Everyone has expectations on how a text conversation should work. There are distinct differences in how we communicate via text among friends and family, colleagues and co-workers, and businesses and customers. For dealerships specifically, text (or SMS) communications between customers, employees, and departments is wrought with difficulty.
Intuitively we know that text messages should be informative, useful, and convenient. Text messages that confuse, annoy, or lead to disruption will result in opt-outs, diminishing your ability to interact with customers in one of the more preferred methods. These unwritten guidelines define what is an acceptable use of texting in the customer’s mind.
For instance, links to web pages might be rare among friends, but for dealers showcasing vehicles, gathering personal information, scheduling appointments, etc., including links can be necessary. That said, the more we can keep the conversation contained within the text messages themselves, the better.
SMS technology has a strict limit of 160 characters per message, but text communications don’t necessarily have to be confined to so few characters. People still want short messages that are to clear and concise, and if it takes more than one text bubble to get an important message across that is acceptable.
Of course, nobody wants an appointment reminder that also asks if you need a loaner car or your car washed; or a follow-up message asking for you to leave a good score on a survey they will receive, then prompting you to solicit your friends. I’m exaggerating here but you get the point. The idea is to keep text communications clear and concise and prompt for single responses and calls to action.
One mistake many dealers are making is permitting text communications through personal devices. While convenient and cost-effective, this leaves the dealership vulnerable. An enterprise-level SMS solution designed with your dealership’s needs and interests in mind is preferred.
Any process with customer touch points that requires employee involvement is prone to unintended consequences. There are also compliancy concerns and regulations that must be adhered to which if not can lead to costly fines and penalties, let along disgruntled customers. An SMS solution helps resolve this.
SMS Marketing Implementation
When implementing your SMS workflow, always design the process and each message from the customer’s perspective. As discussed in my related post about distinguishing communications between potential customers and active customers, you want to ensure timely, relevant, and personalized communications.
With a few basic questions, you can put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and figure out what changes are needed to make sure you are creating the right experience.
- Am I texting in a way that is natural and familiar to the customer?
- Does the message contain proper use of grammar and avoid euphemisms?
- Most importantly, what is the reason they are receiving each message? Is the message intended to serve the dealer, or the customer?
Customers are open to communicate with your dealership through text messaging. You don’t have to look further than your own phone to know text messages are read more consistently and quickly than email or voicemail. With every day feeling busier than the last, nobody wants the interruption of a phone call.
As much as we know texting is a great way to communicate with today’s customer, it takes thoughtfulness and restraint to do it well. The reason texting is so effective is the belief that each message will be short, timely and meaningful. If customers can’t trust us to respect these expectations, eventually texting will suffer the same fate as email and become mostly ignored as the number of unwanted messages increases.
Nathan has worked with new car dealerships for the past 15 years finding ways to reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve the customer experience. His work analyzing, refining and building custom software to simplify business processes at dealerships has given him a unique understanding of these complex businesses. As Operations Director and Application Architect for Sum-Ware which provides Hynts Automated SMS Customer Follow-Up for Dealerships, Nathan is responsible for product and company growth.