If you're like most dealers when I say the term 'collaboration tool,' you may have no idea what I'm talking about. However, when I say the term 'Instant Messaging' you know what I'm talking about, but you may not like it. Remember a decade or so ago, when IM apps were all the rage in the workplace? Many dealerships tried, but quickly abandoned them because employees were spending too much time chatting and not enough time working.
If that was your experience, I'm going to ask you to keep an open mind. In the last few years IM has evolved into a workplace collaboration tool guaranteed to improve your customers' experience.
Today's collaboration tools are integrated with both phone and computer systems; examples include Jabber from Cisco or Connect from Shoretel. In the workplace, a collaboration tool enables customers to connect with more employees, reduces phone tag and allows issues to be resolved quickly.
Here are a couple examples of how this overlooked tool can be used in your dealership.
Connect More Calls
According to a recent "2 Million Call Report" issued by CallRevu, 28 percent of incoming calls to dealerships never connect with anyone. Callers either hang up while on hold or after being transferred to voice mail, or they leave a voice mail but nobody calls back, or the phone just rings and rings.
That's nearly one-third of customers and potential customers that aren't getting price quotes, issues resolved or other questions answered.
Collaboration tools have a feature called 'Presence Management,' which allows receptionists and other employees to see the status of their fellow employees; whether 'Available,' 'Away from Desk,' 'Out of Office' or 'On the Phone.' This can help eliminate many of those annoying hold delays.
Let's say Mrs. Smith calls in to find out if her car is ready to be picked up at the service department. Her assigned service advisor may be with another customer, but he sees a message pop up on his mobile tablet: "Is Mrs. Smith's car ready?" He can respond without having to take the call, servicing both customers better.
Or, when a customer calls in to ask if your dealership has a vehicle in stock, the receptionist can instantly see which salespeople are available. If three salespeople are showing as available, they can be sent a group message alerting them to a lead.
Eliminate 'Check With the Manager' Syndrome
While collaboration tools are great for connecting off-site customers with the appropriate agent, they also play an important role in better servicing your on-site customers.
One of the most often cited tactics that annoys car shoppers is the "Let me go check with my manager" syndrome. When a salesperson leaves their office in the middle of a negotiation, do you really want that customer to sit there with plenty of time to talk themself out of buying?
Imagine instead if that salesperson uses a collaboration tool to ask their manager for approval of price or other terms. The back and forth messaging is private, instant and the salesperson never has to leave the office.
A collaboration tool can be used in a similar fashion to prevent the escalation of issues and to quickly resolve issues. From a customer's perspective, nothing is worse than calling to complain about something and then being placed on hold or sent into voice mail. Your instant perception is that nobody cares, which only makes you angrier.
If an employee is not empowered to resolve an issue, they can instantly reach out to a manager with the authority and availability to deal with the customer. Even if the manager is occupied, they may choose to make themselves available when they see a message pop up on their computer screen alerting them to a situation that needs attention.
Today's collaboration tools aren't designed to replace email or phone calls, but rather as an additional channel that can be used for specific types of communication, such as the instant exchange of information.
Can they be abused? Certainly, but it's highly doubtful, especially if you roll it out with guidelines and let employees know that all messages sent on the system are occasionally monitored and/or stored. That should eliminate the use of the system for gossip and personal communications.
From a customer perspective collaboration tools increase the connection rate for inbound calls and empower employees to take better care of customers. Dealers who have tried IM in the past and dismissed it as a productivity waster may want to approach this underutilized tool with an open mind.
What is your experience with IM and collaboration tools? Do you believe they help or hurt workplace productivity?