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Why car dealers and repair shops should leverage messaging apps to provide a better customer experience

Automotive Guide
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Many car dealerships and repair shops offer customer information digitally – but their service is still very analog. That's a missed opportunity! For car dealers, messaging apps like WhatsApp offer many advantages to improve the customer experience. Find out how to use them and how your business can benefit. 

Car dealers and repair shops are often stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they need to focus on their car business to make customers happy. On the other hand, they need to handle numerous customer queries in order to even have a successful business. So, how can you manage dealing with incoming questions while trying to get things done at the same time?

By moving your customer communication to more flexible digital channels! For car dealers, messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Instagram Direct are a great way to improve the customer experience while saving resources. Find out, why that is and in what ways you can use messaging for your dealership or repair shop.

Why repair shops and car dealers should use messaging apps

The car business is very hands-on. Even with more online options now, most customers still come to a car dealership to check out a car in person, test drive it, get a service check or repair job.

This comes with a particular challenge: most of the car business requires a lot of customer support. People typically need to call first to schedule an appointment for a test drive or a check-up. Then there might be follow-up calls to change or cancel the appointment. If a customer leaves a car for a service check, they'll call at least once to find out when they can pick it up. And if there are any repairs required, the service team has to get in touch with the customer as well.

That's a lot of back and forth, which, for a lot of car dealers, happens over the phone. The issue: this will either keep your team so busy that it'll delay them from working on or selling the cars, or you'll have to set up a costly call center solution to free up your employees. Neither option is ideal. You'll lose money, and customers won't be thrilled either, if they have to wait longer for their car or on the phone.

The solution: move your customer communication to digital channels. Especially messaging can be a great solution for car dealerships and repair shops.

⭐️ Check out Sinch Engage, the one-stop shop for easy and efficient customer communication on messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram Direct. 

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Faster answers

Handling each customer call individually takes time. Especially in a car dealership or at a repair shop, agents spend a lot of this time answering recurring questions. Messaging can speed up this process. As an asynchronous communication channel, it doesn't require immediate and full attention (like phone hotlines or a live chat). Your agents can also handle multiple conversations at once.

Moreover, it's also possible to set up automated solutions like pre-confgured reply templates or chatbots that can significantly reduce the workload for your team, and provide faster help for customers.

Higher customer satisfaction

By using messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Apple Business Chat, you can solve issues much faster, which ultimately increases customer satisfaction. Customer service via messaging apps can result in 25% higher customer satisfaction than over e-mail.

Better customer connection

WhatsApp and other messaging apps are primarily used to communicate with family and friends. When businesses or service providers engage with customers on these channels, they’re allowed into their inner circle and can benefit from a closer, more direct customer relationship.

More attention

Messaging apps offer a great multimedia experience. You can send documents, videos, photos, and voice messages in just a few seconds. According to research from Forrester, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words, and provides a much more engaging customer experience.

Additionally, WhatsApp or Apple messages appear on the user’s lock screen, allowing you to capture your user’s full attention. When trying to reach a customer to get an approval for a repair or a good deal on a car, service shops and car dealers can really benefit from messaging.


Lower costs

Messaging channels have another advantage: it's easy to integrate a chatbot. Even a simple FAQ bot will be able to reduce the call level and workload for your team and save you resources. For example, if you set up a first level support chatbot to pre-qualify customers' requests, your resources can be invested in better second-level support. Your employees can spend more time handling complicated requests with a personal touch.

Citation from Alber Rösch from BMW about customer inquiries

Better reachability

Communication via messaging apps is completely independent of the car dealership’s opening hours. With the help of chatbots, you can offer excellent service 24/7.

Increase conversions

For car dealers, messaging apps can also be a great conversion tool. It's an easy conversational flow to go from the first question to a personal chat to a test drive and finally a sale. Some car dealers have noted conversion rates of more than 14% on their messaging apps!

How to use messaging without breaking the law

Many repair shops and car dealer employees already use messaging apps for their customer communication. The intent is great. After all, messaging has so many advantages. However, if your employees aren't using a professional solution, they might be breaking the law.

As a business, you legally have to ensure data protection for your customers that's typically not guaranteed with the private usage of messaging apps. This can lead to large fines. In addition, using a private version of a messaging app such as WhatsApp in a commercial context can violate the policies of the messaging service, and get your business blocked.

That's why you need to make sure that you use a professional and official business solution for your messaging channels. The easiest option is to partner up with official Business Solution Providers like MessengerPeople by Sinch who have created specific messaging solutions for businesses that are easy and convenient, and 100% safe to use.

Use cases and scenarios for car businesses to use messaging apps

What are specific situations in which car dealerships or car workshops can use messaging apps? We’ve gathered five useful scenarios and best practices for innovative customer communication.

1. Scheduling appointments

There are a few different ways to use messaging apps for scheduling appointments.

a) Scheduling through individual messaging chat

A customer writes to you on a messaging app to set up an appointment. In the quick but asynchronous conversation (no one is sitting there waiting on the other party’s response) you easily settle on a date that works for the customer and can clarify all necessary details, such as the type of car, what needs to be done, and how long it'll take.

b) Automated appointment scheduling

Your customer contacts your dealership on a messaging app. They would like to arrange a service appointment for an engine wash and a main component inspection. First, a chatbot gathers the most important customer data, such as whether it's a new customer, their contact information, vehicle information, and so on.

If the customer is new, they can easily register with your shop by sending a picture of the vehicle registration document or their VIN number. The bot then asks what type of appointment the customer is looking for and what dates work. When the customer confirms a date and time, the bot confirms this message.

Best practice example: Volkswagen uses a chatbot for appointment scheduling

At Volkswagen, a chatbot in first level support handles customer inquiries for service appointments. In the first step, customers are asked for the most significant data and information, for example, whether they are already a customer or not. Once the type of appointment and the date itself has been confirmed, the bot passes the information on to the appropriate employee who continues the chat.


c) Push notifications for appointment reminders

You can also use messaging to remind customers of an upcoming appointment, and tell them which documents they should bring with them. Important: your customers must have agreed in advance to get push notifications.


2. Schedule test drives for your car dealership

Aside from scheduling appointments, you can also use messaging apps for setting up test drives. Let's say a customer messages you and wants to take a test drive. A chatbot can take over at first, and ask the customer all the necessary initial questions for scheduling the drive:

  • age
  • whether the customer has already used this dealership before
  • which model they’re interested in, and
  • what times and dates are available.

When the customer has answered these questions, the chatbot can confirm the appointment and send a reminder before the appointment – including what documents the customer should bring. It's quick, easy, convenient, and requires zero time from your team.

Best practice example : Opel's chatbot Chad schedules test drives

With “Chad,” Opel created a Facebook Messenger chatbot that makes it possible for customers to reserve nearby available car models for a test drive. Chad asks what model the customer is interested in, whether it should run on gas or diesel, and then for the customer’s area code. If there’s a car dealership in the area that offers test drives, the chatbot lets the user know that they can make the appointment directly there in the shop, or connect them directly with a customer service employee.

3. Pre-purchase consultation

There are also a variety of ways that you can offer great customer care and consultation via messaging apps.

a) Lead generation

As they require a large investment, sales cycles for cars are long. It can take customers up to a year to buy a vehicle. That's why for car dealers it's crucial to set up a long-term relationship with customers. As a personal channel where the conversation can be picked up at any time, messaging apps can help with that — especially, if you combine the discovery phase on a social media site with a conversational experience on a messaging channel.

Best practice example: Ford Argentina doubles leads with Instagram Direct

Instagram is a major channel for brands to be discovered. This is where a user frequently interacts with a brand for the first time. And if they have questions, or are interested in a product, that's the platform where they'll contact you. That's why it can be a huge advantage for car dealers to keep your customers in the same channel, and build the relationship right there at the first touch point. That's what Ford Argentina does.

By using the Instagram API, Ford Argentina is able to not only keep customer queries on the same channel, they can also integrate a bot to answer questions faster. As a result, they were able to:

  • resolve 90% of conversations with automation
  • double their leads

b) Car configuration

Your customers can use a messaging app to configure their dream car with you. A chatbot can be set up to have access to the relevant options for the car. Customers no longer have to use the configurator on your website, but can do this on their phones.

Best practice example: Kia Germany integrates WhatsApp into car configurator

The car dealer Kia offers this service to their customers, as they noticed that 70% of their website traffic comes from mobile devices. In order to offer their mobile target group a better experiences, they introduced a WhatsApp chat to their configuration sites.

KIA WhatsApp icon webiste
Car dealer Kia offers a WhatsApp chat on their German website. (Source: Kia)


Of course, it's also possible to support this with a chatbot. Step by step, the chatbot asks your customer about the model, the color, the engine type, the interior, the motorization, and any extras that are available for selection. Once the customer has completed the configuration, the bot presents the best results.

This can be in the form of a picture, a summary of the extras, or a short video. If the customer has any questions, the bot can pass them on to a suitable employee in the chat.

c) Help with buying a new car

A customer contacts your dealership because they want to buy a new car. Using a messenger service, the bot can first clarify the most relevant questions (name, new customer or not, etc.), before handing the conversation over to an employee, with whom the customer can discuss other aspects, such as the model, financing options and more.

Finally, you arrange a personal appointment to clarify the details and take a drive with the targeted model. Before the appointment, you can send your customer a messenger notification reminding him of what has been discussed so far and what documents they need to bring.

Once the purchase has been made, you can inform the customer of the status of the car by using notifications to keep them informed about the production status or time, and place of delivery/collection.

Best practice example: Hyundai Brazil increases sales with Facebook Messenger 

Hyundai Brazil introduced Facebook Messenger as a more efficient customer communication channel. Before, the car dealer used e-mail and phone to promote their cars. By switching to a messenger solution, they wanted to test if they could save time and increase customer engagement.

Hyundai Brazil Facebook Messenger

Their success was impressive. Compared to following up with leads via e-mail and phone, on Facebook Messenger they achieved:

  • four times higher sales rate
  • 3.5 times higher conversion rate
  • 13% decrease in cost per lead

d) Help with buying a used car

A customer is interested in one of your used cars, which they discovered online. Instead of a complicated phone conversation, they just send you the link on a messaging app. This makes it very easy for you to explain the specifications of the car as well as the pricing. And you can even arrange an on-site appointment, all in one chat.

Another possibility would be that a customer messages your car dealership and wants to know which used cars are currently available. A chatbot then presents the top ten models, and asks for the customer's preferences. With this information, the bot then connects the customer to a service agent to discuss the details.

Best practice example: Autowelt Schuler uses personal customer service via WhatsApp

The car dealership Autowelt Schuler provides a personalized customer service via WhatsApp. On the messaging app, they can not only offer customer service, but also send the customer an offer, and the customer never has to leave the channel. 

Autowelt Schuler_Chatbot_English

d) Replacement part consultation

A customer contacts your dealership via WhatsApp to request a specific replacement part. You consult him via messaging chat and tell him if the part is in stock or needs to be ordered and what it costs. In addition, you can direct the customer to a service technician if this makes sense.

4. Workshop service

“My door’s jammed. What can I do?” Customers usually want to talk to the responsible service technician before, during, or at the end of a repair. They have questions about their car or need to know the status of the repair. Sometimes, during a repair, the service person discovers that the car has other issues. “Ms. Smith, your brake discs are pretty worn out. May I order a set of new brakes for you? The costs amount to a total of 800 dollars, including the installation.”

If the car is ready, you could also actively draw the customer's attention to the fact that the workshop technicians have noticed something else: "Ms. Smith, the current tires won't last for another season. We have a special deal right now that can get you a 50% discount on new tires." These requests can be processed automatically, too.

Best practice example: BMW automated their workshop customer service with a WhatsApp bot

Once a customer drops off a vehicle at the BMW Munich workshop, the automatic tracking through the #FollowNow assistant begins. Via WhatsApp, customers can request the service status and pick-up date of their car by using a keyword. Appointments can also be scheduled in a WhatsApp chat with an employee.

BMW Follow now_Chatbot_English

For BMW, this helped them automate 80% of incoming queries and reduce the number of service calls significantly.

Find out how BMW was able to automate 80% of their queries with a WhatsApp chatbot. 

Download success story for free!

5. Internal communication through messaging apps

Car dealerships are typically divided into two branches:

  1. the central branch, which supports the various locations in different cities
  2. the local branches, which are responsible for sales, regional promotion

The smaller dealerships and the headquarters are usually in constant contact, for example, if the dealer needs new advertising material or other documents from headquarters. Often, this exchange still happens by phone (which is time-consuming because the head office can only talk to one dealer at a time) or by e-mail (which takes a very long time because it might take a while until somebody sees the e-mail. Communication via messaging apps can help here!

Your car dealership can order new advertising material quickly and directly via chat. Multimedia messaging apps even support a direct sending of the images via chat. Furthermore, a bot could help with the first selection and query the most important parameters such as size, content, and quantities. This saves the main office a lot of work and the dealer a lot of time, which they can invest in helping customers.

A special chatbot solution for car dealers and repair shops

Car dealers and repair shops have very specific requirements when it comes to automating their customer communication. MessengerPeople by Sinch can offer a customized chatbot solution that specifically caters to these needs (and ensures data protection!).

Lucky_English_Chatbot_Car Dealership_1

The car bot takes care of all common customer requests for you!

It can take over:

  • Scheduling appointments for a test drive or a consultation on-site.
  • Handling of cost-release processes.
  • Updating the repair status.
  • Gathering  personal data, like the license plate number or mileage.
  • Offering breakdown service and damage report via photo and video.
  • Sending information on general topics, such as opening hours or directions.

... and you or your team only take over when it becomes relevant.

Getting started with your professional messaging solution

You can implement all the mentioned use cases with our software solution Sinch Engage. It's browser based, easily scalable, and ready to use right away. And you can guarantee 100% data protection!

Set up a chatbot (no coding skills required!), use pre-configured reply tempaltes to answer customers faster, or, use messaging channels to send out campaigns and promotions to drive sales. The solution is simple, the possibilites are endless!

Try it out for free


Image of Marinela Potor, editor-in-chief at Sinch Engage.
Written by: Marinela Potor