Reduce the number of clickable options on your home page to only those necessary (from a buyer’s perspective). Think: What do they need/want to do on your website or mobile site?
  2. Organize the remaining options into meaningful groups. Got several sales or incentives programs? Maybe they can be condensed into one great ad (with one high-impact image or video) that links to a list of options.
  3. Replace some long phrases with universal icons to indicate popular functions. Consider using a question mark or magnifying glass by your search bar or a wrench icon for “service.” The goal is to make your site as simple and scannable as possible, so shoppers know exactly what to do.
  4. Finally, stick to neutral colors, except when highlighting something meaningful. After all, the more things you “highlight,” the less they all stand out. Use color with thought, and it can help draw the shopper’s eye exactly where you want them to take action…like your chat or text options.

Test this less is more principle on your own site, and see how simplification could make a big difference.

Interested in MORE ways to increase Internet sales? Who isn’t? Check out Megan Barto’s 3 tips in Dealer Marketing Magazine. (She’s a Contact At Once! customer, and her dealership gets 60% of their new and used vehicle sales from their Internet department!).

How Did Your Dealership Weather the Winter Storms?

dealership chat text

Despite having the worst of the winter weather behind us (hopefully), the phrase “polar vortex” still evokes a shiver or two from many a dealership. Winter smacked both businesses and consumers in the jaw this year. Even if power stayed on and the lot was plowed…customers probably didn’t come out if the roads were bad.

What about you? Has your dealership ever been “closed due to inclement weather”? Were you able to keep some employees working (like the Internet Sales team)? Did you just you call it a day (or week) and hope the losses weren’t too bad?

And what can you do if it happens again? (Besides control the weather or move to Phoenix.)

  • Power Up – If you saw power outages this year, you’ve probably already looked into getting an emergency generator for your dealership. It can help you keep computers, heat and the essentials on. As one dealer said in a recent Automotive News article on the subject, “How interrupted do you want to be?”
  • Equip Employees to Work From Home – Obviously, this doesn’t work for everyone. But Internet Sales? Your F&I? With the right set of tools, they can access their desktops from home, bring laptops home or use mobile apps to continue working when they can’t come in.
  • Offer Digital Conversations for Cabin Fever Relief – Customers might not be able to drive in during bad weather, but they can still continue their car-buying research online. So make sure there’s still a way for them to ask questions even if the dealership is technically closed. For example: With dealer chat and mobile text options on your websites and ads, customers can have real-time conversations with your sales team (who can respond even if they’re at home, too).
  • Service Care – Your service team could send a quick text to customers with appointments to let them know if you’re still open, ask if they’re still good to come in…or reschedule if needed. (Just make sure you do so in a legally compliant way.)

We weren’t spared by mother nature either. Our own Contact At Once! offices were physically shut down multiple days due to bad weather. Yet our team was able to virtually hum along, answering chats and texts and helping our customers contend with the storms.

So how did YOUR dealership weather winter this year? What lessons did you learn and plan to apply in the future?