Assisting Customers Virtually

Virtual assistants have become a hot trend in a lot of industries, but in the world of online automotive sales they have the potential to be a great revenue generator, drawing in customers, showcasing vehicles and services and helping to turn leads into sales.

So what exactly is a virtual assistant, and what is its value to automotive? Picture a friendly online character, modeled to look like a real person, that speaks directly to your website visitors, is able to answer questions and ultimately brings the personal touch of your bricks-and-mortar business to the web. Check out the Ron Carter Automotive Center website for an example of a virtual assistant.

DealerOn has conducted studies showing that customers respond positively to engaging and personalized characters because they make the human-to-computer interface as natural and easy as possible. Think about it: wouldn't it be great if every website you visited had somebody right there to show you where to find information, links and specific product details? Virtual assistants save your online customers time, gives your website more personality and can relieve customers' frustration of endless searching for information.

So what's the payback for you? Online customers get personalized and friendly customer service, your site is "stickier," more visitors become true leads and more leads may convert into sales.

Following are a couple tips for integrating a virtual assistant into your website:

Make it personal
Think of a virtual assistant as an extension of yourself-- you are the best resource for guiding customers through your website's services and offerings, and a virtual assistant can be thought of as your online stand-in. Top optimize the tool's alignment with your goals, develop your assistant tool to be as personal as possible.

One way to do this is to record your voice as the voice of the assistant. You know the tone and demeanor of your business and how you want to be perceived by customers; there is no one better to convey this to online customers. For example, if you appeal to an older, more affluent customer base, you may naturally speak to them in a lower, more even tone and would make an effort not rush your words. If you are looking to reach a younger demographic, you may naturally pump-up your voice, speak more quickly and express more enthusiasm. Your word-choice should also be tailored to appeal to your target clientele. 

If you don't feel your own voice is appropriate for the tool, or you feel that your sales people best convey the message of your business, there are additional options. Consider using a stock character that you find welcoming and engaging; an example can be found on several of the Napleton Automotive Group sites, or tap one of your salespeople to provide the voice. The point is that you know the impression you are striving to make, so be sure you're consistent in the virtual world and animate your assistant with a voice you trust. 

Know the information your visitors want
If you are not already monitoring the online movements of your website visitors, it's time to start. You have to know where most customers are going, what details they want and what parts of your site they ignore in order to optimize the virtual assistant. With this information, you can be sure that the virtual assistant will be directing customers to the places on your site where they will find what they need quickly and easily.

In today's world, to stay afloat, bring in new customers and increase your revenue stream, you have to have an online presence. One of the biggest obstacles you face in establishing your online business is holding onto a personal connection with your customers so that they feel valued, important and listened to. Meet this obstacle head-on with an engaging virtual assistant -- customized for your target market -- who has the ability to bridge the great technological divide and bring your business' human touch to your customers.

Ali Amirrezvani is president and CEO of DealerOn, Inc., a leading provider of interactive websites and online marketing solutions exclusively for the automotive industry. He has held executive and top sales positions throughout his 10 year career in the industry and currently serves over 750 dealers nationwide. You can contact DealerOn by visiting or calling 877-543-4200. Read full bio here.





Annette Pedersen
Annette Pedersen August 10, 2009 at 3:21 AM

Great to see this article! I do the same Virtually for AutoDealers Service Departments. Handle upsells and recalls lists well as confirm and reschedule appointments. Keeps the overhead down for dealerships in this day and age for sure!