Learning how to manage live chat is crucial for multiple aspects of your dealership. Current clients will contact you over live chat for support. New clients will reach out, letting you gather leads.

A well-managed live chat will ensure that current and potential customers have the best possible experience. This will improve overall customer satisfaction, the customer journey, and lead conversion.

The following guide will help you know how to manage your website’s live chat. 

What is live chat?

When most people mention live chat, they refer to customers’ ability to talk with your team directly on your website. A live chat icon will appear in the lower right corner of the page on most websites. Clicking on it can start the chat.

Many live chats feature chatbots for basic interactions. They can also feature live people.

There are also some modern alternatives to live chat. Webchat, for example, will move the conversation from the chat window to text, if your customers choose to do so, or they can stay in the chat window. 

How to manage live chat step-by-step

There are a few decisions to make as part of managing your live chat. That being said, each of those options will follow a similar set of steps. 

Step 1 – Have a chat feature available on your website

Although it may seem obvious, it is worth mentioning that you cannot manage live chat without offering a chat feature on your website. How you go ahead and set this up will depend on who manages your website. A web developer can create or integrate code for it. If you use a hosting and development platform, there will be plugins that can create it. Or a managed live chat service can help you if you don’t already have a chat feature. 

Step 2 – Decide your method

We recommend having a real person answering instead of a bot. Check out best practices for this.

Now, you have to decide the method behind your live chat.

The following are the main choices:

  • Someone on your lot answers questions in addition to their current role
  • You hire someone just to answer questions and handle live chat
  • Multiple people on your lot handle it as a “round-robin”
  • You outsource it

While any of these can work, outsourcing is a particularly appealing option for many dealerships. This will typically come in the form of managed live chat. 

What are managed live chat services?

With managed live chat services, like Podium, you outsource your live chat management to a team of professionals. They respond live to all of the customers on your website.

One of the most significant advantages of this is letting your dealership’s team focus on their primary responsibilities. That means they will not have frequent interruptions that can hurt their productivity or interrupt important tasks. Even just the act of having to regularly check the chat can interrupt your team’s established workflows and efficiency.

It also means that potential customers on live chat don’t have to wait around for one of your employees to be free to answer the chat. This is crucial, as people expect an instant (or near-instant) response from live chats.

The other great thing about live chat is that professionals will be handling it for you. These people have experience with customer service and know how to be professional. Because they spend all day on live chat, they know the best practices.

Keep in mind that even with managed live chat services, your team will still play an important role. You will set up a system of some sort for the outsourced team to forward contact information to relevant members of your team in certain situations.

Simply put, managed live chat lets your dealership focus on interacting with people who are likely to convert. This way, you won’t waste your time answering simple questions or talking to people who are not interested. 

Step 3 – Enable your team

Once you decide how you want to handle your live chat, you need to make sure that the person or people managing it will do so. The most important part of this is ensuring they have access to the relevant information. They will also need to know how to use your software.

If you hire someone specifically to handle the live chat, then make sure to train them. They need to know how to answer questions, when to escalate conversations, and who to go to for those escalations.

If you have several team members cover the live chat, give them the same training on the software and ensure they know the answers to the most common questions. You will also need to emphasize the importance of fast, efficient answering. It will also be essential to set up a system for who will answer the live chat. After all, you don’t want a chat to go unanswered because everyone thinks someone else will answer it.

If you choose to outsource and use managed live chat, then set up processes and give them the relevant information. For example, they need to know when to send questions or contact information to someone on the lot. For instance, if someone has a specific question or is interested in a particular model, who does the chat representative send the information to? And how do they do so?

No matter who answers the live chat, always ensure they have the most important information. This is especially important for managed live chats, as the team will not be on your lot, and therefore, they may not know some details.

brand new car at dealership

The following are just some of the bits of information the team needs to have on hand. The exact details they need depends on your dealership:

  • Dealership address and directions
  • Dealership phone number
  • Dealership hours
  • Service center hours
  • Service center services and prices
  • Finance department phone number
  • Finance department application link
  • Typical wait time for approval for an auto loan
  • Access to a list of current inventory with essential details (It can be your website’s online inventory)

Step 4 – Adjust as needed

As with any other process, do not just set up your live chat and assume it will be fine. Take the time to evaluate how it is doing regularly. See if the people responding need more information to answer questions. Look at customer feedback about response time.

If you outsource your chat, be sure to ask the team managing it if they need any more information. For example, if they keep transferring people with the same question, you may want to equip them to answer that question themselves. 

The impact of managed live chat

As mentioned, managed live chat is among the best choices for your dealership’s chat. The following are some pros and cons of it. 


  • It lets your team focus on their primary responsibilities.
  • Your team doesn’t waste time interacting with uninterested clients or answering common questions.
  • Customers can move to text instead of staying on the website. With this option, you can use the same number as your dealership. You also get to talk to customers via their preferred method.
  • A real person always responds to the chat, not a chatbot. This improves the customer experience. It also helps create connections and relationships with customers, boosting their lifetime value and satisfaction.
  • It is easy to set up processes to forward chats to people at the dealership.
  • You will get more leads.
  • Customers get a response within minutes, if not seconds. 
  • When you factor in your team’s time, a managed live chat service can cost less than having your team answer the chat. 
  • Access to live chat agents can improve customer satisfaction, reviews, loyalty, and purchase amounts. 
  • Good customer service via live chat agents improves your dealership’s image and reputation


  • The person on the chat isn’t at the dealership, so they may not know everything.
  • You have to provide the chat answering team with information to answer questions.
  • If the live chat agents only give scripted responses, this can be annoying to website visitors. But you can overcome this by giving live chat agents the freedom to speak naturally instead of simply quoting answers. 
  • Your potential customer may have to interact with multiple people during the chat, reducing the cohesiveness of their customer journey. 
  • Live chat may slow down your website. However, you can avoid this with careful planning. This also isn’t an issue with a live chat service that can move to text. 
  • You need to make sure to choose an excellent live chat service to deliver positive, consistent customer experiences across all support channels. 

Live Chat vs Managed Conversations Chart


Your dealership’s live chat is a vital feature for communicating with current and potential customers. Outsourcing to a managed live chat service can save your team time and ensure that chats are answered quickly. You can use this managed chat for customer support, gathering leads, and more. 

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

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