Texting is a hot topic at this week’s Dealer Week at the Tampa Convention Center, with a half-dozen service companies offering text components to their Service Relationship Management programs. The “Texting Do’s and Don’t’s” Pathways course was full, as several hundred dealers heard that texting can be much more efficient than email and voicemail. About half of the dealers in the room raised their hands when asked if they were already texting customers.
“During the summer, a lot of dealers’ phones ring off the hook with the same questions,” said MRAA’s Bob McCann, who ran the seminar with Graham Anderson. “You have service bays clogged up, waiting for approval from customers, and dozens of voicemails are killing staff efficiency.”
Texting is the new way to communicate, McCann said, noting that recent surveys showed 89 percent of customers would prefer to interact with businesses via text messaging than phone calls, and 98 percent of all text messages are opened, with 95 percent read within three minutes of receipt.
“Customers are seven times more likely to text you back after receiving a text than they are to call you back after receiving a voicemail,” McCann said.
McCann also noted that texting cuts down traffic by 31 percent and decreases voicemail by 84 percent. “It saves 45 minutes per day in parts and service per person, and for sales, it can increase inbound leads by 260 percent,” he said.
But there are correct ways to text, and dealers must get approval from clients, or face fines. They noted that spam is expressly prohibited and could result in a lawsuit. The presenters provided the best ways to gain permission from clients, while also offering a short primer on the best texting style.
They recommended that service departments text images to owners to show parts on a boat and get approval for repairs. They also said texts can be used to remind clients of service appointments and postwork surveys. One dealer said he uses texting to collect receivables on unpaid work.
Texting can also be used for the sales staff, Anderson said. Videos of new boats can be sent to prospective clients, and sales staff can also use video to introduce themselves and their dealerships. Several dealers were using FaceTime to connect with clients. One dealer uses FaceTime to provide tutorials for owners who are unfamiliar with aspects of boat use.
Anderson said traditional communication protocol should be used by sales staff. “One study found that sending a text to a prospect before making an introduction phone call decreased the likelihood of the client ever contacting them by 39 percent,” he said. “It’s important to call when the lead arrives with your phone number and follow up with an email. If you don’t get any reply from either, then it’s time to text. It’s also important to introduce yourself every time.”
McCann noted that texting “lets you in their inner circle.” But he also recommended following the proper protocol so the dealer doesn’t alienate the client. “You should use what I call casual professionalism — not too stiff but not too familiar, either,” he said. “If emails wear coats and ties, texts should wear polos and jeans.”