Dodge Introduces Web Chat to Win Customers

By: Joe Thompson

Dodge intends to light the wick of shoppers buying intuition by creating a link on its website that takes visitors to a live chat page where they can speak to customer service representatives. The live chat feature of the Dodge website is created to respond to potential customers' queries and at the same time to get them into dealerships.

Automakers have found an ally in the Internet. However, Dodge wanted to push a little further by maximizing the potentials of the Internet to ultimately boost the company's sales. The Dodge brand, the fifth largest American nameplate, is the latest automaker to use chat feature on its website to answer questions about the company's product with the goal of wowing them to visit dealerships and eventually purchase vehicles. In the said web page, a potential customer can ask anything about Dodge models, services and auto parts like , wheels seats, as well as standard and optional features of the company's lineup.

Dodge's live chat page offers a one-on-one conversation with a customer service representative from a call center situated in southeast Michigan. Any surfer could avail of the opportunity by clicking on the link. Moreover, every surfer, for a particular amount of time, will receive a prompt asking them if they would like to engage in a live chat.

"This is all part of a marketing initiative," said Chrysler spokesman James Kenyon. "It can help boost showroom traffic. It's to make the shopping process more informative and ultimately the goal is to the help increase sales."

At present, the live chat feature is only limited to the Dodge Avenger sedan and the Dodge Nitro SUV. The former was introduced in February while the latter in 2006. If the automaker's response is positive, the automaker could expand the services to other product lines.

The Dodge website has about five millions visitors every month. According to industry watchers, the live chat feature could serve as an effective tool to capture customers. "It's a great way to use the Web on both the (automakers') and dealers' end," said Jim Irving, the vice president of strategic media development for the San Francisco-based iMedia.com. "The response of a live chat is just as good as a lead," said Irving, who helps dealers develop online strategies. "It pushes the product interest along."

To date, the automaker's live chat service has fared well. Ninety percent of participants surveyed rated the online feature as "excellent," and 60 percent asked in-depth questions. LivePerson Inc., the company that installed the online feature as part of a three-month test on the Dodge Nitro page, has worked with the General Motors Corp. brand Saturn and the Ford Motor Co. and other companies like Bank of America and Verizon. LivePerson found that 25 percent of those who participated in live chat made a purchase.

The service, said Robert LoCascio, CEO of LivePerson, is very popular. "We found the conversion rate of chatter to buyer is very high," said LoCascio, adding that the more questions potential consumers ask, the more likely they are to make a purchase. "It guarantees that if the consumer is on the site that you have a chance to get them into a dealership," he noted.

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