Scottish dealer group Peter Vardy has measured a 40% increase in online sales inquiries since it introduced a round-the-clock live chat facility to its website last October.
Euan Cameron, its internet sales manager, said sales staff found an average of 15 qualified sales inquiries waiting for them each morning following the launch of its live chat facility.
Cameron said: “Offering direct communication with potential customers 24 hours a day has effectively speeded up the buying process. Thanks to the interaction that takes place out of hours, we are left with a more accurate lead and can follow up accordingly.
“Furthermore, the customer doesn’t need to look elsewhere as they’re much closer to making a purchase than they would have been if they had just left an email address or phone number on a website.”
The service was added by web marketing company GForces. Its research has found that 51% of dealer website visits occur outside showroom opening hours, with the peak being between 7pm and 10pm.
GForces commercial director Tim Smith said consumers are now used to being able to log onto supermarket websites and shop around the clock.
He added: “By contrast, dealers are still stuck in a nine-to-five mindset and they’re missing out as a result.
‘Dealers are failing to manage high volumes of potential sales opportunities because they are ill-equipped to handle even the most basic inquiries outside standard opening hours.
“2011 looks set to be a tough year for new and used car sales. Effective out-of-hours processing of sales inquiries could make the crucial difference for many dealerships.”