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I've taken some criticism over the last week for selecting CarChat24 as the dealer website chat provider that I like the most. Angry calls. Angrier emails. Nobody wants to hear that their product was not selected and I understand the vast majority of the criticism from other chat providers in the industry.

One piece of criticism that I do not understand comes when providers try to convince me that 24/7 chat isn't important. In the digital age, availability is often the deciding factor for consumers. Perhaps I get this from personal experience. I know that I work during the day, have dinner with the family, spend some time with them, and then begin any online activities that don't pertain to my business. This time, late at night, is when I do research (in my case, I'm looking for a house AND a car), order things online, and surf the web before going to bed.

My wife is different. She wakes up early. She does all of her planning, research, and shopping for the day before the kids wake up. It was actually an experience she had with a dealership chat that prompted my exploration of them in the first place. She needed to drop the Jeep off before taking the kids to school and wanted to know how early she could do it. At the time, the store wasn't open (she called anyway, just in case) and so went to try to chat with some dealers. The first two had contact forms where the chat would normally be. The third had a chat operator that informed her when she could drop off her vehicle. Needless to say, she went to the third dealer for service.

These two situations are, of course, anecdotal, which is why I spent the last couple of months exploring the various options. It was in looking at the data, reviewing the statistics and reading through some overnight chats that I realized just how important always-on chat really is.

This is the age of availability and convenience more than anything else. We have grown accustomed to getting answers to nearly any question we have in moments. Since the majority of dealers do not have a receptionist standing by to answer the phone 24-hours per day, the instant access of information can only be delivered by dealers who have 24-hour chat. The numbers are growing. More and more people are online late at night or early in the morning and the trends are showing no signs of reversing.

The opportunities are out there. Dealers that are willing to take advantage of as many of them as possible are the ones who are going to be most successful both in the long term as well as the short.

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Comment by Charles Shamblee III on May 28, 2014 at 10:51am

JD... you moving in the market in the right direction.  Digital, social, mobile... whatever people want to call it is about the customer and being there on their terms.

Comment by Ralph Ebersole on May 21, 2014 at 10:02am

At least ActivEngage was not one of the companies that contacted J.D. after his decision.  While we may disagree with it, we appreciated the blog he wrote about us while he was going through the process....

http://dealerauthority.com/dealer-authority-reviews-activengage-fir...

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