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A Guide to SMS Messaging

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Roughly 97 percent of adults text weekly. Thirty-six percent of customers want to connect with businesses post-business hours and do so over the phone. And, 89 percent of customers want to use text messaging to communicate with businesses, Podium says.

What does this mean for the modern dealership? Your customers want to text you.

Offering two-way texting is likely to be beneficial for the company and increase the company’s positive customer experience. For example, maybe a customer is at work during the dealership’s business hours and needs an alternative option or, for whatever reason, the customer can’t make a call and can only text wherever he or she is at.

Forty-eight percent of customers prefer to use SMS text messaging, which means that a dealership that wants to move the health of its business forward and stay technology-savvy, can now offer these services to the customer through one online platform, according to Podium.

“We kind of see this as a larger ecosystem,” says Brett Steele, regional sales director for Podium, an interaction platform that gives customers options on messaging and customer interaction.

He says that while the platform and others like Podium offer the customer a way to text—not just a robot—but an actual person that works at the dealership, there is also potential for these messaging platforms to become internal communication systems within the shop process.

Podium is not the only service option for dealerships. There are many out there: Trumpia,  Zipwhip, MessageMedia, Text2Drive, and SimpleTexting are just a few. However, the overall concept and benefit of SMS messaging can be applied to all these companies.

Todd Branch, fixed operations director for Team Honda in Baton Rouge, La., and Jamison Hunley, Nissan service manager for Jim Johnson Nissan in Bowling Green, Ky., are just two examples of managers who have implemented SMS messaging with little to no challenges. They, along with Steele, share how these platforms can be implemented and used to better engage with customers.


Initiating Contact

Once the dealership signs up for the SMS messaging software, an icon will pop up on the company’s website. This icon will ask the customer to call or text the dealership. Once the customer sends a message to the dealership, Podium, for instance, will send an automated message back to the customer.

Hunley says his AutoLoop system was first installed over a conference call with the company. To set up the program with the customer, he says it is important to ask what his or her preferred contact method is. As soon as the vehicle is written up in the DMS, the system alerts the service advisors to greet the customer and opens up the option for customers to respond.

“At this point, we would encourage the staff using the messaging software to reply with his or her name,” Steele says.

Podium messages, for example, have no expiration date and are automatically saved in the site’s log of messages.

Steele also recommends that shops try to have a more informal one-on-one conversation with the customer and not just leave it at answering the customer’s question. He says that most text messaging that shops use is for informational purposes and to pass on facts like the business hours, connecting on a more personal level can be beneficial.

Hunley says the text-messaging allows a personal point of contact when customers are dropping off vehicles after hours. Even if the customer drops off the vehicle when the dealership is closed, they will get a notification of who their main point of contact is in the service department.

One example of this greeting is for the customer service representative—or whoever is using the SMS text messaging—to write back a message that says something along the lines of, “Hi, this is [insert name]. Happy to help you. When can you bring your car in?”

Some key benefits to SMS text messaging, Steele says, are options to set appointments and send appointment reminders, answer a customer’s product or service questions, keep the business top of mind for customers by scheduling out birthday messages, and send a quick message asking the customer to give feedback on his or her experience. Customers using Podium have seen a 26 percent increase in NPS scores.


Staying in Touch

Right now, Podium has some businesses on a trial using the program as a way to communicate within the team.

The site can also act as a way for the dealership to increase vendor communication and make it faster. Some body shops have added parts dealers on the app, Steele says.

Hunley says his team has reduced the amount of mistakes being made because they are interrupted far less by customers walking in to drop off vehicles without appointments. His advisors are less likely to be interrupted on a phone call with the amount of people texting.

Branch says his team loves the text messaging service they use through CDK because it provides ease of service and lets them send photos or documentation, if necessary. While it took a couple days for the advisor’s phone numbers to be set up in the system, Branch says his whole team quickly bought into it because there were no challenges.

If the system is used correctly with the customer, customers will open the text message within the first three minutes about 90 percent of the time. On average, shops on Steele’s system report saving five hours communicating with customers each week. The software has the potential to decrease the time spent playing phone tag, he says.

Businesses are also able to set up a Google Click-to-Message option. This is where the dealership can add its number to its Google My Business page and allow customers to text them through Google.


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