The tug of war between e-commerce and customer service has been an ongoing battle for many dealers. While many dealers have e-mail addresses on their sites to help break down the Web wall, there's a more effective way to communicate with consumers without stripping them of the online shopping experience: instant messaging. It's not a face-to-face experience, but it's the next best thing.
Instant messaging has been around for years, and more small businesses are using it to engage its online shoppers. Several search engines offer a type of instant messaging tool for free, including Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger, and it only takes a few minutes to set up.
The key is deciding how to manage the messaging tool. Make it a part of several employees' job descriptions for certain periods throughout the day and note on your Web site when a salesperson is available to "chat." That way it doesn't have to be an all-day, everyday thing. The beauty of this tool is there's no need to keep an eye on the messaging screen. There are noise notification options that will alert you when a new message pops up.
Opening another line of communication offers customers one more reason to choose your dealership over another.