How every auto shop should be communicating with their customers

Oct. 17, 2017
The option for customers to message businesses is a new addition. Google recognized that more and more customers would prefer to message a business as opposed to placing a call.

The way that consumers research, find, and engage with car shops has changed significantly in recent years. In the past, managers would buy newspaper and radio ads, put up a billboard, get listed in the Yellow Pages, and wait for customers to call or show up to their shop.

Now, the process is much more detached. While traditional advertising and marketing are important to create awareness, they are no longer the primary sources consumers turn to when deciding which shop to choose. Online searches are now king. Today’s consumer typically searches for body shops near them, reads reviews, maybe looks at your website, and then calls or messages you directly from your listing.

The option for customers to message businesses is a new addition. Google recognized that more and more customers would prefer to message a business as opposed to placing a call. In fact, 90 percent of consumers want to use messaging to interact with a business – with 50 percent preferring to message via SMS text.

The problem is only 48 percent of businesses are capable of messaging with their customers. There are a number of reasons that businesses cite for not wanting to implement a messaging strategy with their customers including:

  • Too time consuming
  • Resource intensive
  • Cost prohibitive

In the past, those concerns might have been valid, but that is no-longer the case. In fact, messaging with your customers will save you time and money rather than eating up resources. Businesses using Podium Messenger have been able to see a 15 percent reduction in inbound call volume, while also seeing a 26 percent increase in their Net Promoter Scores. Because business text messaging is so vital, we wanted to walk you through the process of setting up your business with Google’s Click-to-Message feature.

Setting up Google Click-to-Message

1. Login to your Google My Business page

2. Select 'Messaging' in the left menu and add phone number

3. Verify that number with a code sent from Google

4. Now searchers can message your shop

When you should message your customers

Because texting with your customers is such a new phenomenon, it might be difficult to know when you should text message with your customers. Customers typically will reach out to you via text message when they are experiencing what Google refers to as a ‘micro-moments.’ A micro-moment is a time on the customer journey when customers want to know, want to go, or want to buy something.

A lot of times, consumers won’t want to make a call when they are having these micro-moments because calls are often perceived as time-consuming and inconvenient. Businesses that give consumers the option to message with them, will likely see an uptick in business. Some other times when consumers want to engage your business via text include:

  • Answer simple questions: A lot of times customers just want to know something simple like what your hours are or whether or not you perform a specific type of service. Having the ability to answer those questions via text will make life easier for not only your customers but your employees as well.
  • Make appointments: Today’s consumer wants it to be simple and easy to engage with a business and that includes making appointments. Being able to make an appointment and send appointment reminders via text will increase customer satisfaction and help you drive loyalty.
  • Resolve problems: Unfortunately, not every interaction with your customers is going to go as smoothly as you would like. Giving customers the option to reach out to report issues via text will help you significantly improve your response time and help you prevent small problems from becoming larger.

Tips for interacting with customers via text

Now that your shop is all set up to take incoming texts and are familiar with instances where customers want to text you, let’s review some tips that will help you successfully interact with your customers.

  • Be responsive

    Oftentimes when consumers are conducting an online search on their mobile device, they want their questions answered immediately. This is because they are likely experiencing what Google refers to as micro-moments. These are when consumers want to know, want to go, or want to buy. If your online presence isn’t able to quickly answer their questions, they will probably move on to your competition.

    One of the main reasons that online searchers want to connect with you via text is they feel like it is a quicker, more efficient method of communication. But that’s only true if the dealership is placing an emphasis on quick response times.

    To ensure this happens, shop owners and managers should make sure their team is well equipped to offer quick responses to customers. If you don’t consistently respond to messages in a timely manner, customers will know because over time Google will post typical response times on your listing.

  • Don't ask for sensitive infromation via text

    This might seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Businesses should never ask for sensitive information like credit cards, banking information, or social security numbers over text. While text messages seem secure, the information isn’t encrypted so the data could be vulnerable.

  • Ask for customer feedback

    Another valuable way to utilize text messaging in your customer interactions is asking for feedback. A lot of times customers don’t want to take the time to fill out a lengthy customer satisfaction survey, but they would be willing to answer a few questions via text. That is because asking questions via text comes across as more personal and less intrusive than a survey.

    One way to approach this is by asking your customers after a transaction is complete, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely would you be to recommend this business to a family or friend.” And then follow that up with one or two questions about the service your business delivers. Our research has shown that approaching customer feedback this way results in significantly higher open and response rates than traditional CSAT surveys.

  • Invite customers to review your business

    Text messaging is also a good method for collecting public facing customer feedback on your Google My Business listing. One of the biggest reasons to use text messaging to do this is many people are already signed into their Google account on their smartphone, so it’s much easier to connect them directly to your Google reviews page.

  • Encourage customers to add you to their contacts

    Texting with your customers will help you build stronger more loyal customers. To help you reinforce that loyalty, try texting them a vCard with your contact information on it. If customers have access to your phone number in their contacts, it removes one of the steps in the car buying journey. It will help you evolve from being just a shop to being their shop.

How Podium can help

Request a demo today to see how Podium Messenger can help your business use text messages to stay connected, gather feedback, and improve relationships with your customers.

About the Author

Jon Eyre

Jon is the director of content at Podium. He is a skilled customer and content marketer with nearly 10 years experience working for high tech firms like Altiris, Symantec, LivePerson, and Smartling. He is comfortable writing to both consumer and B2B audiences and has the uncanny ability to take complex subjects and make them more accessible.

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