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Driving leads, one text at a time- CANADIAN AUTOWORLD

How many texts do you send in a day? Ten, 20…50? Texting has nearly out-muscled calling as the preferred method of communication, and it’s been embraced wholeheartedly by baby boomers and millennials alike. But if that’s the case, why haven’t all dealerships embraced text-based communication and integrated it into their customer touch points? Why force customers down a specific communication path when everybody already has a simple, powerful interaction tool right in their pocket? Dan East, managing partner at Kelleher Ford in Brandon, Man., believes AutoTextDriver, a company he helped found in June, is the answer. East says he noticed a disconnect in customer/dealer communication and decided to fi ll in the gap with a new piece of software that helps connect dealer and customer through texting. “I saw it as an obvious gaping hole. There are some organizations down in the U.S. that offer somewhat of an option when it comes to texting. The issue is that they don’t service anybody in Canada.” East, who is also president of AutoTextDriver, says he and his team dug around and couldn’t fi nd any comparable companies here in Canada. “[It] was something I felt I needed for my dealership and just decided to basically give it a go on my own.”

Several months later AutoTextDriver was born. To a customer, AutoTextDriver is a phone number they can text at anytime; no app or third-party software is necessary. It’s a phone number like any other. Customers surfi ng a dealer website on mobile are offered a “click to text” button that lets them send an inquiry without fi lling out an online form. A click of the button automatically opens up their SMS app and fi lls in the appropriate contact number. All they have to do is type the message. Dealers, on the other hand, are treated to an easy-to-use user interface that lets them access and send text messages via any brand of smartphone, desktop/laptop or tablet. East says that perhaps the biggest advantage over a regular text message is the rich data and analytics AutoTextDriver provides. Sales people can see how long it took each customer to respond, how many message they received, the number of messages not responded to, and the total number of customers they are dealing with. The key ingredient, he says, is the fact customers respond to just one number– your existing phone line. He says the company works with phone providers to let dealers use their existing landline or use a new number, if they prefer. This begs the question: how do salespeople receive messages if all texts head to one number?

It’s a much more personable interaction. The customer gets a feeling they are dealing with somebody live, directly, real…”

Here’s his answer. Managers can choose how they would like to dish out the new leads: round robin or broadcast. Round robin fi lters the messages in order. The message is fi rst fi ltered to sales person A, who must respond in a set time (which can be changed). Only salesperson A can see the message and if they respond in time, they lockin the lead. If they can’t, the message is passed to sales person B, and so on. Each new text is automatically assigned to the next person on the totem pole. Broadcast is far more cutthroat, as each text is sent to everyone. The very fi rst person to responded locks in the lead. He says settings can be customized on site while managers can even “follow” salespeople to monitor their conversations. Dealers can even create different groups like sales or service groups so customers surfi ng the website can quickly pick the one they’d like to contact. And last but not least, he says the system can be seamlessly integrated and accessed in any CRM system. “[Customers] love it, they get it right away,” says East, who explains it from their perspective. “I don’t have to type it in an email. I don’t have to put in a subject line. I don’t have to enter in my fi rst name and last name, my phone number… “It’s a much more personable interaction. The customer gets a feeling they are dealing with somebody live, directly, real…We’re fi nding the interactions are fantastic.” He says AutoTextDriver lets customers contact the dealership whenever they want, which seems to be after business hours “I would says about one in four leads coming in are after hours.” Though still in its infancy, AutoTextDriver already has six dealerships on board and is currently in talks with several large dealer groups around the country. East says the company will soon roll out a new multimedia message service function that will let dealers include photos in their messages. AutoTextDriver starts at $199 a month or $399 a month with full CRM integration.