Life in the Live Help lane

Life in the Live Help lane

May 7, 2015
Life in the Live Help lane

We love to hear stories about the ways that Zendesk Support and Chat help our customers accomplish their goals. It’s inspiring to see the creativity behind each implementation, and to hear more about the philosophies and experience that drive great customer service.

Are you a car buff? If not, you probably only pay attention to the automotive industry when you need to buy a new car. Suddenly, you need to know what’s out there, what’s in your price range, and how well the cars of interest performed in safety tests. You might even be making this big, expensive decision quickly, after having an accident, or (and more happily) growing your family. The truth is that even the most organized among us benefit from the tools and services provided by sites like

We recently talked to a few members of the Live Help team at Edmunds to learn more about how they handle the growing demand for live, real-time help in the car shopping experience. Meet Justin Smith, who manages the Edmunds Live Help team, Erika Wells, manager of the Customer Experience team, and LaKeisha Square, a senior customer experience specialist.

How do car shoppers usually engage with the Live Help team?
Justin: Customers will often reach out to us numerous times throughout the car buying process, as more and more questions come to mind. For example, a car shopper may reach out to us initially for assistance in picking out a car that best fits his needs and lifestyle. A few weeks into the process, he may come back to us with a question about financing the car.

What’s the most common question that prospective car buyers ask?
Justin: Many people contact us to ask about a good price on a car. People are looking for validation, I think, and they trust us to help them. Lately a lot of people have asked us about leasing, a growing trend in the industry.

Edmunds has a “job swap” program where employees can spend a week at a dealership to learn more about the customer experience. What was something unexpected that you learned from that experience?
Erika: Being a part of the dealership job swap was incredibly eye-opening for me. It helped me to see the back-end of dealerships and how they work. I also learned about what goes on in the finance portion of the sale, behind the scenes. I was impressed at how complicated the process is from that perspective, but it was clear to me that, as they do their jobs, dealer personnel work hard to ensure that their customers are satisfied and likely to refer family and friends back to them.

Justin: We have also worked Price Promise℠ takeover events where we provided Live Help in person at the dealership. Shoppers and dealership employees really appreciated having us on site to easily answer their questions. Even when we can’t be physically in front of shoppers, we are always reachable through the various Live Help channels. This is the reason we use shortcode through Twilio, so that car shoppers can text us wherever they are and wherever we are.

Are your Live Help Specialists dedicated or blended across channels?
Justin: All of our agents are trained to assist our customers on whichever medium they choose to contact us from—whether it’s Zendesk Chat, email support, by phone, social media, or even SMS texting. We have been experimenting with splitting our most common duties—calls and chats—so that our team can be dedicated to each platform. For example, half of the team will focus on live calls while the other half focuses on live chats—and then they switch halfway through the day, all the while managing the other channels as needed.

Another way that Edmunds has innovated is through your annual Hackomotive event, now three years running. Can you tell us more about that?
LaKeisha: Hackomotive is our automotive hackathon. Folks come to our Santa Monica headquarters to develop their own ideas for how to improve car shopping. There are some impressive cash prizes, and everyone comes away inspired–even those of us who help host the event. When we ‘bring the outside in’ for these events, it gives us a chance to see the industry from different angles and to get exposure to new ideas. It’s exciting to interact with people who are passionate about identifying problems and coming up with creative solutions, apps, and processes to fix them. Some of the folks who have participated have had the chance to work with us after the competition is over thanks to our Fastlane Accelerator, which continues our support of innovation.

How does the team stay up-to-date on the latest cars and industry events?
Justin: Each Wednesday we have the opportunity to check out some of the cars that have entered into the professional reviewers’ test fleet as well as some of our long-term test car models. We occasionally get out to the track where our testing team measures the performance of the cars. Our team has also attended press days at the LA Auto Show where we got to see some of the new cars being revealed. We get a lot of questions about vehicles that are slated to come to dealerships, so it was great to have seen them firsthand. All of these initiatives help our team stay up-to-date on the auto industry so that we can provide top-notch service to any car shoppers who contact us for live help.

Read the full story on Edmunds and learn how they use Zendesk Chat

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