• July 1, 2006
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Clicking the Tires

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There's an unmistakable trend under way in the automotive industry--consumers are going from tire kicking to tire clicking, increasingly using the Internet to gather product information and, in some cases, to make purchases. One source for this article stated that close to 70 percent of all car shoppers use the Internet during their auto-shopping process. Recognizing this, the Chrysler Group wanted to use the Web to capitalize on the revenue-generating potential of its marquee brands--Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep. But with no pathway to live assistance on these sites, the unit of DaimlerChrysler AG, the world's fifth largest automaker, struggled to convert browsers into buyers. Equip & Price, the car configuration area of the Chrysler Group's brand sites, provided a way for consumers to select vehicle preferences, but it didn't list a phone number or an email address for real-time interactions with a company rep. "If someone was in Equip & Price and had a question, there was no way for us to answer it," says Bonita Stewart, director of interactive communications at the Chrysler Group. And, she says, "If you have not provided answers, [prospects] will leave your site." To reduce its abandonment rate in the Equip & Price area and leverage its call center operations handled by agency BBDO Detroit, the Chrysler Group selected eStara, a provider of hosted voice-enabling B2C communications solutions. The automaker started its eStara pilot in November 2004 and went live in February 2005. The flagship product, VoIP-enabled Click to Call, enables Chrysler Group Web-site users to connect immediately to reps who can assist them with tasks like making a purchasing decision or applying for finance. Site visitors can click on an HTML button embedded in the automaker's brand sites and talk directly from their PC with a Chrysler Group rep. Consumers also have the option to enter their telephone number for a callback immediately or in one, three, or five minutes, depending on their preference. The company uses eStara's Agent Console offering, which lets the Chrysler Group's agents see on their screen which page the customer is calling from, determine the caller's needs, and push the right Web content back to the caller's PC. "Automotive manufacturers realize that buying a car is an emotional purchase," says John Federman, CEO of eStara. "Connecting the buyer when she is most likely to convert simply makes more sense for the auto manufacturer and the buyer alike." The deployment's impact on the automaker's bottom line is clear: Up to 20 percent of Click to Call callers have purchased vehicles, compared to just 10 percent of all callers using traditional marketing materials. While Click to Call calls represent 10 percent of all Chrysler Group marketing calls, the automaker has also experienced a 92 percent call completion rate for the Click to Call button. And more than 76 percent of Click to Call users claimed that the feature greatly or significantly improved their online experience. The Payoff By launching its eStara deployment, the Chrysler Group:
  • converted up to 20 percent of Click to Call prospects into customers, compared to 10 percent of all callers using traditional marketing materials;
  • significantly improved 76 percent of Click to Call users' online experience; and
  • experienced a 92 percent call completion rate for the Click to Call button.
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