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Pity the traditional car dealer saddled with the overhead of a huge lot and showroom to maintain, while newer internet-based competitors simply play digital matchmaker to connect buyers and sellers.
It turns out the same technology that helped spawn several internet-based car selling services can help traditional dealers as well.
At its recent inaugural Vonage Campus user conference, Mike Shonholz, chief revenue officer at ARG Inc., headquartered in Washington, D.C., detailed how video calling advantages help established businesses compete with cloud-based rivals.
For car dealerships, the challenge isn't in getting potential customers to look at inventory and test drive vehicles, but in closing the sale.
"When you're competing with cloud-native sellers, you don't want to be their showroom," Shonholz said.
ARG helped a large auto dealer better engage customers from their initial phone call by using Vonage's video technology. In a live demo, Shonholz phoned into Ted Britt Automotive Group, where an automated greeting welcomed him and gave options like "Press 1 for new cars." It then asked what Shonholz was looking for. He responded, "Ford," and was sent a multimedia link through a text message that led to the inventory of new Ford vehicles across all locations.
Once a location is chosen, customers have the option to chat or text with a sales associate in real time. As the interaction continues, other links to videos become available, such as how to finance a vehicle.
"We're able to show [the customer] a video that walks the customer through the financing process, something the company couldn't offer with its legacy Mitel phone system," Shonholz said.
Video calling advantages enhance service calls
Video provides key visual information that audio calls can't provide. Shonholz spoke of an executive preparing to give a keynote at a conference. The executive went into the office the Saturday before to review her presentation, but her phone and computer weren't connecting to the internet and showed as unregistered on the network.
After calling ARG, an engineer had the executive switch the conversation to her personal mobile phone. With a FaceTime video session, the engineer could trace the issue to a server closet and spot a loose cord that needed to be reconnected.
Shonholz said this example shows how the advantages of video calling simplify support calls. Without mobile video, it would have been more complicated to get the executive online.
The executive might have contacted the IT department, which would send a service ticket to the company's telecom provider, which then would check the system remotely and find nothing wrong. By Monday, the managed service provider would schedule a service truck -- at a cost of $250 -- to check the problem out on-site. By Tuesday, three days after the problem was reported, the loose cord would be fixed, Shonholz said.
Voicemail tied to your calendar
ARG also uses Vonage Smart Numbers technology in Vonage Business Cloud to facilitate client communications. A common problem in business is being unable to connect to a contact because of voicemail shuffle, where each party keeps getting the other's voicemail.
Vonage Business Cloud lets ARG consultants avoid this problem because the system is connected to each ARG consultant's online calendar.
"We have it connected to Google Calendar, and that's meant a lot less frustration with missed calls," Shonholz said.
The system enables users to set a voicemail greeting that tells callers when they can schedule a callback, and callers can simply press 1 to confirm. Once confirmed, 15 minutes is blocked off on the user's calendar for the call.
The rise of purely digital companies
A recent IDC study showed that companies that use more sophisticated applications tend to have developers in-house or use third-party developers, IDC analyst Courtney Munroe said in a session on how businesses are using cloud communications to their advantage.
"The companies that don't do more development in-house tend to be less open to new ways of using communications technology," Munroe said.
Smaller companies are still experimenting with new technology but are open to what Munroe called "baby steps" to see how customer satisfaction improves.
"You see them doing things like integrating voice calling in the call center or CRM or doing more with social networking across channels," he said.
On the other hand, many well-funded startups are mostly, if not completely, digital when it comes to IT operations. "Look at Tesla; it's a purely digital company," Munroe said.
Interest in video conferencing rated high in the IDC study, and Munroe said he expects corporate adoption to continue to grow.
"The interest is a testament to how many real-world use cases are out there already," Munroe said. "Insurance, healthcare, telemedicine, meetings in general -- there are a range of applications that people are comfortable with."